President Trump Is Trying to Eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts—Again—in His Just-Released 2021 Budget Proposal

Will Trump's latest attempt to slash arts agencies succeed this time?

US President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

According to a section of President Donald Trump’s just-released budget proposal for 2021, titled “Stopping Wasteful and Unnecessary Spending,” the activities funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities would be cut, because they “are not considered core Federal responsibilities, and make up only a small fraction of the billions spent each year by arts and humanities nonprofit organizations.”

The budget requests $30 million to conduct an orderly closeout of the NEA beginning in fiscal year 2021. Similarly, the proposed budget requests $33.4 million to end the NEH also at the same time.

Also targeted by Trump are the Institute of Museum and Library Services, for which $23 million has been requested for its orderly wind-down, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the shutdown of which would be “part of the Administration’s plan to move the Nation towards fiscal responsibility and to redefine the proper role of the Federal Government.”

“We see our funding actively making a difference with individuals in thousands of communities and in every Congressional District in the nation,” a spokesperson for the NEA told Artnet News in an email. In fiscal year 2019, the endowment gave out more than 2,400 awards amounting to $122.4 million every state, the spokesperson said. “Those grants are leveraged by other public and private contributions up to 9:1, significantly increasing the impact of the federal investment.”

This isn’t the first time Trump has made a bid to eliminate these organizations. Watchdog and advocacy group Americans for the Arts pointed to the president’s previous attempts in a statement from CEO Robert Lynch: “For the fourth-straight year, the Trump administration has proposed to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Clearly, both chambers of Congress have consistently rejected this unilateral effort on the administration’s part. Americans for the Arts will again work with Congress to not only reject this misdirected budget request, but further increase funding for these important cultural agencies.”

Last week, Lynch urged the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee to increase NEA funding to $170 million next year by allocating an additional $7.75 million above its 2020 funding. “For context, these cultural agencies are still inching their way back up to levels once enjoyed two and a half decades ago,” he said. “This is a step towards restoring that funding level, notwithstanding adjustments for inflation.”

Lawmakers have previously rejected Trump’s numerous attempts to shut down these entities. “Congressional appropriators have chosen in the previous three years to reject the administration’s call for termination of the agency, and instead provided increased funding,” said Lynch. “I expect to see similar action by Congress this year.”

Lynch praised Congressional Arts Caucus co-chairs Chellie Pingree, a Democratic Representative from Maine,  and Elise Stefanik, a Republican from New York, who help make up “our pro-arts majority in Congress,” he said, “and the bipartisan work of Congress and the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee in upholding the arts” and rejecting proposed budgets calling for the elimination of the NEA in 2018, 2019, and 2020.


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