Omnibus Spending Packages Holds Good News for Humanities Funding

Earlier today, the House and Senate each approved an omnibus appropriations package. The president has pledged to sign it into law. This package boosts NEH’s funding for the first time in six years and provides level funding for the severely threatened Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs.

That Title VI and Fulbright-Hays received level funding is a major victory. In August, the senate Appropriations Committee approved, on party lines, a $25 million or 35% reduction to the Department of Education’s Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs. This proposal came after major cuts just five years ago and would have amounted to a $78.955 million or 63% decrease in funding since FY 2010.

The humanities community rallied to oppose these proposed cuts. Members of Congress received over 15,000 letters from humanities advocates on Title VI and Fulbright-Hays alone. We worked closely with the Coalition for International Education and our university partners to underscore that these cuts would severely erode the nation’s capacity in international education and foreign language education.

In the end, both Title VI and Fulbright-Hays will receive level funding: Title VI is set to receive $65.1 million and Fulbright-Hays is set to receive $7.2 million. This was made possible by both a robust advocacy effort from the humanities community and the October Budget deal that raised spending caps and provided additional funding for the Appropriations Committee to distribute.

NEH, meanwhile, will see a nearly $2 million funding boost from its FY 2015 level, and will be funded at $147.9 million, the level the President requested for FY 2016. After both House and Senate’s draft Interior Appropriations bills proposed level funding earlier this year, the Appropriations committee chose to use some of the additional funds made available through the October budget deal to appropriate a larger allotment of funds to NEH. This is a testament to the efforts of the many advocates who made the case for the importance of NEH funding over the course of the year. This modest increase is especially encouraging given proposals to slash NEH’s funding in recent years.

And there is still more good news, including much-needed bumps for IMLS, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian and continued level funding for programs such as NHPRC. See more detailed appropriations information here.

As a previous blog post by Robert Townsend noted, most humanities funding lines have suffered significantly since 2008, and the programs and agencies, such as Title VI and NEH, that provide grants to fund humanities work outside of the federal government,have suffered disproportionately. While the increases this year are modest, they signal that support for humanities programs is growing on Capitol Hill. Now is the time to build on this support and begin pushing to restore the funding capacity that these agencies have lost in recent years. We look forward to working with you in the coming year to make the case for higher appropriations for FY 2017!

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