The NEA hopes to keep arts jobs alive in the US—with limited federal relief funds

The US government passed the CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion assistance package, to help American workers and small businesses crippled by the economic disruption caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

Last month, US President Donald Trump signed into law a $2tr stimulus package known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Although the American Alliance of Museums and major institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, have urged Congress to provide $4bn-$6bn for the countrys besieged museums, the total set aside for the arts was only around $75m each to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Humanities (NEH), and $50m to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) (see below). With its relief funding, the NEA is switching tack from supporting individual art projects to ensuring that non-profit institutions and organisations are able to reopen. “We want to preserve as many jobs as possible—thats number one,” says Mary Anne Carter, the chair of the NEA. “At some point the crisis will pass, and we want the nations art organisations to still be there to open their doors and welcome the community back in.”

By mid-April, the NEA had awarded almost $30m to arts councils in all 50 states, which will distribute the funds to individual groups. The remaining $45m in relief funding will be handed out through individual $50,000 emergency grants, which can be used for salaries and artist fees, rent, utilities and other operating expenses. To streamline the vetting process, however, only organisations that have received an NEA grant within the past four years are eligible, and preference will be given to programmes that “impact a broad constituency”, according to the agency. Applications opened on 22 April and close on 4 May, and the NEA aims to release the earliest funds by June.

The NEA has some experience in providing aid during disasters, which has helped shape its response today. “The closest example of this unprecedented time would be the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009,” Carter says. “At that time, NEA was appropriated $50m through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The agency was able to get the money out in less than 20 weeks, and we were able to help preserve 7,000 jobs.” During the previous economic crisis, however, “theatres werent closed, dance studios werent closed, our arts organisations werent closed—they were facing a financial burden but they didnt have to shut their doors,” Carter adds. “This is different in that regard; the show is not going on because there is no audience.”

Carter notes that “the most difficult decision will be, wheres the money going to go and how much is going to be appropriated?” and adds. “The issue is that everyone is hard hit. Whether you are a two-person arts organisation or a museum with 1,000 employees, no one has been spared here.”

“My biggest fear is that the community will look different because some arts organisations will ultimately have to shut their doors, and many of those organisations might be in rural or otherwise underserved areas, where people already have limited access to arts programming,” Carter says. Her concerns echo those voiced by the AmeRead More – Source