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 (source: ASI’s Emergency Relief survey). When the crisis initially hit our region, forty-six percent of arts organizations reported that they would be “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 and Governor Cuomo continually reviewing new COVID-19 relief legislation at the federal and state levels, we recommend making pro-arts policy requests part of your advocacy efforts. 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.