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$10M in COVID Relief Granted to Cultural Nonprofits

Bethann Steiner, Public Affairs Director

183 Nonprofits Awarded Cultural Organization Economic Recovery Grants

Mass Cultural Council, in partnership with the Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development, today announced the recipients of nearly $10 million in COVID relief through the Cultural Organization Economic Recovery Grant Program. In total, 183 cultural nonprofit organizations received $9,960,600 to support this sector’s economic recovery from losses sustained by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s Economic Recovery Plan, Partnerships for Recovery.

“In addition to expanding opportunity for job seekers, assisting communities as they plan and adapt, and helping to create a foundation to build upon in the months ahead, our comprehensive plan for economic recovery continues to deliver targeted relief in the form of grants like this,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Thanks to Mass Cultural Council’s work to support this sector, this grant program allows us to target necessary funding to the organizations that are most in need.”

“As an important industry cluster that is spread out across the entire Commonwealth, our cultural sector is valuable to the fabric of Massachusetts,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “These grants will bring relief to many of our cultural institutions as they face the challenges posed by the pandemic while also planning for a future beyond COVID-19.”

Performance by ANIKAYA Dance Theater.

The Cultural Organization Economic Recovery Grant Program was extremely competitive and proved the cultural sector’s great need for public investment: a total of 424 applications were received over three weeks, requesting $30.2 million in assistance. Grant awards ranged from $1,000 to a maximum of $100,000.

“For 10 months Mass Cultural Council worked diligently to understand and document the economic devastation the cultural sector is facing from COVID-19,” said David T. Slatery, Acting Executive Director, Mass Cultural Council. “The Agency is deeply appreciative of the Administration for releasing this vital investment at a critical time. The Governor understands that a thriving cultural sector is key to restoring the state’s economy to pre-pandemic levels, and recognized Mass Cultural Council as the key partner to implement his plan to deliver relief efficiently and effectively.”

Nonprofit cultural organizations have suffered staggering economic loss in recent months because of the COVID-19 public health crisis with a reported $484 million in lost revenue. Since March 2020, 898 cultural organizations have responded to Mass Cultural Council’s four COVID economic impact surveys. Collectively, these organizations identified more than $116.8 million in COVID-related capital improvements and non-capital recovery strategies necessary to reopen and safely reengage with the public. Sixty-two percent of these organizations have made the difficult decision to layoff or furlough employees or reduce their wages and/or hours – choices that have impacted 30,616 cultural employees statewide.

“The Commonwealth’s cultural institutions make significant contributions to our economy by driving local commerce and employing a specialized workforce, while also preserving and fostering key components that make Massachusetts unique,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. “We’re proud to put these grants to work to help these organizations meet their current challenges through the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Of the $10 million made available in this grant round, $2 million was specifically dedicated to supporting small cultural nonprofits, in alignment with direction provided by the Legislature, through the FY20 COVID supplemental budget. Program guidelines defined “small” cultural nonprofits as having 10 or less Full Time Employees (FTEs). In this round, 136 small cultural organizations received a total of $5,464,600.

The Cultural Organization Economic Recovery Grant Program also attempted to reach nonprofit cultural organizations of all sizes, who serve every demographic in every region of the Commonwealth:

  • 51 grant recipients are cultural organizations whose mission primarily focuses on presenting, promoting, and/or preserving the cultural traditions, art, history, and creative expression of people of color, women, people with disabilities, veterans, immigrants, people who are LGBTQIA+, and members of other historically underrepresented groups. These cultural nonprofits received a total of $2,486,100.


  • 46 grant recipients reported that they have not received any form of federal COVID assistance to date. These cultural nonprofits received a total of $1,141,000.


  • 13 cultural nonprofits are first-time Mass Cultural Council grant recipients, receiving a total of $220,000.

“Massachusetts arts and cultural venues, which animate downtowns and main streets, have been decimated by the necessary public health closures,” said Emily Ruddock, Executive Director, MASSCreative. “We know cultural tourism is an essential component of Massachusetts’ economic engine and we thank Mass Cultural Council and the Baker-Polito Administration for prioritizing these businesses and workers with this relief funding.”

See the full list of Cultural Organization Economic Recovery grant recipients.

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