The House Just Gave the National Endowment for the Arts Its Largest Funding Bump in a Decade, Despite Trump’s Threats to Squash It

With $162 million approved, it’s the greatest amount allotted to the NEA in six years.

The United States Capitol. Photo courtesy of Kevin McCoy via Wikimedia Commons.
The United States Capitol. Photo courtesy of Kevin McCoy via Wikimedia Commons.

Despite the Trump administration’s repeated calls to zero out funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the budget passed this week in the House of Representatives includes a bump in resources allocated to the arts agency.

In the $1.4 trillion national budget the House approved on Monday, the lower house of the legislature approved a budget of $162 million for the NEA. It was a rare moment of bipartisanship the same week that Donald Trump became the third president in US history to be impeached by that same body.

This increase of $7.25 million over last year’s budget represents the greatest one-year bump in NEA funding in a decade, points out advocacy group Americans for the Arts. It’s the largest grant to the NEA in six years, Artsy reports, and an increase over the previous year’s budget, of $155 million. (The increase outpaces inflation; last year’s budget, corrected only for inflation, would equal about $159 million.) The measure including domestic programs passed 297–120 in the Democrat-controlled House.

The bill also includes increases for the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The Veterans Affairs Department and the Department of Defense see increases for creative-arts therapy programs; the Department of Justice receives increased funding for arts-based juvenile justice programs.

This budget, whose passage avoids a government shutdown, is far leaner than the $4.75 trillion budget the Trump administration proposed in March—the largest in federal history—which proposed eliminating the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities and included modest allotments which it described as sufficient to dismantle the agencies.

Besides proposing to eliminate funding for the arts agency, Trump appointed a Republican strategist with minimal experience in the arts, Mary Anne Carter, to head the agency in 2019. Carter had been acting chairperson since the departure of Jane Chu more than a year previously.

Even if you have no strong feelings about art, it’s hard to deny the positive, rippling effects of funding creative endeavors. According to a report from the NEA and the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, issued earlier this year, the NEA contributes more to the US economy than agriculture, transportation, or warehousing—some $763.6 billion.

The budget now goes to the Senate for approval. The NEA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

UPDATE: The fiscal year 2020 appropriations bill has been passed by the Senate. Trump faces a midnight deadline tonight, December 20, 2019, to sign the budget.


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