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State Panel Calls for $575M in COVID Relief for Cultural Sector

Bethann Steiner, Public Affairs Director

Legislative COVID-19 Cultural Impact Commission Files its Final Report

The Massachusetts COVID-19 Cultural Impact Commission, established by law in the 2020 Economic Development Bond Bill and chaired by Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development Committee Chairs State Senator Ed Kennedy of Lowell, and State Rep. Carole Fiola of Fall River, finalized its work this week by filing its report and recommendations with the Legislature.

Mass Cultural Council Executive Director Michael J. Bobbitt served on the Special Commission, and said, “The recommendations are a holistic look at the cultural sector’s needs, post-pandemic. It cannot be overlooked that the Commonwealth’s economy will not fully recover without robust public investment to rebuild and safely reopen cultural organizations and bolster the economic security of individual artists. These targeted investments will ensure Massachusetts remains competitive as a place to live and work. As such, I urge our legislators to treat these recommendations as a roadmap. Doing so will help the cultural sector move past recovery to economic growth.”

The Commission’s Report contains a series of recommendations to the Legislature that include investing $575 million of the $5.3 billion in federal funding received by the state through the American Rescue Plan to address the recovery of the creative and cultural sector over the next four years, as well as several additional policy recommendations.

Mass Cultural Council’s COVID economic impact survey data was cited by the Commission, who endorsed the Agency’s position that the pandemic financially devastated the Commonwealth’s arts and cultural institutions.

“After over a year in a mandatory shutdown, the cultural industry of Massachusetts was decimated, lost hundreds of millions of dollars, and is still losing money today,” said Representative Fiola. “That is why the bold recommendations made by this Commission are important to revive this industry, which is a vital economic engine in Massachusetts. I thank my fellow commissioners, industry stakeholders, and the public for guiding these recommendations.”

In addition to adding a great deal to the quality of life in Massachusetts, arts and culture represent a significant economic sector that policymakers must help rebound and rebuild in the coming months and years. Prior to the pandemic, arts nonprofits in the Commonwealth supported more than 73,000 full-time jobs, generating more than $2.2 billion in total spending, and bringing in nearly $100 million in state tax revenue. The Massachusetts arts and cultural industries generated over 25 billion dollars for the U.S. GDP in 2019 alone. There are nearly 310,000 people employed by the creative economy in New England, with nearly half employed in cultural institutions providing close to 150,000 creative economy jobs in Massachusetts.

“The work of this commission confirms what we already knew – the arts and cultural sector is the lifeblood of the Massachusetts economy and needs substantial investments to aid in its recovery,” said Senator Kennedy. “The recommendations in this report, as well as the bill I filed, S.2246 An Act to Rebuild the Commonwealth’s Cultural Future, are critical not only to rescuing and rebuilding this hard-hit sector but positioning it to be stronger and more resilient moving forward.”

Mass Cultural Council and its statewide advocacy partner, MASSCreative, will utilize the Commission’s findings in their continued advocacy work to secure robust public investment into the cultural sector.

“As we come out of the pandemic, we are going to need every tool at our disposal to revive the economy, bring people together again, and proactively work for racial equity. The arts and cultural community are central to these efforts.” said Emily Ruddock, Executive Director of MASSCreative. “In partnership with more than 400 member organizations and thousands of arts and cultural advocates, MASSCreative fully supports the recommendations included in the Commission’s report. We look forward to working with the Legislature to ensure a robust and equitable road to recovery for the entire arts and cultural sector.”

Key Resources

What’s Next

Cultural sector stakeholders are encouraged to share the COVID-19 Cultural Impact Commission’s Report with their State Representative and State Senator, and urge them to support the recommendations, including an investment of $575 million of ARPA funds for COVID relief of the creative and cultural sector.

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