Monday, February 23, 2009

Participate, Donate, Advocate, STIMULATE…

Every time I go anywhere these days I’m asked about the Arts and the Stimulus Bill. The Senate voted to exclude the Arts from the Stimulus Bill, but the House successfully put the Arts back in during Conference Committee negotiations. President Obama signed it last week in Denver. Following the signing, a whole new discussion has begun.

What’s the money for, and when/how will it be distributed?

Here’s what we know:

1) The Stimulus Bill that includes $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) which, for those of you who like this kind of statistic, is slightly less than 64 ten-thousandths of one per cent of the total Stimulus Bill!

2) There are essentially three pools of “Stimulus Bill Funds” that will be available to serve the Arts in Vermont (and every other state and district as well):

· The portion of the NEA funds (expected to be 40% of the $50 million) that will be divided among the 57 states and regions. For Vermont, this could be in the low six figures.

· The remaining 60% of the NEA funds (less about 5% for overhead)—or about $29 million—will be available through competitive grant programs administered by the NEA.

· An as-yet undetermined amount of additional Stimulus Funds going directly to the State to stimulate employment in a variety of fields—not just the Arts. This is the largest chunk of money and will probably be managed by a combination of the Governor, Administration, and Legislature. For large cultural facilities projects (and there are a few that I am aware of), you should be in touch with your local planning commission, local legislators, and community economic development offices for guidance on how to tap into these funds.

Here’s what we’re pretty sure of:

1) The earliest I have heard from anyone that one can expect money from the NEA to start being distributed is June 15, 2009. The reason for this is they have to decide what kinds of programs, services, and activities are fundable under the Bill. Specifically, the Stimulus Bill is supposed to be about infrastructure improvements that retain employment. This is, as one might imagine, subject to a great deal of interpretation by the powers-that-be in Washington DC.

2) Though not definite yet, the 40% of the NEA funding coming to Vermont is expected to be administered by the Vermont Arts Council and not put directly into the the State's General Fund.

Here’s what we don’t know:

1) We don’t know any definite dollar amounts or dates of distribution of the funds.

2) We don’t know any definitions of terms or what, if any, restrictions are being placed on the use of the funds.

3) We don’t know the time frame within which funds must be expended, and reported out on.

4) We don’t know when we’ll find out all the answers to these unknowns—although, a spokesperson for the NEA has suggested that their guidelines are expected to start appearing as early as mid- to late-March.

All I know is that there is a lot of need out there. The sooner we can resolve the unknowns and get the dollars flowing, the better off we will all be. Until then, hang tight and we’ll keep you apprised of any developments as they occur.

No comments: