NASAA Notes: February 2022

February 3, 2022

Massachusetts, North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Tennessee: Supplemental COVID-19 Relief

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) contains nearly $200 billion in emergency funding for states and territories to support a continued public health response, build infrastructure and promote equitable recovery. This state-led funding gives states and territories the ability to use these dollars in the ways that are most effective for each state.

As with the CARES Act funding, many states have allocated ARP funding to state arts agencies and the creative economy. This funding recognizes the powerful role arts and culture play in recovery and resilience and goes beyond the funding of arts and culture already distributed through the National Endowment for the Arts.

The additional ARP funding is helping creative workers, arts organizations, live venues and a wide breadth of creative activity to recover. In turn, strengthening arts and culture can contribute to community recovery. Massachusetts, North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Tennessee all offer insightful examples for distributing recovery funds—more than $200 million among the four—to those most in need.


Attendees connect at a Mass Cultural Council convening in 2019. Photo courtesy Scott Erb, Donna Dufault and Mass Cultural Council

To better understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the creative sector in Massachusetts, the legislature convened the COVID-19 Cultural Impact Commission. The commission was charged with recommending best practices for supporting the growth and vitality of the creative sector, and its detailed report recommended $575 million in funding for arts and culture recovery.

Based in part on the commission’s findings, in December the legislature allocated $60.1 million in its ARPA spending plan for Mass Cultural Council to administer grant programs to aid artists and cultural organizations with pandemic recovery. While less than the total recommendation made by the commission, this significant investment represents three times the agency’s annual state operating appropriation.

Mass Cultural Council is currently in the process of seeking public input to inform how this funding can best ensure equitable recovery. On January 24 the agency hosted a virtual public input session attended by more than 250 cultural sector stakeholders; written comments are being collected through February 7. To learn more, contact Mass Cultural Council Public Affairs Director Bethann Steiner.

North Carolina

Five of the 385 artists supported by the North Carolina Artist Support Grant in 2021. Photo courtesy Joseph Headen and North Carolina Arts Council

After a drawn-out budgeting process, North Carolina’s legislature passed its state budget bill in November 2021. The final budget bill included $16 million in supplemental funding for arts recovery through North Carolina Arts Council grants, of which $15 million came from ARP funding.

$11 million of the funding will support economic recovery through the extant Grassroots Grants program, which regrants funding through designated local partners. The additional $5 million in funding is to be used for general grants to support safe programming and relieve financial hardships. For more information, contact North Carolina Arts Council Deputy Director Tamara Brothers.

Puerto Rico

Photo courtesy Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña

To support cultural recovery and development, Puerto Rico’s governor, Hon. Pedro Pierluisi, has allocated $50 million in ARP funding to support a variety of relief efforts across the “orange economy,” or creative sector. In Phase I of the relief package, Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña (ICP) received $2.5 million in funding, which ICP is using to develop cultural initiatives, folk arts festivals and performing arts activities, among other initiatives. The State Historic Preservation Office, School of Fine Arts, Music Conservatory, Corporation for the Musical Arts (Symphony Orchestra of Puerto Rico) and the Fine Arts Center also received funding in Phase I.

In Phase II, the remaining $40 million is allocated to develop a new relief grant program with expanded reach, promote cultural programming that spurs economic growth through tourism, increase visitor traffic and address mental health. Funding also will support improvements to government owned properties that have cultural use, receive visitors or provide services; digitization of documents to improve administrative services provided to constituents amidst the COVID-19 pandemic; and the development of other arts and culture initiatives. Contact Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña Executive Director Carlos Ruiz Cortés to learn more.


The new Tennessee Resiliency Plan, a comprehensive strategy for state recovery, identifies the arts within the first tranche of recovery priorities that reflect “the most urgent needs and opportunities for Tennessee.” The plan allocates the full $80 million that the Tennessee Arts Commission (TAC) requested for a new Nonprofit Arts & Culture Recovery Fund to help the creative sector address business and job losses caused by COVID-19. TAC has access to this ARP funding over three years and expects to provide grants to more than 200 arts nonprofits that support arts and cultural experiences across every Tennessee senate district.

The new Tennessee Nonprofit Arts & Culture Recovery Fund Grants offer one-time funding for eligible Tennessee arts nonprofits that have a record of pandemic related financial loss and have a track record of federal grants management with the Arts Commission. Grant awards will support general operation expenses between July 2021 and June 2024. Awards are not to exceed $5 million and will work as a form of reimbursement. However, grantees can receive up to $100,000 in advance on an annual basis. Find out more by contacting Tennessee Arts Commission Executive Director Anne B. Pope.

Many more states than the four above have allocated additional funding for their state arts agency and creative economy. To share examples within your own state or for inquiries on COVID-19 supplemental allocations for arts and culture—including examples of state arts agency requests for funding—contact NASAA Research Associate Declan Wicks.