President Donald Trump’s new $4.1 trillion budget, released on Tuesday, May 23, calls for the defunding of several domestic federal agencies, including the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment of Humanities (NEH), as well as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The budget, called “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” redirects these funds to increased military spending, as well as more robust border security systems and the initial construction costs for U.S.-Mexico border wall (currently estimated at $1.6 million). Although the budget still has to be approved by Congress, and will definitely face opposition there, the NEA and NEH are looking ahead to respond to the potential severe reductions to both agencies.
As of 2016, the NEA’s budget of $147 million only constituted .004 percent of the federal budget. The NEA uses that money to fund thousands of nonprofits, arts initiatives, and research that supports the arts, especially with regard to education—often its budget is used to directly help states fund their art programs. The NEH offers grants that are awarded to museums, archives, libraries, etc. Both agencies were established in 1965 and have aided the arts and humanities education for the American public.
The NEA and NEH have submitted requests for 2018 that detail the costs required to shut down; you can find the report in full here. The report estimates that the combined cost to close down the agencies will be $71 million, nearly 25 percent of the total annual budget of $300 million. These funds would be used to support the employees working for the agencies, as well as real estate, equipment, contracts, grant commitments, and management. The NEA currently has a staff of 155 but would have to cut this amount in half by March 2018. The NEH’s chairman, William Adams, resigned Monday and acting chair Margaret Plympton will dismantle the agency.
The Architect’s Newspaper reached out to the NEA asking about what this means for the NEA and received the following statement:
The NEA is fully funded in FY 2017 and continues to make FY 2017 grant awards and honor all obligated grant funds made to date. The President’s FY 2018 budget proposes the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, with a request for $29 million intended to be used for the orderly shutdown of the agency. This budget request is a first step in a very long budget process. We continue to accept grant applications for FY 2018 at our usual deadlines and will continue to operate as usual until a new budget is enacted by Congress.
If you would like to oppose these budget cuts in Congress, please contact your local senator and ask them to save the NEA and NEH. Guidelines for this outreach can be found here. The NEA also provided these documents on its Appropriations Request For Fiscal Year 2018 and the Appropriations Process (the budget is currently at step one of thirteen).