The House of Representatives approved on Wednesday fifty million dollars in supplemental grants funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) as part of the $819 billion economic stimulus bill put forward by president Barack Obama. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill, which would allow the funds to be distributed by the NEA as grants to artists and arts organizations, has yet to gain Senate approval.
The legislation has been criticized by Republican lawmakers, none of whom voted to approve the bill, as lacking detail, which some fear might lead to extraneous expenditures. “We don't know what they're going to spend it on,” said Neil Bradley, a spokesperson for House Republican Whip Eric Cantor, the St. Petersburg Times reported on the PolitiFact Web site. “There is no direction to the NEA on how to spend it.”
The NEA issued a press release on Thursday stating that the organization has in place procedures to distribute funds efficiently and quickly to artists, which make up 1.4 percent of the work force, and nonprofit arts organizations, which support 5.7 million jobs.
“Arts organizations have been hit enormously hard by the current recession,” said former NEA chairman Dana Gioia in a press release. “They've seen their support drop from corporations, foundations, and municipalities. This infusion of funds will help sustain them, their staffs, and the artists they employ.”
“Artists need jobs just like everyone else,” said Kristin Brost, spokesperson for the chairman of the house appropriations committee, Wisconsin Democrat David Obey, the St. Petersburg Times reported. “Fifty million out of $825 billion doesn't seem like an extreme amount to support our artists.”
The Senate will begin debate on the bill on Monday.
In other NEA news, President Obama has appointed Patrice Powell acting chairwoman of the organization. She will succeed Dana Gioia, who announced his intention to step down last September. Powell, who has served the NEA since 1991, most recently as deputy chairwoman for states, regions and, local arts agencies, will remain in the post until the president appoints a permanent chairperson.