Struggling Arts Venues Will Get a Much-Needed $15 Billion Boost Through Congress’s Emergency Aid Package

The NEA and NEH are also getting increases in the $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill.

The Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Arts organizations are breathing a small sigh of relief about not being forgotten in the $900 billion emergency spending bill passed by US Congress, which now goes to President Trump for his signature.

“Congratulations museum advocates for making your voices heard in 2020!,” reads a statement from the Alliance of American Museums (AAM).

No one knows yet what the distribution of funds will look like, nor how much support individual organizations will actually get. But the relief agreement, the advocacy group said, “is expected to include more than $284 billion for first and second Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans targeting small nonprofits, including museums, with significant economic loss.”

In what AAM deemed “a major win for museums,” the small business provisions are also expected to include $15 billion in dedicated grants for shuttered-venue operators, which includes museums as well as Broadway theaters and music clubs.

Further, AAM said it expects that enhanced charitable giving incentives will be extended and that Refundable Employee Retention Tax Credits (RETC) will be extended and expanded.

Nolen Bivens, interim president and CEO of Americans for the Arts and the Americans for the Arts Action Fund, said in a statement that the bill was “not enough but it will fill the gap until the new Administration is installed.”

The $900 billion relief package was passed as part of a larger omnibus spending bill that funds the government through September 2021. AAM noted that the 2021 budget appropriations also “include major victories for museums.”

The most talked-about of these are the authorizations for two new Smithsonian museums—the Women’s History Museum and the National Museum of the American Latino—on or near the National Mall in Washington, DC.

The $1.4 trillion budget also grants an additional $5.25 million each to the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as compared with 2020. The 2021 budgets for each now stand at $167.5 million.

The Office of Museum Services at the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) also received a $2 million bump, giving it a total of $40.5 million.

The overall bill is over 5,000 pages long, and is described by the AP as “by far the longest bill ever.”

AAM said it will continue to analyze “the enormous legislative package for additional items relevant to museums and will have more to report in the weeks to come.”


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