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Sequester Cuts Cultural Agencies

Gladstone Payton

Gladstone Payton

As you have no doubt been following in the headlines, specific parts of the federal budget, including that of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), have been impacted by a budgetary control called “sequestration” beginning last Friday.

This sequester, totaling $85 billion, will reduce funding to almost all areas of domestic social programs by about 5 percent, which would mean about $7.3 million at the NEA.

This cut has been expected ever since the congressional “supercommittee” of 2011 failed to find agreement on how to achieve $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years, either through spending cuts, raising revenue, or by a combination of both.

Since the possibility of the sequester was triggered, the White House’s Office of Management & Budget has alerted impacted federal agencies to prepare for it by withholding grant competitions, utilizing employee furloughs, reduced service, and other budget cutting actions.

Because the sequester is an “across-the-board” cut to federal agencies, it reaches indiscriminately into every identified program and activity.

The NEA, the U.S. Department of Education (which administers the federal Arts in Education program) and many other cultural agencies such as the Smithsonian, Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and others were forced to order these cuts by 11:59 p.m. ET on March 1. 

As detailed in this document, the 5 percent cuts (rounded to the nearest million) amounted to $7 million for the NEA and National Endowment for the Humanities; $12 million for IMLS; $22 million for CPB; and $51 million for the Smithsonian.

This is just another step in a series of spending showdowns. Looking ahead to the rest of the month, Congress will need to address the unfinished business of FY 2013 which is set to expire on March 27. At the time of this posting, the House was preparing a measure that would provide funding for the rest of the fiscal year.

As details about implementation of these cuts or alternatives to reduce the sequester’s impact on future budget negotiations become available, we will be sure to share this information.

This year, national Arts Advocacy Day (April 8-9) will take place during a very critical time frame. It is imperative that arts supporters participate as it will be the largest arts advocacy convening of the year. Register now to ensure that your voice will be heard on Capitol Hill!

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