President Joe Biden in the Red Room of the White House (official White House Photo by Adam Schultz via Flickr)

President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus bill, called the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, includes a total of $470 million in relief to arts and cultural organizations.

The bill, passed by Senate Democrats on Saturday, March 6, appropriates $135 million to both the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). It also sets aside $200 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Under the bill’s provisions, 60% of the funds appropriated for the NEA and NEH should be dedicated to direct grants, and relevant administrative expenses, to support organizations that have been impacted by the pandemic. The remaining 40% are to be dedicated to state agencies and regional arts organizations.

The proposed funds far exceed the respective $75 million allocated to the NEA and NEH in the Trump administration’s 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act. Throughout his presidency, Trump threatened to slash the agency’s funds, once labeling spending toward its activities as “wasteful and unnecessary funding.”

In 2020, the NEA distributed funds provided by the CARES Act to 855 organizations across the country. The organizations received grants to support staff salaries, fees for artists or contractual workers, and facilities costs.

The current Senate-approved version of the stimulus package will go back to the House for another vote before it heads to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law. If passed, it will nearly double the NEA’s 2021 budget, which currently stands at $167.5 million.

A spokesperson for the NEH declined to comment on the current bill, saying that it’s not the agency’s policy to comment on proposed legislation.

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant and he holds an MFA in Art Writing from the School of Visual...