August 3, 2020
House Approves Arts Funding Increase, Senate Action Expected in the Fall
At the time of writing this column, the House and Senate are engaged in an intense back-and-forth with the Trump administration over the size and scope of an expected COVID-19 relief bill. While at one time it was thought that this bill would be focused on restarting the economy, the recent surge in virus cases throughout the country has led policymakers to adjust course and concentrate on provisions that will support the health crisis still facing us.
Although details are still being finalized, it is expected the package will include an extension of benefits for people out of work, support for state and local governments, and increased funding for testing and contact tracing. While Congress is navigating these negotiations, a consequence has been that work on the fiscal year 2021 appropriations bills has been slowed. As you likely saw, last month the House of Representatives approved legislation that would increase funding for the National Endowment for the Arts from its current level of $162.5 million to $170 million. The bill also explicitly supports the federal-state partnership that allocates 40% of the agency’s grant funds to state arts agencies and regional arts organizations.
At NASAA, we are extremely appreciative of Congress’s continuing, bipartisan support for the Arts Endowment. It is important to note that the appropriations process began this year with the Trump administration once again recommending to Congress that it defund the Endowment. With that factor in mind, the proposed increase plus the considerable restraints on funding caused by the COVID-19 crisis underscore just how deep support for the agency is in Congress. Next, we wait for the Senate to begin its process. Given that Congress will soon adjourn for the summer, it is more likely than not that it will have to pass a continuing resolution in September to keep the government operational. This means that the Arts Endowment will continue to be funded at its current level ($162.5 million) until a deal can be reached, which probably will occur after the election.
Therefore, if you have the opportunity, please consider contacting your senators over the next month or so to let them know that you are supportive of the House’s recommended level of $170 million for the National Endowment for the Arts and request that the Senate match it. In doing so, please urge continued support for the federal-state partnership and, as always, please take the opportunity to update the senator about developments within your agency.
I realize that this is a complicated and challenging time. If you have any questions about the status of this process, or anything else related to Congress, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
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