For Western New York’s arts community, the economic impact of COVID-19 has surpassed millions of dollars, with $2.5 million in losses being reported for March alone. Forty-six percent of arts organizations reported in a field-wide survey that they are “very likely” to have to lay off some or all of their staff—an unfortunate reality for a sector that employs more than ten thousand full-time employees (source: ASI’s Arts and Economic Prosperity Report).
These losses are reflected at every level of the arts across the country. NPR reports that two-thirds of artists are now unemployed, and American for the Arts reports that the estimated total economic impact on the arts is $4.8 billion.
With Congress scheduled to return in May for new COVID-19 relief legislation and the annual federal budget, now is the time for pro-arts policy requests. Here are key messages to legislators right now:
- Our nation’s arts and cultural organizations originally requested $4 billion in the CARES Act. However, we only received $200 million in the CARES Act, spread among the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). This amount was helpful but woefully insufficient. We are requesting more funding support.
- Federal guidelines need to be more inclusive and ensure an equitable distribution of financial support. For example, guidelines for the NEA program under the CARES Act restrict eligibility only to those organizations that have received NEA funding in the last four years.
- A portion of these funds should be earmarked for nonprofits and 1099 workers so they don’t have to compete with larger commercial businesses for the same funds.
With Governor Cuomo scheduled to review the state budget in a few weeks, now is the time to advocate for the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) funding to stay intact.
What You Can Do
The State of New York has announced that it will need to cut budgets across all NYS agencies as it works to balance its budget in light of the COVID-19 crisis. While we understand the need to balance the budget, we are working hard to maintain funding for the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), which provides critical operational and programming funds for artists and arts organizations across New York. We recently sent Governor Cuomo the petition linked above, with nearly 50 pages of signatures from arts, cultural, and heritage organizations. Please share this petition with your colleagues, patrons, and other stakeholders.
Respond to Surveys and Sign Petitions on Behalf of the Nonprofit Sector
We also need to ensure that the nonprofit sector is represented in any economic stimulus package and other resources for small businesses. We urge everyone working in the nonprofit arts and cultural field to respond to as many surveys and sign as may petitions as possible. Below are some examples at the local, state, and federal level.
- Americans for the Arts: Artist/Creative Worker Survey
- Americans for the Arts: Organization Impact Survey
- Arts Services Initiative: WNY Arts Survey
- Buffalo Niagara Partnership: WNY Business Impact Survey
- NYCON: Federal COVID-19 Relief and Economic Stimulus Package Sign-On
- NYCON: Letter to New York’s Congressional Delegation on Behalf of New York’s Nonprofits
We urge you to take action on behalf of the nonprofit arts and cultural sector by advocating to your elected officials that funding for the arts and nonprofit sectors must be included in any further federal stimulus packages.