NASAA Notes: September 2023


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Isaac Brown

September issue
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September 6, 2023

Government Shutdown Looms: Rally for Arts Funding

This first week of September, Congress returns to D.C. after a lengthy summer recess. Greeting members upon their return is a stark reality: they have less than a month to negotiate a fiscal year 2024 spending package in order to avert a government shutdown. As of this writing, the likelihood of a government shutdown seems quite possible, especially because members of the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate seem far apart on funding levels, and because of the insistence by some House Republicans that the bill include policy provisions related to social issues that are strongly opposed by Democrats.

A perfect example of the distance between the two chambers is the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Since assuming control of the House in November, Republicans there have emphasized the need to reduce federal domestic spending, and have passed a budget for the NEA that would lower funding from its current level of $207 million to $186.3 million (a reduction of 10%). The Senate, meanwhile, passed on a large bipartisan basis a funding bill that would maintain level spending for the NEA next year. This discrepancy repeats itself numerous times across all federal agencies and puts members of both parties on a collision course. If they cannot resolve their differences, and quickly, a shutdown of some period of time will follow.

Complicating matters is that the White House is also asking Congress to pass what is known as a supplemental appropriations bill, providing more than $40 billion for natural-disaster relief and the war in Ukraine. Many Republicans have expressed a desire to end, or at least ramp down, the U.S. contribution to the war effort in Ukraine; even if a deal can be made, it will take time and attention from the work necessary to pass a traditional spending package.

While arts advocates cannot reconcile these significant disagreements, we certainly can do our part to help members of Congress from both parties understand why the proposal to reduce funding for the NEA by 10% is so harmful, and why we instead fully endorse and support the bipartisan figure approved in the Senate of $207 million. Therefore, if you haven’t done so, now is a great time to contact your members of Congress and urge that they support maintaining level funding for the NEA. In doing so, talk about the important programing your organization is leading at the moment, and how implementing the proposed funding reductions will impact their constituents. Remind them that 40% of all grant dollars allocated to the NEA go to state arts agencies and regional arts organizations, and that public funding for arts and creativity is a high-return investment that strengthens every city, town and rural community nationwide. In challenging moments like this one, members of Congress need to have tangible information about the impact these cuts will have so that they can effectively push for the highest level of funding possible.

If you have already contacted your member of Congress, I want to thank you for taking the time to do so. There is no doubt that this direct outreach is the best way to try to shape the NEA’s budget moving forward.

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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