Heading into the new year, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) can breathe a sigh of relief after the US government passed a 2020 fiscal year budget that avoided a government shutdown (which wreaked havoc on the country last New Year) but also increased the budget for the organization. By December 20th, both the House of Representatives and the Senate had signed off a $1.4 trillion budget that was then signed into law. The recently approved budget has allotted $162 million to the NEA.
The US’s budget has been in the works in the background for the majority of the year and in March, President Trump’s administration announced his vision for the 2020 budget. That proposal was the biggest is federal history, looking for $4.75 trillion to maintain and increase various operations and programmes in the US. However, Trump’s March proposal effectively cut all funding to the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). That budget would have given the means necessary to dismantle the organizations that provides funding for thousands of programmes, organizations, individuals, and museums across the country through grants and other means. The Trump administration’s 2020 budget proposal was the third time suggesting that the NEA and NEH be defunded after both the 2018 and 2019 budgets looked to dismantle them.
In actuality, the NEA’s 2020 budget shows a $7.25 million increase over last year’s $155 million budget. The increase makes this year’s funding the largest since 2010 with the most significant increase in funding since 2013. Although, Democrats in the House of Representatives originally proposed a $12.5 million increase for the NEA, the budget ultimately fell short of that. 2020’s increase also out-does last year’s budget when adjusted for inflation by $3 million.
The budget’s approval was a moment of bipartisanship amongst members of Congress as news of Trump’s impeachment was just sinking in. In spite of Trump’s thoughts towards the NEA, Congress’ decision and show of support puts the arts in a place of importance in the government’s eyes. In fact, a report (also released in March) by the NEA in partnership with the US Bureau Economic Analysis found that the the arts have a positive impact on the economy. Using the most recent data available at the time, the report stated that in 2015, the arts contributed more than $763 billion to the US economy. While dealing in the millions and billions range is difficult for most to comprehend, to add some context, that year, the NEA was allocated a budget of $146 million. It is important to recognize, too, that the NEA and BEA’s report used a broad definition of ‘the arts’ to include things like television, jewellery, and film industries, not just museums and visual art programmes. Whichever way you view the arts, though, it is clear that they contribute to society in a manner of ways and they’ll continue to do so in the US.