NEA and NEH at risk (again) in Trump’s 2020 budget

NEA and NEH at risk (again) in Trump’s 2020 budget
President Donald Trump on a Christmas Day phone call in the Oval Office. Photo by Shealah Craighead. Courtesy Flickr Commons.

For the third year in a row, President Donald Trump has proposed to cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). His budget for 2020, released on March 11th, is the largest in history at $4.75 trillion but he still aims to eliminate the two agencies.

In both 2017 and 2018, Trump’s initial budget proposal allocated funds to both of the agencies but only enough to see-through their dismantling over the course of two years. On March 18th, when the administration released the more detailed view of 2020’s proposal, the NEA and NEH are once again at risk of being dissolved. Within the full proposal, the sections on the NEA and NEH are fairly similar citing almost the same reasons for termination: funding for each programme is ‘not considered core Federal responsibilities.’ Funds provided by non-profits for both the arts and humanities are also cited as providing the majority of funding and since the government’s money is only a ‘fraction’ of each, it is no longer necessary in the Trump administration’s eyes. Under the proposed budget, the NEA and NEH would receive $29 million and $38 million, respectively. This would mean that the NEA would receive $126 million less than it did in government funding in 2019 and the NEH would be down $117 million from the previous year.

Despite President Trump’s proposal to terminate the NEA and NEH in 2017 and 2018, the budget that was eventually passed saw an increase of $2 million in funding in 2017 and then an increase of $2.2 million the following year. By the time the 2020 budget is passed, it will most likely look quite different from what has been released. The budget has been met without a lot of pushback from democrats and republicans, alike, so it isn’t over just yet for the agencies. The full plan comes just weeks after a study found that the economic impact of the arts to be higher than that of agriculture, warehousing, and transportation bringing in over $760 billion in 2015.

In a statement, the NEA responded stating: ‘We see our funding actively making a difference with individuals in thousands of communities and in every Congressional District in the nation.’ The statement cited the NEA’s impact by continuing: ‘2,322 awards totaling $121.2 million in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five additional US jurisdictions.’

NEH chairman Jon Parrish Peede said: ‘As NEH awaits Congressional action on the President’s proposed budget, the agency is continuing normal operations and will announce our latest round of FY 2019 awards this spring.’

In addition to the NEA and NEH, the proposal seeks to cut $1.9 trillion to other programmes including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and student loan programmes. $19 million set aside for research on climate change would be eliminated as the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget would shrink by 31%.

Areas seeing a boost under Trump’s proposed budget for 2020 include military spending, which would increase by 5%. Meanwhile, President Trump’s proposed border wall on the US and Mexico border would accrue $8.6 million from the budget. Staunch opposition to the border wall played a large role in the historic government shutdown which lasted 35 days in December and January.