The nation’s museums, which support 726,000 jobs annually, continue to drain their financial resources and slash staff as a result of low attendance and limited revenue streams spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. The government’s answer? Wait and see. Earlier this week, President Trump announced that stimulus relief talks would be suspended until after the election, leaving museums — and millions of struggling nonprofits, commercial businesses, and individuals in the US — in the lurch.
In a statement, Laura Lott, president and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), called the administration’s decision to delay a new relief package “irresponsible and shameful.”
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“Museum advocates across the country have sent more than 50,000 letters to their elected officials, working to ensure their federal legislators are well aware of the desperate need that exists in order to ensure the future stability of our economy, our educational system, and our communities,” said Lott.
Some critics of the CARES Act, the third and most significant pandemic economic relief package passed this year, noted that cultural institutions got the short end of the stick. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) received a collective $200 million — a far cry from the $4 billion for nonprofit museums requested by the AAM back in March.
At the time, AAM recognized the allocations as “important support for museums,” but added that “we have a long way to go.”
The president’s stalling of negotiations for a fourth stimulus package, however, represents a cause for concern for institutions, many of which have long used up their Payment Protection Program (PPP) loans and are resorting to emergency measures, like dipping into restricted funds, to stay afloat.
“While the CARES Act assisted numerous museums to retain their staffs and maintain what operations were possible, the funding has run out and we’ve witnessed massive layoffs and furloughs that will have ripple effects throughout communities,” Lott continued in her statement. “The human pain is incalculable and will only continue to grow without the assistance museum advocates have been demanding of their elected officials.”