October 5, 2021
Congress Passes Short-Term Funding Bill amid Debate over Infrastructure Spending
As I noted in my last column, the fall was expected to be one of the most active legislative sessions in recent memory. Work was planned to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, focused mainly on traditional transportation programs like roads and bridges, and a second, even larger spending package that would focus on climate change and social safety net initiatives. As if passing these measures wouldn’t be hard enough, also facing Congress and the President would be the expiration of federal funding (September 30), and the pressing need to raise the debt ceiling by October 18. All of this work made passage of the fiscal year 2022 spending bill before the end of September an unlikely outcome, and after many weeks of negotiations, the decision was made to pass a short-term (three-month), continuing resolution that allows the government to operate with existing funding levels.
This outcome, while disappointing given the potential increase in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) recommended by the President and the House of Representatives, is hopefully just a momentary delay. The Senate plans to begin working on a full funding bill this month, and while we do not have any specific information, it is expected that the Senate will choose to match the House-approved number of $201 million for the NEA. Further, the fact that both chambers of Congress and the White House are controlled by the Democratic Party should allow for the process to move rather smoothly, as the delay to this point has been the result of prioritization, rather than disagreements among policymakers. If the proposed funding level goes through, it would represent an increase of more than $33.5 million over the Arts Endowment’s current budget. Equally important to us as advocates for state arts agencies, the House legislation supports the ongoing federal-state partnership, which allocates 40% of all NEA grant dollars to state arts agencies and regional arts organizations. We will work to ensure that the Senate continues to support this agreement as well.
Although negotiations around the budget, infrastructure and the debt ceiling will continue to dominate the headlines over the coming weeks, I think this is a good time for all of us as champions for the arts to think about what might come next. Congress and the administration are aiming to clear the decks of all of these major bills before the end of the year. Should that occur, Congress will hopefully have the opportunity to think about new policies and initiatives. While the arts were not a focal point of these most recent bills, there is no reason that we can’t work with Congress to set an ambitious arts agenda for next year. Legislation like the Creative Economy Revitalization Act, which was introduced by Senator Lujan (D-NM) last month, would help bolster the creative economy through the creation of a workforce grants program to employ artists and writers to create publicly available art.
Passing new, bold initiatives like this will take time, but it is my hope that as the new year comes, we will be able to focus on new ideas to advance arts policy. In the meantime, it is critical that we remain focused on the FY2022 appropriations process to ensure that the National Endowment for the Arts receives the proposed increase. If you haven’t done so already, now is a great time to contact your senators and urge them to support funding the NEA at $201 million.
In this Issue
From the President and CEO
State to State
- Maryland: Equitable Funding Model for General Operating Support
- Oregon, West Virginia: Artist Relief Funds
The Research Digest
Announcements and Resources
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