Following months of fears that President Donald Trump would attempt to eliminate the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and a consequent White House budget proposal calling for just that, an omnibus spending bill released yesterday by both houses of the U.S. Congress rejected slashing arts and humanities funding by proposing increases of $1.9 million to the NEA and NEH budgets in a budgetary bill that would cost $1 trillion. The president is expected to sign the bill.
The funding, which would last through the end of September 2017, would up the budgets of both groups from roughly $148 million in fiscal year 2016 to just under $150 million each for FY 2017. The move is sure to please arts groups, who have rallied around the endowments during a time when many fear that a Trump presidency directly opposes free speech and artistic expression. But the move is a temporary one, mostly in order to delay the threat of government shutdown; both endowments would again face potential budget cuts or even elimination come fall should Trump decide to cut the agencies in his next budget proposal.
The budget deal also also spares libraries—for now. It includes just under $184 million in federal library funding, including the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a $1 million increase over 2016 levels. Trump had proposed zeroing out the IMLS. The good news came just as more than 500 librarians are gathering in Washington D.C. to meet with lawmakers as part of the American Library Association’s annual National Library Legislative Day. But ALA officials told librarians that the budget battle for libraries is far from over, and that the battle for full funding in the 2018 budget is already underway.
Previous Republican presidents have called for major cutbacks at the NEA and NEH as well, but as in this case, congressional compromises kept the agencies alive. As PW previously reported, the NEH had an operating budget of $146,021,000 in FY 2015, and requested a $147,942,000 budget for FY 2016. The NEA budget, in FY 2015, was $146,021,000, which was increased to $147,949,000 in 2016. Within a projected federal budget, according to the Congressional Budget Office, of $3.9 trillion for the fiscal year 2016, the NEH and NEA's budgets combined total less than 0.0075% of federal costs.
In a statement on the new deal, the NEA said: "In December 2016, in response to overwhelmingly positive results at Walter Reed and Ft. Belvoir, the President and Congress recommended a $1.9 million budget increase for the National Endowment for the Arts. The increase was specifically earmarked for our creative arts therapy program and last month the NEA announced the implementation of Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network."
The program, the NEA said, funds creative arts therapies for patient-centered care at 11 clinical sites throughout the country, plus a telephone health program, and increases access to therapeutic arts activities in local communities for military members, veterans, and their families, specifically for military patients who have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and psychological health conditions. The organization has allocated $2.6 million in FY 2017 funds towards the program.