The SAAC mission is to enrich the community through the arts. We work to increase access to the arts through all segments of our community including arts experiences and arts education for young and old alike. Because exposure to the arts has real, measurable impact. Research from the U.S. Department of Justice demonstrates students who participate in the arts, both in school and after school, show increased academic performance. Data from The College Board shows students who take 4 years of arts and music classes while in high school score 98 points better on their SATs than students who took only a half year or less. The National Institute on Aging reports that “research on music, theater, dance, creative writing, and other participatory arts shows promise for improving older adults’ quality of life and well-being, from better cognitive function, memory, and self-esteem to reduced stress and increased social interaction.”
These results show that the arts are far from expendable.
But as economic anxieties rise, the funding of arts experiences and education is threatened. What can you do to help? It’s simple. The resources below will help you make a real impact in keeping the arts alive and accessible throughout Illinois.
Secure NEA Funding for FY2022
Recently, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee took significant action on their work to fund the government for fiscal year (FY) 2022. The Interior Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), sets funding levels for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and other cultural agencies.
The committee voted to accept the Biden Administration’s funding request of $201 million for the NEA and also included $201 million for the NEH to keep the agencies funded in tandem. This is a potential increase of $33.5 million over the FY 2021 budget for both agencies, the largest increase in their history! This is the result of tireless advocacy from around the country, an Administration that understands the value of the creative sector, and bipartisan support in Congress.
During the subcommittee vote, Rep. Pingree said, “The cultural sector has been particularly devastated by COVID-19, and this funding will help to support relief and recovery for community organizations across the country.”
Next, the bill will go before the full House of Representatives for passage. This process will take place over the next several weeks, and the full House vote is anticipated to happen prior to the planned August congressional recess. After the appropriations bills pass the House, the same process begins in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARP), enacted in March 2021, provides federal COVID recovery aid to state and local governments. Illinois local governments are receiving a combined $5.5 billion in assistance, known as Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (LFRF). Half the funding is currently on its way to localities, and the remainder will arrive in approximately one year.
Local governments have until December 31, 2024 to spend the federal aid, but since they are receiving some of it now, many are already under way with their process of deciding how to allocate the funds. Because localities have considerable flexibility in how to use the dollars, LFRF provides a unique opportunity for artists, arts organizations, and creative businesses to secure local government support – but you must act quickly and strategically.
Arts Alliance Illinois has constructed a toolkit on advocating for funds for the arts and culture at the local level.
The Put Creative Workers to Work policies, created by over 100 partners and endorsed by over 2,300 creative businesses and creative workers, outlines a plan to help the cultural sector restart and be a vital component of local economic recovery.
The platform and some other information about the effort are now available on the new website, http://www.creativeworkers.net.
On a federal level, the coalition has continued to push White House officials, members of Congress, the business sector, and others to stand up for dedicated federal recovery funding for the creative economy in the forthcoming infrastructure bill. The proposals seek $20 billion (less than 1% of the $3t overall plan) in recovery funding, which, if implemented, would save or create over 300,000 jobs.
Here are a few easy ways to push for action on the federal/national level:
- Tell your local media. We’ve created a Media Alert that you can quickly customize and send to your local media outlets to raise awareness about the Put Creative Workers to Work platform. Please consider visiting this Media Alert, filling in a few fields, and clicking send to get the message out there!
- Write to the White House or your Congressional Representatives. Click here to get template language for a letter you can write to senior leadership in the White House or Cabinet departments, or can encourage your Senators and Representatives to write, to secure $20 billion in dedicated funding for creative economic recovery in the White House’s forthcoming Build Back Better recovery proposal. A 13-tweet thread version of the Letter to the White House also exists, and if you’re inclined you can retweet that as well.
Here are some resources that you may find useful:
- Tell the COVID impact story for your state. Here is a collection of one-sheets by state that outline the size of your state’s creative economy and the impact COVID has had on it.
- See (and contribute!) examples of local creative workforce projects. The coalition has begun compiling a list of creative workforce projects happening across the country. You can click here to add a local creative workforce project from your community, or click here to see what’s been submitted.
- Share the impact of COVID-19 on the creative sector. Here is a one-sheet updated weekly with collected information from various research on the impact of the pandemic on cultural organizations and individual creative workers.
Advancing the WORK NOW Act
A policy priority of the broad nonprofit community in any future infrastructure or COVID-recovery bill is passage of the WORK NOW Act, a $50 billion grant program to promote the creation of nonprofit jobs. The Work Opportunities and Resources to Keep Nonprofit Organizations Well Act, or simply the WORK NOW Act (S. 740 and H.R. 1987), was introduced in March by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA). If enacted, the new program would provide grants to help nonprofit organizations retain their employees, scale their service delivery, and provide unemployed people with new jobs serving their communities. The WORK NOW Act would inject $50 billion into frontline nonprofits to enable them to pay the wages, salaries, and benefits of either existing employees or new employees. Most of the funds would be allocated through state, Tribal, and local governments; the Treasury Department would distribute the remainder through grants to national and regional nonprofit intermediary organizations.
Senator Klobuchar introduced the WORK NOW Act, stating, “We need to help charitable nonprofits keep their doors open, scale their invaluable services, and provide opportunities for unemployed Americans to return to work serving their communities.” Representative Sanchez said, “Nonprofit organizations provided some of the most essential services throughout this pandemic,” and stressed, “As they handle the increased demand and adhere to social health guidelines, these organization need help expanding services and hiring, training, and retaining employees.” All of the sponsors and cosponsors agree that the WORK NOW Act would ensure that “nonprofit organizations continue to meet the needs of our community and will help get Americans back to work.” See letter to congressional leaders in support of the WORK NOW Act.
Take Action: Contact your Representatives and Senators and urge them to cosponsor the WORK NOW Act (S. 740 and H.R. 1987) and to insist that it be included in any COVID-related stimulus legislation in 2021.