How to Make Sense of NEH's Budget Request

In the past day, several humanities advocates have expressed concern about language in the Congressional Budget Justification that the National Endowment for the Humanities released on May 23. This document requests $42.307 million for FY 2018 and justifies the request as the amount needed for the “orderly closure of the agency.” It also notes that “no new grants or matching offers will be made beginning in FY 2018.”

Given the alarming nature of this language, we want to explain the role that Congressional Budget Justifications play in the budget process. We also want to emphasize that this language is not, independent of the Presidential Budget Request, cause for concern.


Congressional Budget Justifications

Congressional Budget Justifications are documents submitted by federal agencies to Congress in the wake of a Presidential Budget Request. These requests are required to explain why the administration requested the specific amount it did and how the agency intends to use that funding.

Most importantly, these statements must reflect the administration's policy.

They are often pre-approved by the Office of Management and Budget in the Executive Office of the President to ensure they conform to the Presidential Budget Request.


NEH’s Budget Justification and Its Impact on Future Grant Competitions

Given that the budget justification must follow through on the administration’s call to shut down the Endowment, the document must also state that the NEH will not make grants for FY18.  

It is essential to remember, however, that this will be the case only if Congress adopts the president’s request. If Congress, instead, provides enough funding for the NEH to award grants next year, the NEH will do so.


What this Means for Current Grant Programs 

The NEH will continue to run competitions for all of the grant programs posted on their website. You can review them here and are encouraged to apply!


What We Can Do

Given the president’s request, the NEH is constrained from asking for any additional funding. This makes it all the more critical that we step up and make our voices heard so that Congress understands the value of the agency. You can see all the ways that you, as well as your organization, colleagues, and friends can advocate for the NEH here. Just have 30 seconds? Contact Congress with only two clicks here!

Read more: policy updates