Brigadier General Nolen Bivens, Interim President and CEO of Americans for the Arts and the Americans for the Arts Action Fund, released the following statement in response to final passage of the year-end bill that combines $900 billion in immediate COVID-19 economic relief with $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill for fiscal year (FY) 2021:
“We are pleased that Congress has approved both a second pandemic relief bill and the annual appropriations bill, providing much-needed support to the creative economy workforce and to the many nonprofit arts organizations and institutions that have been shuttered for 10 months.
“Advocacy for the disproportionately affected arts sector is broad, ranging from The U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National Association of Chamber Executives, to coalitions of artists and arts organizations such as the Cultural Advocacy Group, Be An Arts Hero, Save Our Stages—and we are thankful for all their contributions to the effort. This important cultural support from Congress is a testament that the arts have bipartisan support in the country.
“Within the Coronavirus relief bill, we are pleased that Congress funded—albeit not enough but it will fill the gap until the new Administration is installed—with an 11-week extension of pandemic unemployment benefits, a second draw of Payroll Protection Program loans, direct stimulus checks, replenishment of EIDL Advance funds, and the addition of a new $15 billion program to assist the hardest hit independent live venues, nonprofit performing arts institutions, and museums from completely going out of business and to retain their employees and help artists have a place to come back to when this pandemic is over.
“Within the omnibus bill, we are pleased that Congress increased funding for both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities by $5.25 million each—from $162.25 million in FY 2020 to $167.5 million in FY 2021. While this is the fifth consecutive year of increased funding, Congress is still inching its way towards fully restoring the major cuts made 25 years ago. Perhaps the most insightful act taken in this section of the bill was Congress granting a legislative waiver to both of these federal agencies to allow them to grant funds for general operating purposes instead of restricting them to project-specific grants. The waiver is smartly directed for FY21 as well as previously awarded FY20 and FY19 grants that cultural organizations were never able to complete because of the pandemic. We’re also pleased that the Omnibus provided funding to begin establishing and building two new Smithsonian museums, one for the National Museum of the American Latino and the other for a National Museum of Women’s History (official name to be determined).
“This is a landmark moment of bipartisan support for the $878 billion creative industries, which our research has shown drive economic and social growth in communities, bring people together, and employ over 5.1 million people. This crucial first step towards including the creative economy in relief and recovery efforts is a demonstration of what is possible when the full breadth of the creative economy, including everyone from cultural nonprofits to creative entrepreneurs, independent venues, museums and galleries, and entertainment corporations, stands together. This stimulus is crucial to the creative sector, in which over 2.7 million people, or 63% of the industry, are unemployed—three times the national rate during the economic crisis.”
For tools, resources, and information on how to make the case for the arts and arts education, visit the Americans for the Arts’ Arts Mobilization Center.