Just weeks after the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) were backed by Congress in the US 2020 budget, they’re once again in the crosshairs. On Monday, President Trump’s administration released its 2021 budget proposal and both the NEA and the NEH, for the fourth year in a row, are only funded enough to see that they are each dismantled.
Listed under ‘Other Independent Agencies,’ the NEA and the NEH are pegged for elimination alongside other government supported organizations like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. While some of the groups the Trump Administration would like to close would be absorbed, in part, by other groups, the NEA and NEH are ‘not considered core Federal responsibilities.’
An approximated $30 million would be allocated to the NEA in 2021 while the NEH would receive $33 million to oversee their dissolvement. This would be roughly 80 percent less, for both organizations, than they received in 2020. In the explanation for why the Administration seeks to dismantle the NEA and NEH, the budget states that what the government provides for them is only a small fraction of the donations and funding received from the public and other private sources. For the NEA, ‘the Administration believes audiences and aficionados are better than the Government at deciding what art is good or important.’
However, many don’t see it this way. ‘We see our funding actively making a difference with individuals in thousands of communities and in every Congressional District in the nation,’ said a NEA spokesperson in a statement to Artnet News. The grants offered by the NEA to artists and organizations, alike, ‘are leveraged by other public and private contributions up to 9:1, significantly increasing the impact of the federal investment.’
The budget, which tallies up to $4.8 trillion, is just a suggestion and not exactly what Congress uses to create the budget for the year. Unsurprisingly, it has been divisive amongst US Senators and Representatives. John Yarmuth, a US Representative and chair of the House Budget Committee, said in a statement that the proposal targets ‘critical programs that help Americans make ends meet — all while extending his tax cuts for millionaires and wealthy corporations.’ For supporters, like Monica Crowley, Assistant Secretary of the United States Treasure, the Administration’s plan seeks to reel in government spending ‘before it threatens the economic prosperity that we are all enjoying.’
As for this year, Congress chose not to follow the Trump Administration’s suggestion to cut the NEA and NEH as laid out in last year’s budget proposal. Instead, the 2020 fiscal year budget increased spending for the NEA and NEH, which were both allocated $162 million. Robert Lynch, CEO of Americans for the Arts, urged lawmakers to increase NEA and NEH funding next year saying: ‘These cultural agencies are still inching their way back up to levels once enjoyed two and a half decades ago. […] This is a step towards restoring that funding level, notwithstanding adjustments for inflation.’