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Advocacy Update

March 30, 2021 11:03 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

Federal Funding

MANY thanks Senate Majority Leader Schumer for including museums in the Shuttered Venue Operating Grants and non-profits in the March 2020 CARES Act, the December 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act, and the March 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The ARPA included additional funding for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) which now totals over $16B in funds available. It also added $7.25B for the PPP program and extended the application deadline to May 31. The SBA will begin accepting SVOG Applications on April 8. Eligible museums may apply for the PPP prior to applying for an SVOG as they await the application. The SBA would then reduce any SVO grant award by the PPP amount received.

The ARPA also included $135M each for the NEA and the NEH; application portal will open in late April. Humanities NY and NYSCA will soon announce how they will distribute those funds allocated to them for regrants. $178M of the $200M allocated to the IMLS was directly distributed to State Libraries. The NY State Library received $6.2M; they also received $1.7M in CARES Act funding. We await guidelines on distribution of remaining funds and are monitoring the IMLS website. 

Representative Paul Tonko (NY 20) is circulating a letter in the House of Representatives in support of robust funding in 2022 for the Office of Museum Services at the IMLS. The request is for $80 million in FY 2022, an increase of nearly $40 million, including $2.5 million to fund a pilot project to establish a museum Grants to States program that could parallel the long-established Library Grants to States program. The request also includes a waiver of required matching funds for grants in 2022 and to once again allow OMS grants to be used for general operating funds.  

The deadline for Representatives to sign is Friday, April 16.

In 2020, sixteen of NY’s Representatives signed onto the OMS letter. The four representatives below are the only ones from NY to have signed on as of March 24. 

Antonio Delgado (D-NY-19)

Joseph Morelle (D-NY-25)

Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21)

Paul Tonko (D-NY-20)

Please help us secure more signatures from NY’s Congressional Representatives. The easiest way is to use the AAM’s template to ask your Representative to sign on before the April 16 deadline. 

New York State Funding and COVID-19 Restrictions

MANY commends members of the Assembly and the Senate for including significant funding to arts and cultural organizations, zoos, botanical gardens, and aquaria, in the 2021-2022 budget. But as I write, the negotiations between the Governor, the Assembly, and the Senate continue and final allocations will not be known until the budget is passed.

Budget proposals included in the Assembly and Senate one-house bills provided an additional $100M to NYSCA for grants to non-profit cultural organizations and $10M for the Arts and Cultural Facilities Improvement Program to provide facility enhancement grants to arts and cultural organizations, administered by NYSCA. 

The Assembly budget also included $100 million for a new Arts Recovery and Revitalization Program. This public arts initiative will assist with reopening efforts of various arts organizations, employ artists and others in the creative economy, and provide financial support for the conversion of new outdoor venue spaces.

MANY has been working with legislators to update the COVID-19 capacity restrictions imposed upon NY’s museums which have not been substantially revised since June 26, 2020. The recent announcement that capacity restrictions on arts and cultural venues can increase to 33% on April 2 established a conflict within the guidelines that apply to museums. A theater or event space in a museum can accommodate 33% capacity, but the galleries in the same building remain limited to 25%. We have requested an increase in occupancy levels to 50%.  

A 25% capacity restriction at museums is a capacity restriction on every community that depends on museum visitors to thrive and limits the community’s ability to move towards economic recovery. Be it Cooperstown, Corning, Rochester, the Adirondacks, or Jamestown, these communities cannot recover until the museums can welcome more visitors. The limit on museum capacity limits traffic to local retailers, eateries, hotels, craft beverage producers, and secondary activities like golf that depend on the draw of the bigger institutions to bring visitors into their communities. 

Social distancing, mask wearing, adequate space, and thorough cleaning procedures have allowed museums to ensure a safe indoor environment. The air exchange systems in most museums are filtered with MERV 14 filters and the air is exchanged more than 6 times an hour. 

With a loss of more than 75% of earned income and fewer than 10% of NY’s museums securing PPP, EIDL, and direct federal agency funding, one in four NY museums are in danger of permanent closure without an increase in capacity as soon as possible. 

In 2020 New York’s museums continued to serve audiences virtually despite being closed to the public with educational resources, lectures, digital access to collections, and interpretive programs. Without an increase in capacity, 65% of museums envision further layoffs and cutbacks in public service. 

NY’s largest museums are already turning people away on a daily basis. The majority of people surveyed by the American Alliance of Museums, Culture Track, and ArtNet intend to visit museums as soon as they are able. They believe that museums are safe and play an essential role in their communities. 

As the number of people in NY who have received vaccinations increase, the number of people who feel safe to visit museums will increase. Continuing to suppress museum gallery capacity will increase financial losses beyond the point of sustainability.

Look for more to come as we try to effect positive change for our museum community. 

The Museum Association of New York helps shape a better future for museums and museum professionals by uplifting best practices and building organizational capacity through advocacy, training, and networking opportunities.

Museum Association of New York is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization. 

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