House Republicans ridiculed the relief funds support for the hard-hit sector as a 'liberal handout.'
Thanks to President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion relief legislation, the National Endowment for the Arts will be able to support hundreds of thousands of jobs. The sector has been especially hard hit due to the pandemic.
The American Rescue Plan included $135 million in emergency funds for the arts sector — In addition to providing $1,400 checks for most Americans, an average 2021 tax cut of more than $3,000, unemployment benefit expansion, and hundreds of billions for schools, vaccination, and testing,
According to the agency, those funds will be sufficient to support about 234,000 jobs. The art those recipients will create will reach about 107 million people across, more than 1,000 communities, the agency said.
Noting the "recent devastation to the sector," Acting Chair Ann Eilers said in a press release that the agency "will deliver assistance to allow arts organizations to reopen, to retain as many jobs as possible, and to help sustain the creative life of our communities."
People who work in the arts have been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the safety rules that have been implemented to curb its spread. With theaters and performance venues closed, 77.8% of dancers and choreographers, 47.6% of actors, and 21.5% of musicians were unemployed in the last quarter of 2020 — compared to an overall national unemployment rate of about 6%, according to the agency's data.
"Democrats tucked $135,000,000 for the National Endowment for the Arts into their 'COVID Relief' package," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted on Feb. 22. "That's not COVID Relief. It's a liberal handout."
Several members of the Republican caucus followed his lead, suggesting that arts professionals should be left to fend for themselves.
"Only 9% of the $1.9 trillion stimulus is going to COVID relief," Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia falsely claimed. "So why are we giving $135 million to the National Endowment for the Arts? How does that stimulate the economy? How does that help working-class Americans?"
"$500 Million 'to fund activities related to the arts, humanities, libraries and museums.' Covid relief?!" tweeted Rep. Pete Stauber of Minnesota.
"FACT: $500 million for Arts and Humanities. Ensuring we have a vibrant American culture is important and I enjoy that as a musician. But, this isn’t the time nor the place," said Arkansas Rep. Rick Crawford. "Struggling families/businesses need those funds, period."
Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) unsuccessfully tried to remove the funds by amendment, saying they "have nothing to do with COVID aid."
Ironically, House Republicans have claimed that getting people back to work is one of their top agenda items.
"Our nation's top priorities should be getting: People back to work, Kids back to school, Vaccines to those who want them," McCarthy (CA) tweeted on Jan. 24.
He did not indicate that that does not apply to people who work in the arts.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.