Power of Culture Blog
Mass Cultural Council has been tasked with the enormous and amazing direction to equitably invest almost $100M in state dollars into the cultural sector this fiscal year!
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Update: November 22, 2021 – The House of Representatives and Senate recessed formal sessions on November 17, 2021 without reaching a consensus on a final ARPA spending plan. The Conference Committee is still working to finalize this important legislation, and Mass Cultural Council is monitoring this developing situation and continues to advocate that the conferees retain both the final House bill language and appropriation for the cultural sector.
Both the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate have passed a $3.82B ARPA relief bill, and the Chambers have until November 17 to agree on a final spending plan and get it to the Governor’s desk.
Mass Cultural Council is incredibly grateful that both the House and Senate prioritized cultural sector relief in their bills, appropriating $125M and $75M respectfully for the Agency to equitably invest through capacity building and relief grants to artists and cultural organizations. Mass Cultural Council has submitted the following testimony to House and Senate Leadership, urging that the final ARPA spending plan retain the House language and larger $125M appropriation:
November 12, 2021
The Honorable Karen Spilka, President of the Massachusetts Senate
The Honorable Michael Rodrigues, Senate Ways & Means Chair
The Honorable Ed Kennedy, Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development Chair
The Honorable Ronald Mariano, Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives
The Honorable Aaron Michlewitz, House Ways & Means Chair
The Honorable Carole Fiola, Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development Chair
Delivered Via Email
Re: H. 4219/S. 2564 – An Act relative to immediate COVID-19 recovery needs
Dear Madame President, Chairs Rodrigues and Kennedy, Mr. Speaker, and Chairs Michlewitz and Fiola:
On behalf of the governing Council and staff of Mass Cultural Council, I wish to thank both the House of Representatives and Senate for prioritizing pandemic relief for the cultural sector in H. 4219/S. 2564, An Act relative to immediate COVID-19 recovery needs.
Mass Cultural Council is ever-grateful that our partners on Beacon Hill recognize that the Commonwealth’s economy cannot fully recover from the pandemic if the cultural sector – artists, creative workers, and cultural organizations (nonprofit, for-profit, and municipal) – is not nurtured and aided to thrive once again. In 2019, prior to the pandemic, Massachusetts’ cultural sector contributed $25.5 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy, representing 4.3% of the state GDP, 142,578 jobs, and total compensation of $13.6 billion. At that time the financial impact and contributions of our sector in Massachusetts were greater than construction, education services, and agriculture.
Closures and cancellations necessitated by COVID-19 financially devastated cultural organizations and artists. In March 2021 Mass Cultural Council released impact data collected from the sector reporting more than $600 million in lost revenue and personal income, and more than 30,000 sector jobs impacted statewide. Additionally, in June 2021 the Massachusetts COVID-19 Cultural Impact Commission called for a total of $575 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) monies to be invested into the sector to mitigate pandemic impacts.
It is said that convening – bringing audiences together to learn, discuss, celebrate, and enjoy productions and presentations – is the cultural sector’s superpower. Our organizations were among the first to close in March 2020, and even now, twenty months later, we see that cultural organizations are likely be the last to fully reopen and reengage with the public at pre-COVID rates. This investment is necessary for Massachusetts to bounce back from the impacts of the pandemic. It should also be noted that without our convenings, related sectors that depend upon our audiences to thrive, such as travel and tourism, hospitality, retail, restaurants, etc., will continue to flounder.
While both Chambers invest in the cultural sector, tasking Mass Cultural Council with equitably administering millions of dollars in grant assistance for artists, creative workers, and cultural organizations, providing capacity building initiatives and pandemic relief, the Agency urges you to retain both the text and the House appropriation from H. 4219 in the final bill:
1599-2026 For a reserve for cultural assets; provided, that funds shall be administered by the Massachusetts cultural council to develop and oversee a grant program in order to assist cultural organizations and artists operate more efficiently; provided further, that grants may support staffing, consultants, plans, software and hardware for organizational business development for facilities owned by municipalities or non-profit entities with negative economic impacts of the 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic; provided further, that funds may be expended for entities that focus on 1 or more minority population or conduct cultural events that have cultural education or cultural performances related to minority populations; provided further, that the administration of said grants shall prioritize entities that have been adversely affected by the 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic; provided further, that funds may be transferred to the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund established in section 42 of chapter 23G of the General Laws for the purposes of this item; and provided further, that grants may include a requirement for matching funds……………………………….$125,000,000
Mass Cultural Council believes the House of Representatives’ line-item language in account 1599-2026 provides greater flexibility to develop new, urgently needed relief programs that equitably serve all cultural sector stakeholders, and further supports the larger House appropriation of $125 million, a sizable and record-breaking investment which, when invested into artists and cultural organizations, will position the cultural sector well to recover and reengage with the public safely.
Thank you for prioritizing the economic health of the cultural sector in your COVID-19 recovery spending plans. Mass Cultural Council stands ready to take on this urgent work. Again, I respectfully request that you retain the House language and appropriation for the cultural sector in the final ARPA bill. Thank you for your consideration and please do not hesitate to contact me, or Public Affairs Director Bethann Steiner if you require additional information.
Michael J. Bobbitt