NASAA Notes: May 2020

May 7, 2020

Congress Considers How to Resume Business, Provide More Relief Funding

Like you, the federal government is trying to figure out how to go about doing the critically necessary work brought on by the COVID-19 crisis while also keeping its employees safe. Congress is no exception: as of publication, it is an open question when and how “normal” business will resume. In the meantime, Congress and the Trump administration continue conversations about a new round of emergency funding centered on addressing critical shortages.

For the time being, the Senate has returned to session and the House is expected to do so next week. When it does, it is widely believed that negotiations pertaining to that next relief bill will accelerate. While all discussions are evolving on an almost minute-by-minute basis, getting emergency funding for state and local governments is currently expected to be a part of the package. Other provisions under consideration include additional funding for unemployment insurance, COVID-19 testing programs and additional support for small businesses.

This legislation comes on the heels of a bill Congress passed last month (its fourth emergency relief package) that was aimed at addressing the impact of the COVID-19 virus on communities across the country. Critically important to us as supporters of arts funding is that Congress is also continuing to work on appropriations bills for fiscal year 2021. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) reiterated that the House is still planning to pass all 12 appropriations bills by the end of June. So when the House of Representatives returns, it is possible that the draft budget for the National Endowment for the Arts will be released and a markup will occur almost immediately.

It is unclear what funding we can expect for the Arts Endowment. Last year, the agency got an increase of more than $7 million, and NASAA and other arts organizations have asked for a similar increase (to $170 million) this year. We are certainly hopeful that the House will propose funding the agency at or near that level, and we remain confident that Democratic and Republican members in Congress, who have been so supportive of the agency throughout, will continue to be so, even in these challenging times.

As always, NASAA will keep you updated as events occur. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you might have.