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Sen. Ossoff Leads Bipartisan Push to Fix COVID Travel Waiver Delays Hurting Georgia’s Economy

Delays hurting Georgia’s film and TV production industries, risking Georgia jobs

Motion Picture Association: “The Motion Picture Association thanks Senator Ossoff and the other bipartisan members of the Georgia delegation who signed on to this letter for their leadership”

Washington, D.C.  — Today, U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff led members of Georgia’s Congressional Delegation in a letter to President Biden urging him to reform the National Interest Exception (NIE) travel waiver program, where delays and inconsistencies threaten the post-pandemic recovery of key industries in the state, including Georgia’s film and television production.

This red tape is making it difficult for employers to begin new projects that would bring critical investments and jobs into the state.

The letter is signed by Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Congressman Buddy Carter (GA-01), Congressman Sanford Bishop (GA-02), Congressman Drew Ferguson (GA-03), Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04), Congresswoman Nikema Williams (GA-05), Congresswoman Lucy McBath (GA-06), Congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA-07), Congressman Austin Scott (GA-08), and Congressman David Scott (GA-13).

The NIE waiver program requires business travelers from certain countries to obtain a waiver before entering the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month, the Administration shifted the responsibility for processing these waiver requests from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to U.S. Department of State consulates and embassies abroad. State Department facilities are still operating at reduced staffing levels due to the pandemic, and as a result, NIE waiver applicants have faced increased delays and unpredictability.

In their letter, the Georgia lawmakers called on the Administration to reinstate an efficient and uniform system to speed up processing and avoid further delays to filming projects in Georgia.

“The production of films and television series is costly, and losing a single day can cost productions hundreds of thousands of dollars, rendering them uneconomical and costing U.S. jobs and revenues,” the lawmakers wrote. “With strong safety protocols in place and COVID-19 cases continuing to trend downward, the television, film, entertainment, and fashion production industries — and the jobs and local investment they support — are poised for a strong rebound. We urge you to support Georgia’s economic recovery by reinstating an efficient and uniform NIE waiver system at CBP.”

Georgia is one of the top filming locations worldwide. In 2019, before COVID-19, television and film production in Georgia injected $2.9 billion in direct production spending into the U.S. economy — a record-breaking impact — and supported over 150,000 jobs and $8.9 billion in wages in the state.

“The Motion Picture Association thanks Senator Ossoff and the other bipartisan members of the Georgia delegation who signed on to this letter for their leadership on this important and urgent issue,” said Patrick Kilcur, Executive Vice President of U.S. Government Affairs at the Motion Picture Association. “As we look to build back the U.S. economy, the film, television, and streaming industry can bring an immediate boost by hiring workers for high-paying jobs and supporting local businesses. In fact, when a major motion picture films in a community, it adds $250,000 per day on average to the local economy. Our communities are being denied those benefits every day as productions struggle to get creators into the country for their projects. We call on the Administration to swiftly reinstate the more efficient NIE waiver process as it previously existed at CBP.”

Click here to read the letter to President Biden.

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