December 22, 2020
Late last night, Congress passed a large funding bill that provides federal agencies with their appropriations for the remainder of fiscal year 2021, as well as more than $900 billion in emergency aid to support communities and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislation provides $167.5 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, an increase of $5 million over the agency’s FY2020 funding level. This amount, reflecting negotiations that took place between the House and Senate over the larger Interior Department spending package, makes progress toward the $170 million figure recommended by the House of Representatives over the summer. Waiver language in the legislation allows Arts Endowment grant funds appropriated this fiscal year and in fiscal years 2019 and 2020 to be used for operating expenses.
Among the many measures in the bill designed to assist the nation with the continued challenges caused by COVID-19 is some direct aid to the arts industry: $15 billion for venues, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions, a provision known as the Save our Stages Act. The relief bill also extends federal support for unemployment benefits for 11 weeks, and includes a new provision to help individuals with a mixture of W-2 and gig earnings to qualify for more unemployment relief. This will be significant for many artists whose benefits were limited under previous Pandemic Unemployment Assistance rules.
Other components of the legislation include direct economic relief payments to many individuals, more funding for Economic Injury Disaster Loans and an additional $275 billion for Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses (including nonprofits). Unfortunately, members of the House and Senate could not agree on a proposal to provide relief to state and local governments facing shortfalls in revenue.
Congress will now adjourn for the holidays. When it reconvenes in the new year, NASAA will develop contacts with newly elected lawmakers and will continue to advocate for the importance of the arts in national economic recovery efforts. For more information on the advocacy forecast for 2021, tune in to the NASAA 2021 Transition Advocacy Briefing on January 19. If you have questions in the meantime, please feel free to contact NASAA Legislative Counsel Isaac Brown.