Congress lawmakers want to put unemployed artists back to work with $ 300 million bill to fund public cultural projects

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Inspired by the New Deal, lawmakers in Congress proposed $ 300 million in labor subsidies that would put unemployed art workers back to work.

Inspired by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Creative Economy Revitalization Act, or CERA, would establish a program under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act that would provide grants to artists and cultural organizations for public projects. The funds, which would come from the Department of Labor in coordination with the National Endowment for the Arts, are expected to go to art forms freely open to all, such as public murals, exhibitions and concerts.

Representatives Teresa Leger Fernández of New Mexico and Jay Obernolte of California introduced the bipartisan bill to the House of Representatives in August, while Senator Ben Ray Luján, also of New Mexico, introduced it to the Senate on Tuesday, September 28.

In both branches, CERA enjoys the support of legislators on both sides of the aisle. More than 175 arts organizations, including Americans for the Arts, Arts Workers United, and the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, have also approved the bill.

“This pandemic has devastated our creative workers and we must engage them to create art that unites and brings joy to our communities,” Leger Fernández said in a statement. declaration. “In a time when our nation is so divided, we desperately need to be reminded of what makes our communities beautiful and diverse. This bill will provide grants to help fund projects that bring communities together and remind us of what unites us as Americans.

Nearly two-thirds of creative workers were unemployed at the height of the pandemic last year, the MP said. The entire creative sector, meanwhile, has lost around $ 15 billion since March 2020.

While there is no recent precedent at the federal level, various cities have set up their own WPA-style grant programs to help artists who have found themselves out of work due to the pandemic. In May, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $ 25 million economic stimulus initiative this would see the city commission 1,500 artists to create public works of art. Chicago has already started its own $ 60 million account artistic recovery program

In January of this year, the mayors of 10 American cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago, co-wrote a letter urging President Biden to allocate funds to the arts in its developing stimulus plan. When that $ 1.9 trillion relief bill was adopted by Congress in March, it contained $ 470 million for cultural organizations. The President’s Tracking Infrastructure Bill, still being drafted in Congress, does not contain funding for the arts.

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