Arts Action Fund Legislative and Programmatic Updates July 2023

Date of News Item

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Members of Congress returned to Washington, D.C. this week, kicking off a three-week legislative sprint before they return to their states and districts for the August recess.

At the top of the agenda: making progress on the annual spending bills that Congress must pass or temporarily adopt as a continuing resolution by the end of the fiscal year on September 30. Otherwise, the country could face a government shutdown, an extreme action that a dozen conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus will likely threaten to do.

Here’s Where We Stand on Arts Funding Bills for FY’24:

The U.S. House of Representatives issued deep cuts to every appropriations committee, from education to the environment, except Defense and Veterans spending.

Despite the FY’24 House Interior Appropriations bill getting hit with a disproportionate 35% budget cut this year, funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) each received an initial 10% cut. These federal cultural agencies’ FY’23 budget was set at $207 million each last year and this evening the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee recommended $186.3 million each for their FY’24 budgets. 

The legislative process has many twists and turns, and we’re a long way from final passage of the budget by the full Congress. We also know that these initial budget cuts are not targeting the arts. They are impacting hundreds of federal programs across the board. To that end, we’re working hard at every opportunity to make the case for the NEA and NEH, even in the face of proposed cuts in arts funding. We strongly believe that arts champions from both sides of the aisle and in both the House and Senate, like Interior Appropriations Subcommittee House Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID), Ranking Democrat Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Senate Chairman Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Ranking Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), will ultimately find a way to come together to reach closer to the President’s recommended FY’24 budget level of $211 million each for the NEA and NEH. Special shout out to our Federal Arts Advocacy State Captains for the great advocacy work they’ve done this year in the face of shifting political tides and deep spending cuts across the board.

The House made even deeper funding cuts in the FY’24 Education funding bill, in some areas an 80% cut to Title 1 funding for schools serving low-income families and zeroing out programs like the arts in education grants. Clearly, these are untenable cuts and we will need to rely on all of our voices to convince the Senate to restore these cuts.

In a small area of new arts-related funding that we are advocating for this year, our Federal Arts Fly-In Advocates were successful in convincing the House to include $10 million in both the Department of Defense and the Veterans Affairs Administration. This funding will help advance effective community arts engagement programs and creative arts therapy partnerships to serve military service members, veterans and their families. 

Next Legislative Steps:

Many of these House-drafted appropriations bills will next proceed from the Subcommittee to the Full Appropriations Committee. After that, these bills will move to the House floor for the entire chamber to challenge with floor amendments, and ultimately, vote to pass or reject the entire bill. This is where we expect the biggest threats to deeper funding cuts to the arts. We will immediately alert you when this action approaches and provide you with an easy way to send a message to your specific House member to reject any weakening amendments to the arts.

Simultaneously, Senate Appropriations Subcommittees will continue drafting and advancing their version of the same bills. 

About our 2023 Federal Arts Fly-Ins this Spring to Washington, D.C.

Photo from Fly-In Spring 2023This spring, Americans for the Arts and the Arts Action Fund hosted their initial two legislative Fly-Ins on April 18-19, 2023, and May 16-17, 2023. We worked with two dynamic cohorts of smaller, more targeted constituent groups composed of influential local and state arts agency advocacy leaders and individual artists. As part of a new, strategic year-round equitable advocacy program, these legislative Fly-Ins brought 19 local and state arts leaders to meet in person with 57 targeted Members of Congress to help advance timely federal arts funding and policy requests.

A full day of customized one-on-one advocacy training was provided to all 19 advocates prior to their congressional meetings the next day. Cohorts were identified based on choosing local and state arts leaders, who are constituents of targeted members of congress, who have specific influence and an out-sized role in federal arts appropriations and policy legislation.

The first of these Fly-Ins occurred April 18 and 19, 2023, and included 12 arts leaders from 10 states: Alaska, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia. These Fly-In participants spearheaded a total of 39 congressional meetings to advocate for several legislative issues impacting and benefiting the entire arts field in America. 

The next Fly-In occurred on May 16 and May 17, 2023, in Washington, DC and included 5 arts leaders from California, Florida, Idaho, Oregon, and Texas. This group conducted 18 congressional meetings and advocated for funding and eligibility language in the FY 2024 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs and Defense Appropriations bills, as well as increased funding for the NEA and NEH in the Interior Appropriations bill. Two additional advocates hosted their Congressional meetings in-person back in their home states. 

Next Monthly Zoom Office Hours with Nina Is​ Tomorrow

Reminder that the next monthly Zoom Office Hours with Nina will be tomorrow on Friday, July 14, 2023, at 11:00am ET to discuss both COVID-financial relief updates and other topical issues. To see all future dates, visit our website.