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Federal Advocacy



Current Issues

AMTA Government Relations Department Update Regarding COVID-19

March 19, 2020

AMTA’s Government Relations Department continues to closely monitor updated information about COVID-19/Coronavirus, from local, state, and national officials. 

On March 6, President Trump signed an $8.3B emergency Coronavirus spending bill designed to provide relief to states already fighting to contain COVID-19. The bill will use grant funding as the method to distribute funds.  In addition to other provisions the bill includes:

  • $3B for vaccine research. 
  • $3.1B of funds designated for the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to use at his discretion with $100M designated for use by Community Health Centers for direct care to underserved populations. 
  • $950 million for state and local public health response that's to be dispersed via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • $1.5B for international activities.

President Trump declared a national emergency on March 13th, in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.  The declaration allows for the exercise of particular powers and authorities activated under both the National Emergencies Act (NEA) and the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.  The national emergency declaration allows the release of additional funding to use for further coordination of the Coronavirus response at the state and federal level.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was signed into law by President Trump on Wednesday, March 18.  FFCRA is the second piece of coronavirus relief legislation passed this month.   The provisions of the new law include:

  • Additional funding and extensions for unemployment insurance
  • $500 million additional funding for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program
  • $400 million in additional funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program
  • Emergency paid sick leave for needs related to coronavirus
  • Emergency family and medical leave
  • Free coronavirus testing

AMTA will continue to monitor developments and post updates as appropriate.

Small Business Administration – Disaster Loan Information

March 16, 2020

The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Upon a request received from a state’s or territory’s Governor, SBA will issue under its own authority, as provided by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that was recently signed by the President, an Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration.

The Small Business Administration (SBA), is frequently updating information about the availability of these loans.  

The Disaster Loan Assistance site is now active: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/  

The three-stage loan application process:

  1. Apply online
  2. Verification, documentation, credit review, and loan processing by the SBA
  3. Loan closed and funds disbursed. 

For additional information, please contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center. Call 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or e-mail disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.


AMTA’s Government Relations Department continues to closely monitor updated information about Coronavirus from local, state, and national officials.  In addition, we will continue to share updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other reliable agencies providing information relevant to music therapy practice.  We will update information regularly.

Please find links to helpful resources below:

We also recommend that you stay up to date on developments from the state (active link) and local (active link) health departments.

Additional Resources

Small Business Administration (SBA) (Business Resources)
US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
US Department of Education (School Settings)
US Department of Labor (Workforce)


Autism Cares Act of 2019 Signed into Law

The Autism CARES Act (HR 1058), was signed by the President yesterday, reauthorizing the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, and Supports (CARES) Act for another five years.  The program ensures support for research, services, prevalence tracking, and other critical services and supports for children, youth and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.  The Autism Cares Act of 2019 expands the focus of activities to include the entire lifespan of people on the autism continuum and requires reporting on health and wellness.

Join AMTA as We Celebrate National Arts in Education Week September 8-14! 

Enacted by Congress in 2010, House Resolution 275 designates September 8th-14th as National Arts in Education Week.  During this week, members of the arts community from across the country are encouraged to participate in activities that raise awareness about the importance of arts education with elected officials.  
Nationwide, hundreds or credentialed music therapists are currently employed by, or contract with, local school districts and private educational centers.  Music therapists are recognized as Specialized Instructional Support Personnel within current educational law (Every Student Succeeds Act - ESSA).  Music Therapy can be an integral component in helping the student receiving special education services to reach his or her IEP goals.  In many school districts, music therapists also offer support for music educators in the form of direct service, consultation, or in-service training.  There are several ways to participate: 
1: Celebrate- Have an event in your community where you discuss the importance of arts education.  The event can be large or small, pre-planned or spontaneous!
2: Advocate- Contact your elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels about the values of arts education.
3: Participate- Share your story using #BecauseofArtsEd or #musictherapy on your social media or digital platform of your choice.  Be sure to share the impact of arts education on your life. 

The Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) releases Statement of Principles related to Least Restrictive Environment: A Requirement under IDEA

The Education Task Force of CCD monitors federal legislation and regulations that address the educational needs of children and youth with disabilities and their families, including regulatory efforts under federal law such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Education Task Force advocates for high expectations for children with disabilities under these and other laws. This document lays out the Task Force’s principles for meeting the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) requirement within federal education laws and regulations.

Read the statement here  

CARF Significantly Expands Technology Guidelines 

The technology standards updates are published in the ASPIRE to Excellence® section of all CARF 2019 standards manuals June 19, 2019,
Tucson, Arizona — From portals and apps to electronic health records to firewall and malware protection, technology is increasingly vital to modern health and human services. It can expand an organization’s ability to provide services and increase consumers’ access to them. It also can pose risks that organizations must protect themselves from. The quality of an organization’s technology systems affects all areas of business and service delivery. CARF’s revamped technology standards will help service providers develop current, comprehensive technology system plans, policies, and procedures within their unique organizational and funding environments.
In 2018, CARF convened an International Standards Advisory Committee and conducted field reviews to gather feedback from health and human services stakeholders about contemporary uses of technology, as well as needs and challenges. More than 550 respondents provided input to shape the new standards, which are now published in all 2019 CARF standards manuals. The new standards are incorporated into CARF’s ASPIRE to Excellence® quality framework and address a variety of topics related to the use of technology, including:
• Leadership’s active involvement in technology planning.
• Technology risk assessment.
• Regular testing of business-continuity/disaster-recovery procedures.
• Personnel training on cybersecurity.
• Using information and communication technologies to deliver services.
Accredited programs should contact their CARF resource specialist with any questions about the new standards. New programs or programs considering accreditation that would like more information about what the technology standards require, please contact CARF directly.


New Qualification Standards from the Veterans Health Administration

The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) is thrilled to announce newly published qualification standards for General Schedule Recreation and Creative Arts Therapists from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). As of June 9, 2019, all new music therapist hires for the Veteran’s Administration must be board certified as a MT-BC approved by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT). Specific knowledge, skills and abilities have been defined for GS-7 to GS-14.

New position levels above the Journey Level - Full performance GS 11, such as GS-12, have been defined to promote recognition of specialization in various areas of assignments.  Examples of additional certification in specialty treatment areas in music therapy include, but are not limited to: advanced improvisational music therapy, Bonny method of guided imagery and music (BM-GIM), neurological music therapy (NMT), creative music therapy, or in a directly related field, such as palliative care, dementia care, or substance abuse. Additional specialization examples include assignments such as: Clinical Education Coordinators; Program Coordinators; Lead Creative Arts Therapists; Supervisory Creative Arts Therapists, Assistant and Service Chief as well as Clinical Research Specialists. 

The VHA Handbook Part II, Appendix G60 new qualification standards will effectively benefit thousands of Veterans and their families by advancing the clinical services and competence level of the professional disciplines within the organization.  The conversion of the therapists to Hybrid Title 38 will ensure our Nation Veterans receive the highest level of specialized experience in clinical care and technology.  


The conversion of twenty-two (22) occupations from Title 5 to the Title 38 hybrid system under “Veterans Health Care, Capital Asset and Business Improvement Act of 2003” (Public Law 107-180, enacted December 6, 2003) was not all inclusive, and did not include Recreation Therapists or Creative Arts Therapists (art therapy, dance therapy, drama therapy or music therapy).

To ensure that VHA/VA was ready to serve the men and women who have borne the battle, and provide veterans every opportunity for quality health care provided by competent credentialed therapists, a Hybrid Title 38 proposal was developed. This proposal from VHA Office of Recreation Therapy Service and National VA Recreation Therapy Advisory Board  included Recreation and Creative Arts Therapy in accordance with the authority established under the “Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010,” (Public Law 111-163).   Authority was given to the Secretary of the VA under 38 U.S.C. § 7402 to prescribe qualifications for occupations identified in, or established under 38 U.S.C. § 7401(3), and 38 U.S.C. § 7405(a)(1)(B) and the proposal submitted was approved on Monday October 21, 2013

The simplification of hiring, employment and compensation policies and practices affects the VA’s ability to deliver world-class service to veterans and their families by applying sound business principles that result in effective management of people, communications, technology, and governance. The VA’s goal is to recruit, develop, and retain a competent, committed and diverse workforce that provides high quality health care services to veterans and their families.  The Title 38 hybrid employment system provides the VA with the ability to recruit and appoint high quality recreation and creative arts therapists with appropriate professional credentials in an efficient and timely manner.  This change in qualification standards strengthens the VA workforce by providing opportunities to hire and retain high quality health care professionals and keeping them onboard, which aligns with the goals of the new VA MISSION Act.

The Recreation and Creative Arts Therapist, GS-0638, qualification standard (VA Handbook 5005, Part II, Appendix G60) was published on June 7, 2019.  With the publication of the new qualification standards, the occupations will be converted from Title 5 to Hybrid Title 38 effective June 9, 2019.  Facilities will now recruit and hire Recreation and Creative Arts Therapists utilizing the qualification standard and Hybrid Title 38 processes and guidance.

AMTA Statement of Concern Regarding Acts of Violence

October 29, 2018 


The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) is disturbed by the increasing number of violent acts that unfortunately have become a frequent occurrence in our nation. The senseless shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the targeted bomb mailings to select U.S. leaders, and the bigoted killings at a Kentucky grocery store within the past week are just the latest in a long list of hate-filled attacks on our community members. AMTA urges our local, state, and federal leaders to work together to implement real solutions that will protect our communities, regardless of our political or religious beliefs.

Our sincere condolences extend to the families and friends of the victims and to all that have been affected by these horrific crimes.   

For clinicians working in schools or with persons in the community struggling with these many events, the following resources may be helpful:

  • National Association of School Psychologists: https://www.nasponline.org
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Information on trauma and violence: https://www.samhsa.gov/trauma-violence

SAMHSA's information on trauma-informed care: https://www.samhsa.gov/nctic

For more information and resources supporting civil rights in response to hate crimes, please visit https://www.adl.org.


AMTA Board Issues Federal Advocacy Statement: Family Separation


AMTA consistently partners with a variety of stakeholder organizations in health and education on both the federal and state level to advocate for services for children and adults with disabilities, which is consistent with our mission of increasing awareness of and access to quality music therapy services. We stand in solidarity with many of our coalition partners in rejecting the harmful zero-tolerance policies at the US border that are resulting in family detention and separation.  The trauma suffered by these families and their children will have lasting effects beyond the immediate inhumane harm being suffered. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the nation’s leading authority on pediatric care, states that “highly stressful experiences, like family separation, can cause irreparable harm” and “can carry lifelong consequences for children.”

Music Therapy interventions serve a unique role in trauma-informed care in addition to being a treatment for mental and physical illnesses and educational challenges.  In adherence to Article II of the organizational Bylaws, AMTA is committed to providing music therapy services that contribute to the “betterment of the public health and welfare.” AMTA President Amber Weldon-Stephens states, “The issue of immigrant children being separated from their parents is impossible to ignore. AMTA urges members of Congress to take the necessary steps to end family separations.”

In all advocacy activities, no matter the topic, the power of the collective voice is of the utmost importance.  Acknowledging the current events our nation is experiencing, AMTA encourages members to exercise their rights and responsibilities as Americans to contact their legislators and voice their opinions to effect change. And don’t forget about the power of your vote in November! For assistance with finding your congressional representatives, please visit:  https://www.musictherapy.org/policy/findlegislators/



Communicating with Your U.S. Congress Member

Writing Congress

When writing Congress, you first need to locate your legislators’ names and addresses. You have three federal legislators, two senators and one representative. You can find your Senator at the U.S. Senate’s homepage http://www.senate.gov . You can also find your Representative by district or zip code at http://www.house.gov , the U.S. House of Representative’s website. Your respective Senators and Representative’s website should provide their mailing address.

It is important to use a formal business letter style. The date should be at the top of the page. The legislator’s name and address should be just below, on the left margin, above the salutation.

Heading for a Senator:

The Honorable (full name) _(office#) (name of i.e., Russell, Dirksen, Hart) Senate Office Building United States Senate Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator:

Heading for a Representative:

The Honorable (full name) __(office #) (name of i.e., Cannon, Rayburn, Longworth) House Office Building United States House of Representatives Washington, DC 20510

Dear Representative:

*Remember that if they are the Chair of a Committee or the Speaker of the House, then you properly address them as: Dear Mr. Chairman or Madam Chairwoman, or Dear Mr. Speaker.

Begin with a brief introduction including your name, city of residence, and occupation.

Make sure your purpose for writing can be easily found in the first paragraph of the letter. If it is about a specific piece of legislation please, try to identify it properly, e.g. House bill: H.R. # , Senate bill: S. # . Try to address only one issue in each letter and be brief and to the point. Only include key information with examples to convincingly support your position, while always being courteous.

This letter should fit on one side of a page. Close with a handwritten signature and your typed address, email, and phone number.

Emailing Congress

When e-mailing Congress, follow the same suggestions from the "Writing Congress" section. Your Senators’ and Representative’s e-mail address should be on their web page, or there should be a section with information on contacting the legislator.

Calling Congress

When calling Congress, the person who picks up your phone call will most likely be a staff assistant. (see "Who’s Who in the Office") When they pick up, tell them your name and the organization/company you are with, or the city you live in, in order to verify that you are a constituent or an entity that the Member is familiar with.

If you are a constituent and would like to voice you opinion on a certain matter then tell the staff assistant you would like to leave a brief message for the Member. For example, "Please tell Senator/Representative (name) that I am for/against Senate bill__#­­­__/ House bill ___#___."

If you have questions regarding the Member’s position on a certain piece of legislation, then ask the Staff Assistant, again referring to the bill as either S.__#__/ H.R. __#__. If they can not answer your question then they may be able to transfer you to the staff member who handles that issue, but don’t be offended if you have to leave a voicemail. The staff members have very busy schedules, usually full of meetings and committee hearings to attend. If you get their voicemail leave you name, where you are from (or which organization you are representing), and a number where they can reach you.

If you need to set up a meeting with a staff member or the Member him/herself please see "Visiting Congress."

Visiting Congress

When visiting Congress, you first must make an appointment by contacting you legislator’s Scheduler/ Appointment Secretary. Tell them who you represent and explain your purpose for the meeting, so that they can arrange your meeting with the correct staff member or with the legislator him/herself.

Guidelines for a Successful Visit:

  1. Be on time: if not ten minutes early.
  2. Be patient: legislators are often late.
  3. Be flexible: you meeting may be interrupted.
  4. Be prepared: bring all the information and materials you need to support your position/ purpose. Make sure you share all the information you can with the legislator about the impact and benefits of your particular issue.
  5. Make it personal: there are several methods to get an issue to catch a legislator’s attention and have influence. One way is personal interest. A legislator will support what he or she truly believes in or can relate to, especially if there is a personal connection. Point out how your purpose is beneficial to their constituents. Give examples of locations, facilities, and people they may be familiar with, making it personal. The legislator’s main job is to represent the best interests of their district or state. Because of this, truly heart-felt communications from a constituent will influence a legislator’s vote. A constituent with solid information who has personal conviction and belief can tell the story of the issue with a sense of commitment.
  6. Provide a PR opportunity: Legislators are always looking for positive press coverage to support successful re-election campaigns. During the meeting request a photo with the legislator and suggest submitting an announcement of the meeting to a local newspaper covering the ways in which the legislator has supported your issue.
  7. Be responsive: know exactly what you want to achieve in the meeting and be knowledgeable on your topic, so that you will be ready to answer questions that may be asked. If you do not know the answer to a question, tell them you will follow-up with the necessary information as soon as possible.
  8. Express gratitude: make sure to follow up your meeting with a thank you note that recaps some of the different topics discussed during the meeting. Also make sure to send any additional materials they requested.

Who’s Who in the Office

Chief of Staff/ Administrative Assistant (AA): This staffer reports straight to the Member. The AA is responsible for measuring the political outcomes that could come from supporting or not supporting various legislative proposals or constituent requests. The Chief of Staff is also responsible for the overall run of the office, including the supervision and hiring of the staff, as well as allocation of work.

Legislative Director (LD): The LD monitors all legislation that is going on in Congress and watches the schedule in order to make recommendations regarding the pros and cons of a particular piece of legislation. They are also responsible for making sure the Member is informed and for overseeing the Legislative Assistants.

Legislative Assistant (LA): Legislative Assistants are supervised by the LD and are assigned to monitor legislation on a specific topic or committee with which the Member is concerned or responsible. The LA handles meetings with organizations that fall under their specific area, as well as constituent concerns. They also complete research in order to keep the Senator informed on the legislation in their specific area, such as health and education.

Legislative Coordinator (LC): Some Congressional offices hire Legislative Coordinators, supervised by the LA, in order to help the legislative assistant with their meetings, research, and constituent concerns.

Communication Director and/or Press Secretary: Some Congressional offices have both a Communication Director and a Press Secretary position in order to lessen each person’s load. These positions deal with all of the media and press requests, as well as insure the Member receives positive press. These staff members brief the Member before interviews or press conferences. They also make sure that the Member keeps a positive and open line of communication with the constituents.

Personal Secretary and/or Appointment Secretary (Scheduler): Depending on the size of the Congressional office, there may be one or two individuals in these positions. The scheduler handles the schedule for the member including anything from dinners, travel plans, and speaking dates to meetings with organizations, constituents, and committee meetings. The scheduler is also the staff member, along with the personal secretary, who insures the Member is on time to all events as well as rearranges the schedule as their day changes, which may happen at any time. The personal secretary handles the Member’s personal phone calls, the day to day administrative duties, and anything else the Member may need, including personal thank you notes.

Staff Assistant: A staff assistant is normally located in the front of the Member’s office and greets you as you arrive. This individual alerts staffers when you arrive for your meeting and directs you to the appropriate meeting space. Staff Assistants also manage the phone as well as respond to constituents and assist with tours and visits to Washington DC.

Correspondence Coordinator (CC): Some Congressional offices hire a CC to handle all of the mail and email the office receives on a daily basis. The Correspondence Coordinator sorts all the mail and distributes it to the staffer responsible for the issue addressed in the letter. Correspondence Coordinators do the same for all the e- mail received. This individual plays a major part in providing constituent services to the residents of a legislator’s state or district or state.

**Many of the positions like the Legislative Coordinator, Staff Assistant, Correspondence Coordinator, and sometimes the Legislative Assistant are filled by recent graduates and young professionals, who are interested in the legislative process.

Music Therapy and Federal Policy

Find your Federal Legislators