On Saturday morning, the Senate passed the American Rescue Plan, which included $135 for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The House passed a version of the bill, which also included $135 million, in February.
These funds will ultimately help museums, libraries, historic sites, historical societies, archives, and humanities departments weather the economic challenges posed by the pandemic and maintain jobs.
Before the bill passed, four Republican Senators offered amendments to strip NEH funding from the bill. In light of this, we issued an action alert on Friday encouraging advocates to reach out to their Senators to vote against these amendments if they came to the Senate floor.
We encouraged advocates to share that while the CARES Act provided $75 million for humanities organizations, helping them stay afloat and maintain jobs, it was not nearly enough to meet the ongoing need. The NEH was only able to fund 14 percent of the applications it received for NEH CARES grants. The state and jurisdictional humanities councils, which had $30 million to distribute, estimate over $1 billion in losses among the applicants for their funds. The American Alliance of Museums estimates that a third of museums in the U.S. will permanently close as a result of COVID-19, while over 52 percent of museums have 6 months or less of operating reserves, and 53 percent have had to furlough or lay off staff.
Ultimately, only one of those amendments—sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)—came to the floor. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke against the amendment arguing that our nation's arts and cultural organizations have been devastated by the pandemic, facing losses in revenue, layoffs, and furloughs. She noted that this has affected organizations in urban, rural, and suburban areas and that the organizations need the resources in the bill to continue to serve our communities. Ultimately, the amendment was voted down 49-50 on party lines.
The House is expected to take up the Senate version of the bill on Tuesday and pass it. Given that both the House and Senate bills included $135 million for the NEH, it is nearly certain that these funds will ultimately make it to humanities organizations and departments across the country.
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