August 2, 2022
House FY2023 NEA Increase: Encouraging, but More Work to Do
As we reported late last month, the House of Representatives passed a series of funding bills for fiscal year 2023, including the Interior and Related Agencies bill, which includes the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). In that bill, the House approved increasing the agency’s budget to $207 million. The legislation also reiterates Congress’s long-standing support for the federal-state partnership, which allocates 40% of the NEA’s grant funding to state arts agencies and regional arts organizations. With the bill now passed out of the House, the Senate will take up the bill, with hopes of passing it before current funding expires on September 30.
The Senate took the first step toward doing so when its Appropriations Committee released its draft, proposing $195 million. While not as high as we had hoped, this funding would increase the Endowment’s funding level by $15 million. It is clear that the NEA, and the arts generally, continue to enjoy strong bipartisan support in both chambers in Congress. But we as arts advocates must continue to make a compelling case to the Senate for why an increase in funding to $207 million is warranted. State arts agencies are in a unique position to make this argument, because you work closely with the NEA to ensure that funding reaches every congressional district in the country. This fact allows us to make a point that few can: regardless of which congressional office you are meeting with, you can say that federal funding directly supports their community.
With Congress about to begin its August recess, now is the perfect time to reach out to your senators and request a meeting or conversation. All will have set aside some time back home to meet with constituents. Whether you are able to meet in person or are contacting a member of their staff, this interaction is critical. We expect the Senate to be working on the appropriations bills over the month of August, so that it can attempt to pass at least some of the funding bills before the end of September. It is also quite possible that Congress will be forced to pass a continuing resolution to fund the federal government, should an agreement not be reached. Either way, this work is happening over the next few weeks, and this is when you can have maximum impact.
A second point that is worth noting is that there were several amendments offered in the House of Representatives this year that would have limited funding for the Arts Endowment. While those amendments were easily defeated, the fact that they were offered is a stark reminder that, while the NEA does enjoy strong, bipartisan support, there are members who will be working against us, and it is important to be vigilant.
As always, I continue to be grateful for your persistence. The fact that the House approved such a significant increase for the National Endowment for the Arts while the country is still grappling with a pandemic, facing economic uncertainty and supporting the war in Ukraine is a testament to your efforts.
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