COVID-19: NASAA at Your Side

March 30, 2020

Hello to all of NASAA’s state arts agency colleagues and friends.

I hope this message finds you safe, well and finding moments of grace in these chaotic times. Some of you, I know, reside in communities grappling with extreme public health duress right now. Others are bracing for the unknown. Whatever your circumstances, please know that NASAA is on point and on call to be a resource for all state arts agencies as we find our way through the new operational, economic, cultural and human realities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In that vein, I want to take a moment to share what we have on tap at NASAA to be of service to your agencies.

Federal Advocacy

The passage of the new COVID-19 economic rescue bill marks a major step forward on the federal policy front. NASAA worked in coalition with the Cultural Advocacy Group to secure $75 million in relief funding to be distributed through the National Endowment for the Arts, 40% of which will go to states, jurisdictions and regions. The ability to waive matching requirements on those funds and to use them for operational purposes were big wins. New guidelines for the use and release of Arts Endowment COVID-19 funds are on the drawing board. We’ll keep you apprised of that progress.

Notably for our field, the legislation also includes $150 billion in aid for states, jurisdictions, and local and tribal governments. It also expands assistance to small businesses (including nonprofits) and temporarily extends federal unemployment benefits to part-time, self-employed and “gig economy” workers, all of which will be helpful to the arts industry.

We’ll be sharing more information as federal agencies develop the mechanisms for distributing new funds. In the future, there may be other federal policy actions designed to help the American economy weather the COVID-19 crisis. NASAA will continue to be a champion for the arts and state and jurisdictional arts agencies as more federal policy action develops.

Adaptations Abound

Like all of you, NASAA has had to pivot our operations to take care of business in new ways. Our intrepid staff is on full-time teleworking duty, responding to your questions, carrying your advocacy banner and equipping you with tools to talk with each other. Our listserv volume has catapulted by 155% in the past three weeks, and we’re helping state arts agency peer groups to gather by telephone and video conference, too.

We stand in awe of the agility that state arts agencies are demonstrating in responding to the crisis, and NASAA is circulating those models. Our research team can supply examples of state arts agency strategies, such as:

  • surveys to gauge the financial impacts of COVID-19
  • listening sessions to help state arts agencies assess the needs of the field
  • adaptations to grant guidelines and procedures to provide greater funding flexibility to grantees
  • services that help arts organizations and artists cope
  • platforms to keep the public engaged with the arts online

Our upcoming edition of NASAA Notes will include some wonderful examples, but we’re happy to mine our ever-growing catalogue on your behalf at any time. If you need information—or have a good model of your own to add to the pot—contact Ryan Stubbs or Kelly Barsdate.

Looking Ahead

We’re keenly aware that the pandemic will present major hurdles for state revenues and state budgets. Despite some federal assistance, many state budget offices are anticipating acute revenue declines and expenditure overruns due to COVID-19. We are proactively monitoring how this affects appropriations to state arts agencies for fiscal year 2021. If you have early news to share, please notify Patricia Mullaney-Loss. You can count on NASAA as your top advisor and a trusted resource for helping you make a compelling advocacy case for state arts funding, even during hard economic times.

The bottom line is that NASAA is here to serve you. Don’t hesitate to call on us if you have a question, a suggestion or a success story to share. Even as we endure physical distancing, NASAA’s board and staff are committed to staying closely connected with you. We are uplifted by the work that you and your constituents are doing to sustain the arts. You provide inspiration, solace and resiliency to the American public, and we thank you for it!

Take good care. We will get through this—together.

In solidarity,



Pam Breaux
President and Chief Executive Officer