In what has become an annual rite under the Trump administration, the president’s fiscal year 2020 budget proposal calls for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts. Trump’s initial budgets for both fiscal 2018 and 2019 also called for cutting the NEA, but each time the House restored funds for the organization and last year gave the NEA a $3 million increase.
As a government agency, NEA officials are not permitted to advocate for the organization, but the agency did issue a statement on the proposed budget which pointed to how the grants it issues help spur matching funds from the private sector and boost the arts economy in thousands of communities. The statement also noted that the budget request is “a first step in a very long budget process and we will continue to operate as usual while also assisting in that process.”
With a budget in the fiscal year 2018 of about $149 million, the NEA made 2,322 awards totaling $121.2 million in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five additional U.S. jurisdictions.
In addition to its grants, the NEA noted that its national initiatives “extend our work through arts programming, such as Creative Forces that provides creative arts therapies for members of our military with traumatic brain injury and other psychological health conditions, resulting in more than 14,000 treatment sessions each year.”
NEA’s education programs, such as Poetry Out Loud and Shakespeare in American Communities, together involved more than 600,000 students in 2018. The agency also has a role in natural disaster recovery, providing emergency funding of almost $650,000 to state arts agencies in Florida, Puerto Rico, Texas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of hurricane devastation.
While the agency cannot lobby on its own behalf, the statement said it will “continue to share and educate about the National Endowment for the Arts’ vital role in providing access to the arts for all Americans."
The news about the NEA came a week after it was learned that the administration has proposed the permanent elimination of the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and with it virtually all federal library funding. Similar to the NEA, Trump's first two budget proposals called for cutting the IMLS, but the House restored the cuts. ALA officials were not taking any chances about funding being restored for fiscal 2020, issuing a statement decrying the proposal and urging Congress to once again maintain federal library funding.