NASAA Notes: June 2020

June 2, 2020

Appropriations, Fiscal Budget, Economic Aid Compete for Congress's Attention

Following a busy May, the House and Senate return to D.C. this week with a full agenda on their plate. In addition to dealing with the health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19, leadership has stated its intention to try to pass all 12 fiscal appropriations bills before the July 4 recess. How Congress will manage to do that is uncertain, but here is what we expect to unfold over the next few weeks.

Perhaps as early as today, the Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives is expected to release a broad infrastructure proposal geared toward helping the economy rebound, with unemployment nationwide close to 40 million. This legislation is separate and apart from the HEROES Act, which the chamber passed last month and which included, among many things, more than $500 billion for state and local governments to offset revenue shortfalls caused by the shutdown of the economy this spring. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) remains committed to getting this provision enacted, though a path forward at this time is unclear. Republican leaders in the Senate have balked at the overall bill, saying it is too expensive and would not help revitalize the economy; however in recent days, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has signaled an openness to producing one more stimulus package (though he reiterated his opposition to the HEROES Act). All of this is to say that, while both parties agree on the priorities of supporting frontline communities and getting the economy back on track, they remain apart in figuring out the appropriate way to do that.

While these negotiations likely will ramp up this week, there is concurrent work under way to pass legislation funding the government for fiscal year 2021 (current funding expires at the end of September). Just last week, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), chair of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, said that the House bill, which includes the National Endowment for the Arts, is essentially written and ready for consideration, and the House is awaiting the opportunity to move ahead. A question on all of our minds is whether the economic crisis will cause appropriators to alter their funding priorities, and whether, as a result, the Arts Endowment could face funding cuts. So far, while not speaking about the Endowment specifically, staff have said that they have received no such instructions and are proceeding as they normally would. While this is good to hear, the situation is obviously fluid.

In terms of what to expect, we are certainly hopeful that the Arts Endowment will see yet another increase in funding, as the agency continues to enjoy strong bipartisan support. The challenge, even outside the context of everything happening in the country right now, is that the overall funding level for the federal government was not increased this year, which means that any increase in funding for the Endowment must be offset elsewhere. As you know, NASAA and other national arts organizations have asked Congress to fund the agency at $170 million, and we are hopeful an increase will occur. Either way, we remain steadfast in our appreciation of the bipartisan support the arts have received.

Once that bill is released and we have a sense of timing, NASAA will follow up with you to share information and guidance on how to weigh in with members of your congressional delegation. In the meantime, please stay safe, and thank you for your attention during this difficult time.

In this Issue

From the President and CEO

State to State

Legislative Update

The Research Digest

Announcements and Resources

More Notes from NASAA




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