Advocacy Alert: Feb. 13, 2009

Congress Completes Work on Economic Stimulus Bill; Museums Allowed to Compete For Funds

Early this morning (Friday), the U.S. Congress unveiled the Conference Report for H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, setting the stage for final passage by the House and Senate, expected to occur in the next few days.

Museums, zoos and aquariums had initially been barred from competing for any funds in the Senate-passed bill. Zoos and aquariums were barred from funds in both versions. In reconciling the two pieces of legislation, Congress is set to adopt the following language:

"SEC. 1604. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this Act may be used by any State or local government, or any private entity for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, or swimming pool."

"Museum supporters should be very pleased that we were able to mobilize a massive field-wide effort to prevent a funding ban on museums in this bill," said AAM President Ford W. Bell . "However, the fact that Congress—and specifically the U.S. Senate in its Feb. 6 vote—initially saw fit to exclude museums from funding shows that we have a lot of work to do in making the case for museums." He added: "It is also disheartening that zoos and aquariums will be prohibited from competing for most economic stimulus funds made available through this bill. Zoos and aquariums have tremendous public benefit for environmental education and wildlife conservation, and contribute greatly to our nation's economy by spurring tourism."

Museums employ more than a half-million Americans, spend an estimated $14.5 billion annually and rank among the top three family vacation destinations. Visitors to cultural and heritage destinations stay 53% longer and spend 36% more money than other kinds of tourists.

Museums have been very hard hit by this recession, laying off workers and cutting back on services. Members of Congress must be made aware of the economic impact that museums make on their communities, and we must tell Congress the impact we have every day—employing workers, buying goods and services and educating communities.

The bill also includes the following funding:

  • National Endowment for the Arts: $50 million to preserve jobs in the non-profit arts sector.
  • Smithsonian Institution: $25 million for repair and revitalization of existing facilities.
  • National Park Service: $146 million for critical repair and rehabilitation projects, $589 million for energy efficient retrofits, the preservation and repair of historical resources within the National Park System, and other critical infrastructure projects, and $15 million for historic preservation projects at historically black colleges and universities.
  • National Science Foundation: $100 million for improving instruction in math, science, and engineering.
  • Community Development Fund: $1 billion to bolster critical community services and infrastructure needs, to be administered by local governments.