Biden Proposes Historic NEA Budget Increase

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Joe Biden. Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikipedia Commons.

June 01, 2021 at 7: 00pm

United States President Joe Biden proposed allocating $201 million to fund the National Endowment for the Arts on Friday as part of his inaugural $6 trillion budget. The plan would boost the NEA’s budget by $33.5 million, or 20 percent, compared to this year, and would represent the largest funding increase in dollar terms since the organization’s founding in 1965. “The $201 million request for the National Endowment for the Arts reflects the importance of the creative workforce in rebuilding the national economy, especially after a time of unprecedented disruption,” NEA Acting Chairman Ann Eilers said in a statement. 

If approved by Congress for the 2022 fiscal year, Biden’s budget would mark the most ambitious expansion of federal spending in the US since World War II and would address infrastructure, education, and climate change, among other concerns. The NEA is among several arts and culture agencies that stand to benefit from the plan, which also earmarks $265 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services ($8 million than this year) and $177.5 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities ($10 million more than this year).

The proposed investment in the NEA stands in sharp contrast to the Trump administration’s repeated calls to eliminate the organization. But as the New York Times reports, NEA funding in fact expanded by about $17 million over the course of Trump’s presidency as “arts advocates leaned on lawmakers to hold the line and save an agency that largely serves as a clearinghouse for grants to arts organizations across the country.” 

“The arts and cultural industries remain among the hardest hit by the economic crises inflicted by COVID-19 with 2020 third quarter unemployment rates over 50 percent in some sectors,” the NEA reports on its website. “Increased investment in the agency will allow it to provide critical support to the arts sector as it struggles to reopen, rehire workers, and generate arts activities that will help fuel the economy.”

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