April 29, 2019
NEA Increase: May Window Critical in Congress
After a two-week recess for the Easter and Passover holidays, Congress returned to session this week for what may be one of the busiest work periods of the year. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has set an ambitious goal of completing all 13 fiscal year 2020 appropriations bills before July 4. Given that the House of Representatives has not yet held a vote on a single bill, the chamber has a lot of work to do.
As arts advocates, we certainly expect May to be critical. At the time of writing this column, the House Appropriations Committee has not released its draft of the FY2020 Interior Appropriations bill, which has within it the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). As you know, the NEA is currently operating at $155 million, and NASAA and other arts organizations have asked Congress to increase that to $167.5 million for FY2020. We won’t know for certain how this suggestion was received until both the House and Senate release their drafts, but we are already seeing signs that it was viewed positively in Congress. For example, in April, Congressional Arts Caucus Cochairs Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) co-led a letter to the House Appropriations Committee in support of the higher funding level for the agency.
Whether or not Congress ultimately decides to increase the NEA’s budget this year, statements of bipartisan support should not be overlooked, particularly as the President continues to urge Congress to defund and eliminate the NEA. As events unfold this month, NASAA will be in regular touch with you to urge you to connect with your legislators about why federal funding—and increased funding—for the arts is so important. I encourage you to think about your agency and the interesting new programs you’ve been able to build and deploy, either as a direct result of NEA support or as a result of the federal-state partnership, which directs 40% of the NEA’s grant funds to state and regional arts organizations. While there are many great reasons for Congress to support the NEA, I truly believe that arming members of Congress with tangible examples of how that funding impacts their districts and states is the most effective way we can support the agency and funding for the arts across the federal government.
I look forward to working with you over the weeks and months ahead. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have. I can always be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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