Guidance for Local Cultural Councils and their Grantees in Response to COVID-19
This page is meant to provide guidance to Local Cultural Councils (LCC) and their grantees on how to manage the LCC grant cycle in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. Circumstances are changing quickly. We will do our best to keep you abreast of any policies changes. You can also visit the agency’s COVID-19 Resource page.
FY21 Local Cultural Council Program Guidance
This page section is meant to supplement the updated, FY21 Local Cultural Council Program Guidelines. LCCs will be notified by email of any changes made and posted here.
FY21 LCC Program Update (10/28/2020)
Updating or Modifying Local Council Priorities
Between now and November 13, 2020 at 5pm, LCCs are encouraged to remove requirements, restrictions, and barriers that may have been carried over from previous years, that no longer make sense given the current reality of the COVID-19 pandemic – requirements such as venue letters or online only applications for communities that have little to no internet access.
Local Cultural Councils should not make changes that would make any currently-submitted applications ineligible, only changes that broaden local criteria to be more inclusive and flexible are allowed. LCCs who choose to take advantage of this opportunity also need to publicize the change to their community and should modify the date the local priorities were updated on their public webpage.
FY21 LCC Grant Deadline Extended: December 14, 2020 11:59 ET
The State Legislature just approved another one-month operating budget through the end of November. This additional delay in setting the annual state budget means that the earliest possible time the Mass Cultural Council can determine and announce LCC allocations is January. If any additional one-month budgets are passed, it would delay that further.
Because of this delay, difficulty of LCCs securing virtual meeting spaces, and applicants navigating new guidance around virtual programs, the Mass Cultural Council has made the decision to extend the FY21 LCC grant application deadline to December 14, 2020 at 11:59 ET.
This change will allow not only applicants more time to review and prepare their applications around new guidelines, but also allow Local Cultural Councils more flexibility to make any changes to their local priorities and to publicize the grant cycle and do additional outreach to and support of applicants.
Annual Report Deadline Extension: Monday, March 1, 2021
The State Legislature approved another one-month operating budget through the end of November. This additional delay in setting the annual state budget means that the earliest possible time the Mass Cultural Council can determine and announce LCC allocations is January.
Due to the delay, the deadline to submit the Annual Report is now Tuesday, March 1, 2021. We advise LCCs to look ahead and schedule council voting meetings to take place between January 11 and February 13. February 13 is the latest date disapproval letters/emails can be sent to unsuccessful applicants order to observe the reconsideration period and meet the Annual Report deadline.
Please note, it the State Legislature and Governor do not approve an FY21 State Budget by the end of November, the voting meetings and annual report dates may need to change. At the end of November, we will notify you if that happens.
Local Cultural Council FAQs
Is virtual programming considered public benefit in FY21?
Programs do not need to be in-person to provide public benefit. Virtual and remote programming are also effective ways to make programming available to the public while supporting efforts to maintain and promote public benefit.
Examples include: Virtual art activity at a senior center that is taught over Zoom or community cable channel. A music class that engages local youth via a streaming platform. An art show that is mounted outside where people can either walk or drive through. An in-person class for a few (because of guidelines) that is also streamed for others to participate in. The creation of a video series that is offered to your community to view via public access or a local venue.
In looking at the requirement of applicants to offer public benefit to a community, LCCs should look towards responses from their community input process to better inform their council priorities.
Can we provide funding for operating support?
Yes. The impact COVID-19 has had and continues to have on the cultural sector, based on community input and community need, Local Cultural Councils could consider shifting from project-based support to operating support to allow organizations more responsive, flexible support.
Operating support-based funding can help the cultural sector in a year when projects and programs will be facing great uncertainty and many restrictions.
Examples of operating support: Funding expenses for artist residencies, funding supplies for arts and culture programming, funding ticket subsidy programs, funding for the day to day operations of an organization that provides arts and culture programming, funding for individual artists materials to do their work, funding for streaming platforms for virtual programming.
How flexible should we be on venue and timeframe of applicants?
Because COVID-19 has made it difficult to determine if venues will be available within the FY21 granting period, LCCs should be flexible in their request for applicants to provide a definitive venue for their programs. In addition, it may be particularly difficult for applicants to procure letters of support while municipalities and organizations remain closed during the grant cycle. LCCs should be open to allowing applicants to be considered for approval if the support letters are not available. LCCs can always approve eligible applicants with a conditional approval to obtain letters of support closer to the date of programming.
Applicant does not show that their program is accessible, should we deny it?
All events and programs funded by LCCs must consider access for persons with disabilities, including the facility or event location as well as the content of the program. To ensure equitable access, an applicant’s first step is a candid assessment and identification of barriers (physical, virtual, cultural, communication) followed by a bold and innovative plan for improvement
If an applicant puts forward a proposal for a project with strong potential for public benefit, but the Local Cultural Council has concerns about access for persons with disabilities, the LCC may choose to award a conditional approval. This would allow the applicant the opportunity to address the concerns and improve access as a condition of receiving the grant.
Again, LCCs can provide a conditional approval to the applicant contingent upon creating an accessible plan for their program.
If a person with a disability requests accommodation to complete the application, what are ways in which we can provide reasonable accommodation?
You may provide one-on-one assistance to support an applicant, including walking through the application sections by section, helping an applicant copy and paste text to go into the sections, and in providing assistance in whatever way they may require within reason. You may also allow as an LCC to accept video or audio files from applicants with disabilities where the current application is inaccessible. Please check with your Community Initiative program staff contact for additional guidance.
Can we use the grant cycle to support COVID-19 relief efforts?
Yes, LCCs can develop criteria and a process for awarding COVID-19 relief grants to organizations and/or individuals through its FY21 grant cycle. This should be included in your posted local priorities. Typically, relief grants cover:
Losses experienced by the organization or individual – such as list income or lost revenue related to closures,
Expenses related to making their programming/work viable in the current COVID-19 environment – such as technology cost, costs associated with new safety requirements, etc.
Because relief grants don’t always have a specific project attached to it, it is a good idea to let your municipality know your plans as it may take some time to come to an agreement with your city/town to address any concerns they have. If you have questions, email your Community Initiative program staff contact.
Councils can also fundraise. LCCs are allowed to fundraise according to the enabling statute as long as they are used to support programs in the arts, humanities, or sciences in Massachusetts.
Locally-raised funds and interest earned must be kept in the LCC’s municipal revolving account with the LCC’s state funds. Unlike state funds distributed to the LCC from the Mass Cultural Council, prior Mass Cultural Council approval for expenditure of locally-raised funds and interest earned is not required. However, if you want to develop a new grant program – i.e. a relief fund for artists – you need to speak with your city/town beforehand as the locally-raised money may fall under municipal spending restrictions and you may need to work with them to figure out a way to give out the money that addresses any concerns they have around procurement law and anti-aid amendment.
We still cannot meet in-person, how will we hold a voting meeting?
Governor Baker has temporarily changed Open Meeting Law requirements to allow remote participation. This means that your LCC does not need a quorum of members physically present to hold a decision meeting, however it does not eliminate the requirement for a quorum.
However, the public must still have access to the virtual meetings. As a result, do not hold any virtual meetings until you seek and receive permission and guidance from your city/town. The municipality will determine the process by which municipal boards and commissions can hold virtual meetings, and/or if they can hold them at all. All other aspects of Open Meeting Law are still in place such as the requirement to give notice, post an agenda, and keep minutes of the meeting.
Review the updated guidance on holding meetings during the COVID-19 state of emergency for additional information.
Do we need two LCC members to sign reimbursement forms to approve payments?
While the LCC Program guidelines do require two signatures, it is not feasible during this time. During the state of emergency, we are modifying the guidelines so that while at least two members need to review and agree to payment request, which can be done via email. Only one person needs to sign the form and forward it to the city or town for payment. If possible, a copy of the email from the second member should be printed and kept with the reimbursement request. If it is not possible to print, then a copy of the email should be saved electronically as part of the LCC’s records.
What do we need to pay grantees? Do we have to have signed, original, documents?
Reimbursements: The LCC Program guidelines state that in order to approve payment to a grantee two LCC members need to “sign the form and forward it to the municipal treasurer.” As noted above, due to a temporary modification to the guidelines only one LCC member’s signature is required in order to limit the need for LCC members to have in-person contact with each other. The LCC Program guidelines do not specify that the signature on the forwarded reimbursement form must be an original, “wet” signature. If you need to change the way you are forwarding reimbursement forms to your municipal treasurer, you should ask them what they prefer – mailed, emailed, etc. – and decide on an approach that both keeps payments moving and supports social distancing.
Direct Grants: Likewise, the Direct Grant Guidelines state that once an LCC receives a completed Grant Agreement Form they should “forward a copy of the executed agreement, which will serve as an invoice, to the municipal fiscal officer so that funds can be authorized and released.” The Direct Grant Guidelines do not specify that the signature on the forwarded Grant Agreement Form must be an original, “wet” signature. If you need to change the way you are forwarding Grant Agreement Forms to your municipal treasurer, you should ask them what they prefer – mailed, emailed, etc. – and decide on an approach that both keeps payments moving and supports social distancing.