(Washington, DC) – PEN America has joined more than 40 other arts and cultural organizations calling on Congress and the Trump administration to direct a substantial portion of the COVID-19 fiscal stimulus relief to the artistic, literary, and cultural sectors.  Such relief that will “sustain the arts sector’s unique capacity to support the U.S. economy, uplift the human spirit, and provide lifelong learning.”

In March 2020, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that the arts and culture workforce contributed $877.8 billion, or 4.5 percent, to the nation’s gross domestic product in 2017. The arts sector is an economic engine that directly employs more than 5 million workers.

Included in the detailed statement are requests for “substantial additional dedicated COVID-19 relief funding administered by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Institute of Museum and Library Services, as they uniquely address the operational needs of the cultural sector.”

The statement goes on to note that funding for the National Endowment for the Arts can go beyond the initial $75 million investment in the recently enacted CARES Act by dedicating new substantial resources in the following ways:

  • Make COVID-19 relief grant opportunities fully available to all eligible organizations as defined in the NEA’s authorization statute (as described in 20 U.S.C. §954). Limited resources necessitated restricting eligibility to prior grantees from the past four fiscal years. New resources could increase eligibility from approximately 3,700 nonprofit cultural organizations to more than 100,000 nonprofit cultural organizations nationwide.
  • Enable national non-profit organizations to sub-grant federal arts funds to support community-based arts and culture organizations, agencies, and artists across the country in order to assist the NEA in quickly and efficiently supporting the nation’s cultural infrastructure and workforce.
  • Expand waivers for public/private matching requirements to apply to all active FY 2019 and FY 2020 NEA grant awards, in addition to the new waivers included in the CARES Act. Allow current grantees that have a balance not yet drawn to re-allocate that funding for general operating support that helps to address COVID-19 economic losses.

“There is a specific and substantial contribution to economic recovery that can come from sustaining literary, arts and cultural organizations across the country,” said PEN America Washington director Thomas O. Melia. “This obliges policy-makers to include small and medium sized enterprises, especially non-profit organizations, as a focus of the next fiscal stimulus package.”