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.
Before Congress adjourned for its August recess, both the House and Senate passed a budget deal that raises caps on discretionary spending for FY 2020 and FY 2021, paving the way for increased appropriations for humanities funding. The House has already passed ten of its twelve appropriations bills which included increased funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Department of Education’s international education programs, along with other humanities programs. Our funding chart tracks these proposed numbers.
Earlier this week, the House passed a funding bill that included a $12.5 million increase for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), which would bring its budget to $167.5 million! If enacted, this would mark a very significant increase after four years of $2 and $3 million increases.