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Pingree Leads 70+ House Members in Push for Nation’s Cultural Sector to Receive Direct Aid in Next COVID-19 Relief Package

Washington, May 8, 2020

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Congressman David Price (D-N.C.), co-chairs of the Congressional Arts Caucus and Congressional Humanities Caucus, respectively, led 70 members of Congress in urging House leadership to support the cultural sector in Congress’s next coronavirus response package. The letter, which asked for robust funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), can be viewed here.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause profound harm to people who work in the arts and humanities and the cultural institutions that support them. For professionals in the sector, including arts and humanities educators working to educate students in unprecedented circumstances, immediate livelihoods are at stake,” said the lawmakers in their letter. “Those without a traditional employer relationship – including those who are temporarily employed and on contract, freelance, or self-employed -- are especially vulnerable. For community-based organizations that are dedicated to bringing people together – from museums, to libraries, to the performing arts – it is clear that, without significant continued federal support, this crisis will have devastating economic consequences that will last well beyond the public health emergency.”

Pingree’s letter to leadership asked for increased NEA and NEH funding to support payroll and operating costs, and flexibility in granting funds, including waiving the matching funds requirement from grants made with any new supplemental funding. Their letter also supported broader efforts to fund and improve forgivable loan support programs like PPP and EIDL.

As of 2019, the arts added $1.5 billion to Maine’s economy and was the third most valuable sector in the state. Pingree’s advocacy was supported by numerous cultural organizations in Maine, including the Maine Arts Commission and Maine Humanities Council.

“We have heard numerous heartrending stories from artists and arts organizations who have lost all of their income due to COVID-19. The CARES Act is providing us with much needed funding to assist arts organizations at this time. To that end, we are working on getting that funding out to more than 90 organizations over the upcoming weeks,” said Julie Richard, Executive Director of the Maine Arts Commission. ”In addition, our support organization, ArtsEngageME, has developed a Maine Artist Relief Fund that has already helped over 85 Maine artists with more than 200 more applications to be reviewed. We are extremely grateful for the work being done at the federal level to assist the arts and culture sector. There is clearly great need throughout our state—we only wish we could do more.”

“It has been so inspiring to witness the resilience, creativity, and sheer grit of organizations large and small across Maine’s cultural sector,” said Hayden Anderson, Executive Director of Maine Humanities Council. “Our colleagues around the state have been working incredibly hard, not merely to survive, but to adapt and increase in effectiveness to serve their communities in this incredibly hard time. Thanks to the leadership of Representative Pingree and others, the Maine Humanities Council has received nearly $424,000 through the National Endowment for the Humanities for grant-making in support of the vital operations of nonprofit humanities organizations in Maine. This funding is going to make a real difference for community-based organizations in every corner of the state, and we are incredibly grateful to Representative Pingree for her leadership in supporting this funding lifeline for Maine’s cultural sector.”

Pingree is the co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Arts Caucus. She also serves as the Vice Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, where she oversees NEA, arts, and cultural funding. She led advocacy in the U.S. House of Representatives to include robust funding for arts and cultural organizations in COVID-19 response efforts.

For more information on Maine Humanities Council CARES Act grants, and to apply, visit mainehumanities.org.  Applications are due Friday, May 15.

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