NASAA Notes: February 2021

February 2, 2021

Biden Administration and New Congress Get to Work

On January 20, President Joe Biden was sworn into office. Greeting the President is an unprecedented number of challenges for a new administration, including managing the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis while also setting a new agenda. While the latter is still being established, the Biden administration has made clear that addressing the pandemic will be its first priority.

In fact, as of writing this column, the President and congressional leadership are in the midst of intense negotiations on an additional round of funding they hope can be passed by the end of the month. Although the situation is still quite fluid, we understand that the package includes an additional round of stimulus checks for individuals, additional funding for vaccine manufacturing and distribution, and an extension of federal unemployment insurance. While it is too early to know for certain, it does not appear that the National Endowment for the Arts will receive an extra boost in funding within this package. A critical question for the administration is whether to negotiate with Senate Republicans, who have proposed a smaller relief package, or to pursue its $1.9 trillion bill through a process called budget reconciliation, which allows Democrats to forgo normal Senate procedure and pass the bill with only Democratic votes. (The normal process would require 60 votes for passage.)

Once a package is passed, the Biden administration is expected to turn its attention to yet another stimulus bill—one focused on economic recovery—and passing the fiscal year 2022 appropriations bills. It is our strong hope that the administration will include funding for the arts in the second package and propose a robust funding level for the Arts Endowment in FY2022.

Before the work on all of these critical bills ramps up, I encourage you to contact your members of Congress to update them on your work and urge robust funding for the arts this year. Capitol Hill is always a transient place, with staff often moving to new offices; but especially in the first year of a new administration, there is a lot of turnover. Opening a dialogue now, before critical issues and opportunities arise, is always a good idea.

In your conversation, I would be sure to thank them for (or if it is a new office, inform them of) Congress’s support for the National Endowment for the Arts last year, which increased the agency’s funding to $167.5 million. Also vitally important is to reiterate our support for the federal-state partnership, which allocates 40% of the Arts Endowment’s grant budget to state arts agencies and regional arts organizations. Finally, please consider using this conversation to update staff about your organization and any new programs or initiatives you’ve undertaken. Shortly, we will be formally asking these same offices to support an increase in funding for FY2022—but starting the dialogue now will allow you to build or refresh relationships with key staff.

In the next few weeks, we expect the Biden administration to make its formal request to Congress for funding for federal agencies, including the Arts Endowment. Once that request is made, NASAA will follow up with you about how we will respond to that proposal. In the meantime, we will keep you apprised as work on the COVID-19 package unfolds, and let you know whether there is an opportunity to support the arts in that package.

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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