Congress has passed a $2 trillion emergency stimulus package, subsequently signed by the President, which includes $300 million in economic relief for arts and humanities groups, as well as additional relief opportunities for independent contractors.
The arts funding in the package includes $75 million each for National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, $50 million to the Institute of Library and Museum Sciences, $25 million for the Kennedy Center and $7.5 million for the Smithsonian. Of the NEA and NEH funds, 40 percent is for state and regional art organizations, while the remainder is to be allocated for direct grants.
Luckily, the bill also takes into account the creative workforce, such as individual actors, musicians and artists, as well as nonprofit organizations and small businesses. For instance, Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loans can use up to $10 billion for items like paid sick leave and operating costs. Similarly, $350 billion is allotted to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for emergency loans that small businesses can use for essential costs like rent, utilities and payroll. These SBA loans apply to nonprofits, but also independent contractors and those who are self-employed.
Other items in the bill include expanded unemployment insurance, to be made available to furloughed workers, freelancers and others in the creative workforce, and a tax incentive that now allows for non-itemizer taxpayers to deduct charitable contributions of up to $300 from their tax return.
While this funding is helpful, it does not match the significant financial loss from absent revenue and thousands of lost jobs that the industry has already seen. Americans for the Arts (AFTA) surveyed more than 8,000 organizations in the industry at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and, within just two weeks, estimated that the direct loss of income was $3.6 billion. These numbers continue to rise as the full damage caused by this virus is realized.
In the end, this overall loss to the nonprofit arts sector will affect the economy as a whole. An AFTA study in 2017 found that in Westchester County alone, the arts sector generates $172.3 million in total economic activity, delivers $25.8 million in local and state government revenue and supports 5,179 full-time equivalent jobs. The local economy and quality of life relies on the arts.
A version of this article first appeared in the April issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNews is distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.