The House appropriations subcommittees have been releasing their FY 2021 draft bills over the past week and several have now passed out of the full appropriations committee. We have been pleased to see proposed increases for all of our priorities in these bills. The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies bill included $170 million for the NEH, matching our request for a $7.75 million increase. The bill passed the full committee on a party-line vote of 30-19.
This past spring, when universities were shutting down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, ICE issued a temporary exemption, which allowed nonimmigrant international students to stay in the U.S. while their classes went virtual. On July 6, ICE issued a decision that would end temporary visa exemptions for immigrant students whose upcoming coursework will be entirely online.
In early April, we launched a survey that asked humanities organizations to share the challenges they are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Museums, historic sites, and historical societies told us that closing their doors and canceling major events has led to major financial stress, leading them to face lay-offs and the possibility that they won’t survive as organizations.
Each year, a key part of the appropriations process is Dear Colleague Letters. These letters, circulated each March, are written to request a certain amount of appropriations funding for agencies and policy priorities. The letters then receive sign ons from Members of Congress who wish to add their support to specific funding requests.
As Congress begins to consider additional COVID-19 relief funding packages, we are calling on humanities advocates to contact their Members of Congress this week to urge additional relief funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities. While we are very grateful for $75 million awarded to the NEH in the CARES Act, currently available funding will cover only a fraction of the needed assistance.
Update, March 23, 2020: Yesterday afternoon, Republican leadership in the Senate released a draft stimulus bill that included only $100 million in spending for the NEH (and an equal amount for the NEA). Later that afternoon, negotiations on that draft bill broke down due to a range of bigger differences, and a vote on a Senate bill has been postponed as negotiations continue. Meanwhile, the House is beginning to draft its own bill rather than waiting to respond to the Senate bill. We expect the House to release its bill later today.
Additionally, last night Reps. David Price and Chellie Pingree sent a letter to House leadership requesting $500 million in stimulus funding for the NEH. Please join Reps. Price and Pingree and take action to let your Members of Congress know you support stimulus funding for the NEH.
Earlier this week, Congress released its spending deal for FY 2020, which included a $7.25 million increase for the NEH, the largest increase we have seen in a decade. If enacted, which it is expected to be, this would bring the agency’s budget to $162.25 million.
Update, September 26, 2019: Earlier today, the full Senate Appropriations Committee passed its FY 2020 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies spending bill, which included a $2 million increase for the NEH over FY 2019. Also included in the bill were increases for the Smithsonian Institution and the National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Fund.
The Senate has been moving through the appropriations process at a far slower pace than the House. While the House passed 10 of its 12 appropriations bills before the August recess, the Senate has just begun releasing and considering bills over the past week. It is only in the past two days that we have begun to see the funding bills that include appropriations for humanities programs.