Trump renews bid to eradicate arts and library funding

Trump renews bid to eradicate arts and library funding

The Trump administration has again proposed to eliminate funding for the National Endowments for the Arts (NEA) and Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

In its fiscal year 2019 budget unveiled on Tuesday (12th February) the administration proposes reducing funding to the NEA by 80% and the IMLS by 90% next year and ultimately shut the institutions altogether. The NEA has previously helped authors such as Alice Walker and Joyce Carol Oates. The American Library Association has slammed Trump's proposed closure of IMLS as “out of touch”.

The budget also describes plans "to begin shutting down NEH in 2019, given there are non-federal sources of funding for humanities and the administration does not consider the activities within this agency to be core Federal responsibilities". 

The proposals were announced days after the president signed a two-year budget bill that will add as much as $400 billion in spending through the 2019 fiscal year. Senate leaders unveiled a two-year budget deal last Wednesday (February 7th) which would increase military and non-defence spending by $300 billion over the next two years, as well as more than $80 billion in disaster relief.

The budget follows on Trump’s efforts to eliminate the agencies in his last budget which the House of representatives rejected last September.

In the fiscal year 2019 budget, the proposals are described as “an aggressive set of actions to redefine the proper role of the federal government and curtail those programs that fail to efficiently and effectively deliver promised outcomes to the American people”.

The volume suggests savings of almost $50bn in discretionary programs including $26bn in program eliminations and $23bn in reductions.

The funding for ILMS, which provides funding to museums and libraries across the country through formula and competitive grant awards, will be slashed from $231m last year to $23m in 2019. The Trump administration ultimately “proposes to eliminate” it but according to the document, it is “elimination of IMLS would result in the closure of a significant number of libraries and museums”.

Federal funding supplements local, state, and private funds, which provide the vast majority of funding to museums and libraries, according to the budget.

The document also includes a plan to reduce funding to the NEA, which offers grants to writers amongst other activities, from $150m to $29 next year and shut it down because the “administration does not consider NEA activities to be core federal responsibilities”.  The NEA was established in 1965 and uses partnerships with state arts agencies, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, to support arts learning, cultural heritage, and increasing access to the arts across the country. There have been attempts to shut the body down for 35 years according to Quartz.

Some of the “most celebrated authors in American letters” have written with the help of NEA grants according to Electric Literature, which published the accounts of 12 authors who had received support from the “life-changing” NEA last year.

Various writers have voiced their dismay on Twitter including poet Yvette Siegert who said: “Please call your Congressional representatives to ensure that the National Endowment for the Arts receives funding in the 2019 budget. I urge former/ current fellows in the US to let me know of other steps we can take.”

In a statement shared with Publishers Weekly, ALA president Jim Neal criticised Trump administration’s proposal. He said: “The administration’s FY2019 budget is out of touch with the real needs of Americans and the priorities of leaders in Congress who represent them.

“The president miscalculates the value of more than 120,000 libraries across America, just as he did in his FY2018 budget proposal. ALA members will continue to highlight the value of libraries to our elected leaders in every US congressional district.”

He added: “And we are confident that our congressional leaders will continue to protect the federal programs that invest in our communities.”