A recent article in The Hill suggested that the Trump administration was considering the elimination of NEA, NEH, and CPB. It now appears that the article was based on a Heritage Foundation blueprint for reducing federal spending.  Such proposals are not new but in view of the history of such threats and the current change in administration, the article was viewed with justifiable concern.  We must be constantly vigilant against threats to the agencies.

How Serious is the Situation?

There have been proposals to eliminate or reduce funding for the Endowments for decades, with the most serious occurring in 1995. In recent years, congressional support for the NEH and the state humanities councils has been widespread. The administration’s position may not be known until the FY 2018 budget request is submitted, probably in May.

What Precisely is at Risk?

In FY 2016, the last year for which we have a final appropriation, NEH received $149.89 million of which $43 million was directed to the councils. For FY 2017, the House and Senate recommended that the councils receive $46 million and $43.5 million, respectively.  Funding at these levels has enabled the NEH and the councils to carry out programs that would be in jeopardy if the NEH were eliminated.

What Are the Dates and Events to Watch?

  • By April 28, Congress must pass a bill to keep the federal government operating through September 30, the end of the fiscal year. This action will tell us what the funding levels for the cultural agencies will be for the remainder of FY 2017.
  • The President’s budget, which will likely be sent to Congress in early May, will provide our first reliable look at the Trump administration’s stance on NEH and NEA. We may get earlier indications in the budget outline that the administration is expected to release at the end of February
  • Other signals of administration and congressional intent could occur at any time through statements issued, budget resolution language (which is advisory, not binding), or other actions.

Can the NEH be Closed by Executive Order?

The President cannot close down an agency through executive branch action alone. NEH could be defunded only through the congressional appropriations process.

What Can You Do?

  • Call the Washington DC or local congressional office, or both, and tell them how important the humanities programs are to you and your community. Be specific.
  • Attend a member of Congress’s town hall or other open meeting.
  • Email the member if you are unable to place a call or attend a meeting.
  • Remember that your best justifications are the benefits to your community. Tell your story.
  • Send your local newspaper a letter to the editor or, even better, submit an editorial for publication.
  • Please let your state council office know what actions you have taken and what you have learned.
  • Coordinate with your council to invite your members and staff to a council program you believe they would enjoy.
  • Visit the National Humanities Alliance website to call or send a message to your members of Congress.
  • Provide your council with testimonials, articles and other materials that support council activities and can be incorporated into advocacy efforts.

What is the Basic Message?

State humanities councils are an integral part of communities, helping residents to understand and appreciate history and local culture, promoting reading and literacy, assisting veterans and their families, supporting individual well-being and contributing to local economies through festivals, events and cultural tourism.

State councils are local nonprofits with volunteer boards composed of community, business and policy leaders. Programming decisions are made at the local level and involve partnerships with local institutions such as schools, libraries, museums, and daycare and senior citizen centers.

State humanities council work depends on a strong NEH and the core funding allocated to councils through the agency.  Big ticket fundraising is simply not available to most councils. Councils leverage $5 dollars for every federal dollar awarded at the local level, but that leveraging capacity would be quickly eroded without federal funds.

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