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Making the Case for Additional Pandemic Recovery Support

Bethann Steiner, Senior Director of Public Affairs

7 dancers wearing traditional Cambodian attire perform in a line on an outdoor stage
Performance by Angkor Dance Troupe, recipient of a Cultural Sector Recovery Grant for Organizations

Last month, the MASSterList reported that the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, which tracks the state’s spending of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, estimates the Commonwealth has approximately $300 million left of this federal relief money and about a year to decide how to spend it.

While Mass Cultural Council has already received and equitably deployed $60.1 million in pandemic recovery monies to help the creative and cultural sector with COVID recovery, and is immensely grateful to our partners on Beacon Hill for this historic investment into arts and culture, we also know that the funds we received did not meet the overwhelming need shown by the 7,593 applicants to the Cultural Sector Recovery Program for Individuals.

We fell well short of being able to approve a $5,000 award to every eligible individual who applied to this one-time COVID recovery program. In fact, our data shows that during this grant cycle, one out of every 1,000 Massachusetts residents self-identified as an artist, cultural practitioner, teaching artist, interpretative scientist, humanist, cultural worker, culture bearer, or creative gig worker. We are proud to have awarded $20 million to 4,000 creative individuals through this effort, however, we note that 45% of our applicants were unfunded due to limited resources.

It would take an additional $16 million to fully fund this program. And while it is unlikely that an additional $16 million in ARPA funds will be authorized to fill this gap, it is within reason – and consistent with the goals of our new strategic plan – to raise this point and make it clear to policy-makers that the Agency stands ready to work with them and continue advocating for and on behalf of the creative and cultural sector.

Mass Cultural Council has written to Governor Healey, the Executive Office for Administration and Finance, and House and Senate leaders to make them aware of this unfunded need. We hope and encourage our partners on Beacon Hill to continue their support of the creative and cultural sector when they take action to deploy these remaining uncommitted ARPA funds.

Read our letter to the Healey/Driscoll Administration and House and Senate leaders

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