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$1.6M in Supplemental Economic Recovery Grants Awarded to 41 Cultural Nonprofits

Bethann Steiner, Public Affairs Director

Funding Provided through Federal COVID Relief and State Gaming Revenues

Orchestra on a stage playing for a full house.
Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra performing their Holiday Pops concert.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) received $135 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) COVID relief package in April, 40% of which was redirected to the 62 state, jurisdictional, and regional arts organization for regranting purposes. As the Commonwealth’s state arts agency, Mass Cultural Council received $844,700 from the NEA to invest into the cultural sector to provide COVID relief to cultural organizations

Late last year, Mass Cultural Council partnered with the Baker-Polito Administration’s Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development to award $10 million in federal CARES Act funds into the nonprofit cultural sector through the Cultural Organization Economic Recovery Grant Program (COERG).

The 183 recipients of COERG funds were announced in January. We now know the impact of the program, as the grantees reported:

  • 84% of grantees (155 organizations) said the grant helped retain a total of 1,991 employees.
  • 99% of grantees (182 organizations) said the grant was very important in their ability to maintain operations.
  • 100% (183 organizations) are still in operation today.

This feedback shows that targeted COVID relief is necessary to rebuild the Commonwealth’s once booming and vibrant cultural sector, and, as $10M was only enough to fund one-third of the total COERG applications received, Mass Cultural Council remains committed to securing additional COVID relief dollars for the sector.

Federal Supplemental Economic Recovery Program (SERG-FED)

When the Agency learned that it would receive $844,700 in federal ARPA dollars from the NEA, we decided not to create a new program and ask potential grantees to spend valuable time preparing another application, but instead to revisit the COERG applicants and fund the next highest-scoring proposals that were not funded in January (because the $10M ran out). This exercise, called the Federal Supplemental Economic Recovery Program, or SERG-FED, will invest $844,000 into 17 cultural nonprofits. Consistent with NEA guidelines, the grant can be used to support operational costs, like staff salaries, stipends, non-capital facility costs, health and safety costs, and general marketing expenses.

Massachusetts Supplemental Economic Recovery Program (SERG-MASS)

Additionally, as outlined in state statute, Mass Cultural Council receives 2% of gaming revenues collected. While 75% of these revenues fund the Gaming Mitigation Program, the Agency has flexibility in how to invest the remaining 25%, as long as it is used to provide organizational support to cultural nonprofits.

Mass Cultural Council will expand the ideas behind SERG-FED by investing $732,000 in available state gaming revenues into the Massachusetts Supplemental Economic Recovery Program, or SERG-MASS. These monies will provide COVID relief to the next 24 previously-unfunded COERG applicants.

The maximum grant award of these two programs is $50,000.

The Agency’s governing Council unanimously approved the proposed SERG-FED and SERG-MASS programs during its May 18 business meeting, believing they will make optimal use of the federal and state funds, because:

  1. The programs were developed using recently submitted information on the impact of the pandemic provided by COERG recipients.
  2. SERG-FED and SERG-MASS will address an unmet need, as the recipients were eligible for COERG assistance, but funding ran out, so their applications were not funded.
  3. Using the COERG applicant list allows Mass Cultural Council to invest a relatively small amount of money quickly and efficiently ($1.576M) into the sector as it prepares to reopen, without using staff time to build a new program and saving potential applicants the time necessary to submit an additional application.

Congratulations to the 41 recipients of SERG-FED and SERG-MASS grants.

SERG-FED Funding List

SERG-MASS Funding List

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