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Urge Congress to Support Museum Community Economic Relief

Category: Advocacy Alert
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Advocacy Alert – March 19, 2020

Urge Congress to Support Museum Community Economic Relief

Today, we must make our voices heard to our members of Congress in support of museums.

Congress is moving extremely quickly on consideration of economic relief and recovery packages in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact across many industries.

Now is the time to contact your legislators to let them know what the museum field is facing and urge them to provide critical support for museums.


In support of the museum field, we urge the U.S. Congress to include at least $4 billion for nonprofit museums in COVID-19 (coronavirus) economic relief legislation to provide emergency assistance through June. In addition, we urge Congress to adopt a temporary “universal charitable deduction” to help incentivize charitable giving which is expected to decline in the months ahead. Nationwide, our museums are losing at least $33 million a day due to closures as a result of COVID-19 and will be in desperate need of significant federal support to maintain jobs, secure our cultural heritage, help to rebuild our nation’s tourism industry – and simply to survive the months to come.

Talking Points

The U.S. museum community is robust and diverse, including aquariums, arboreta, art museums, botanic gardens, children’s museums, cultural museums, historic sites, history museums, maritime museums, military museums, natural history museums, planetariums, presidential libraries, public gardens, science and technology centers, and zoos. The related “museum economy” is vast and is facing an existential threat from the closures required to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Museums are economic engines. Economic impact data compiled by the American Alliance of Museums and Oxford Economics shows that this museum economy contributes $50 billion a year to the U.S. economy and generates $12 billion in tax revenue to local, state, and federal governments. Museums also are vital local sources of employment, supporting 726,000 jobs annually. Museums play an essential role in the nation’s educational infrastructure, spending more than $2 billion a year on education. The destabilizing effects of the current crisis place the future of these contributions to the U.S. economy and education system at great risk. If these businesses fail during this crisis, then there will be no jobs to which many thousands of displaced workers can return.

Museums of all sizes are experiencing closures, attendance free-fall, canceled events, and actual layoffs. This will escalate, day-by-day, as closures and cancellations continue. Most of these are cash-based businesses; their economic lifeblood is people visiting. Declines in international and domestic tourism, declines in local attendance, and increases in social distancing will have a devastating impact on the nonprofit museum community, which operates on thin margins of financial sustainability, without large designated operational reserve funds or access to tax-relief benefits, and is often largely dependent on earned revenue from visitors passing through their doors. We estimate as many as 30% of museums, mostly in small and rural communities, will not re-open without significant and immediate emergency financial assistance.

Initial furloughs and layoffs among museum personnel have already begun this week. There are field-wide concerns about large-scale layoffs, especially for the lowest paid and hourly staff as they will potentially be hit the hardest. As employers, museums care deeply about the welfare, health, and financial stability of hard-working staff, and are concerned that increasing unemployment among museum personnel may exacerbate broader community issues of lack of access to health care, food insecurity, and even homelessness that will make the COVID-19 response much more challenging. Any federal support that directly supports workers can offset personnel costs, which make up a significant proportion of the average museum’s operating budget. We also encourage inclusion of small nonprofit businesses, including many museums, in any support programs designed to help small businesses continue paying employees.

Over and above losses in earned revenue and unremitted expenses, museums are expecting lost charitable contributions as donors reassess their capacity to give due to the stock market’s volatility. Congress should ensure communities are able to support their local museums and all nonprofits during this crisis by enacting a targeted, temporary giving incentive that enables all Americans, regardless of whether they claim itemize deductions, to receive a tax incentive for giving to the work of charitable nonprofits, including museums, responding to, or suffering from, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Museums have impressive support from the public. According to a recent public opinion poll, 96% of Americans would think positively of their elected officials taking legislative action to support museums, regardless of political persuasion or community size. 97% of Americans believe that museums are educational assets, and 89% believe that museums contribute important economic benefits to their community. Museums are also the most trusted source of information in America, rated higher than local papers, nonprofit researchers, the U.S. government, or academic researchers. Museums can leverage this high level of public trust to provide education on COVID-19 and fight misinformation about its spread. By empowering the public with the information they need to make informed decisions and lower their risk of contracting or spreading disease, museums can help sustain healthy communities, maintain calm, and reduce the chances for an increase in discrimination or xenophobia often created by global diseases.

Even now, while museums are experiencing closures and significant losses in revenue, and planning for staff reductions, they are still serving an increase in demand in communities across the United States by providing lesson plans, online learning opportunities, and “drop-off” learning kits to teachers and parents in areas where schools have closed; freely sharing virtual exhibitions and content accessible to those who are otherwise isolated; maintaining their outdoor spaces to provide quiet places to relieve stress during this time of high anxiety; and supporting the families of health care workers and first responders with access to child care and meals.

Museums are community anchors, addressing challenges in times of crisis like the one we are currently experiencing. Unfortunately, we expect hardships to be faced by increasing numbers of our member organizations in communities across the country in the months ahead, underscoring the need for museums to be included in any economic stimulus relief now.

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  1. The link “contact your legislators” is unhelpful – there is a letter but the form pre-supposes that I am a museum professional or advocate and when I leave that window blank I cannot proceed. Many of us want to help. The method has to be more efficient and effective.

  2. Museums are crucial for the cultural, spiritual and economic life of the city. They are a huge draw for tourists…they are part of the engine that propels the city forward and as such are as important as any corporation. They must be included in the economic relief.

  3. Museums and all arts organizations deserve the same protections as other businesses— even more so, because they elevate the human experience.

  4. Museums are critical to our economy and probably more important, critical to the health of our souls.

  5. Museums are vital. They are also tourist attractions that serve far more people than any cruise ship line, and pay American wages to Americans. And they and we vote.

  6. The arts are what make the difference in our lives- lift us out of the every day rat race- inspire , challenge and delight us. We connect to our past and our futures through the arts- we are touched, soothed, provoked and educated.

    We need our cultural institutions.

  7. Humans need to be in awe. Museums provide us with instant awe! Just simply standing in front of a masterpiece, taking it in, experiencing it’s depth and beauty is transformative. Museums are suffering financial devastation because of this epidemic. We will need them in the long haul to help us heal from it and thrive.

  8. Please consider museums and all of the arts in the stimulus package. They are so important to all of us. Thank you.

  9. Museums, gardens, public art, etc. give meaning to life & are the “documents” for future generations to explore & reference! Please support cultural institutions as part of this bail out package!

  10. Museums are a refuge for everyone especially on museum “free” days. They are peaceful and calm in our busy, hectic and frantic society. Where else can you go to and see artwork and artifacts from countries that you may never be able to travel to? Museums equalize the haves and have-nots. They are quiet and give you time and space to just think. They allow you to immerse yourself in beauty and color.

  11. It’s about time that art and artists should be subsidized in America as they are in mostly all European cultures. Funding for the arts has been decimated by Republicans since Reagan was President. This is why we have such a vapid and incendiary culture. When all art is run by corporations on a paying basis, our films have become childish, super-hero junk that no self-respecting child would want to see, if they had a choice. Corporate music is just the same. Museums are all that’s left to showcase real classical and modern art. Congress must wake up and fund museums across the country and keep their employees working. Without them we are doomed to be, what we are rabidly becoming: a culture of the dumb and for the dumb. FUND THE ARTS NOW!

  12. Museums are a refuge in this hectic world. They allow us to recalibrate. We are able to see and learn from artifacts from all over the world and from places we may never be able to visit first-hand. They level the playing field between the haves and the have-nots.

  13. Please save the museums,specially in hard hit New York City. The New York City museums are some of the best in the world and their contribution to education, entertainment, culture, and to uniting families and friends is invaluable.
    Please support museums in your bill

  14. Non-profit organizations of all kinds are necessary to the well-being of the populace. Please include them in your bill.

  15. “The U.S. museum community is robust and diverse, including aquariums, arboreta, art museums, botanic gardens, children’s museums, cultural museums, historic sites, history museums, maritime museums, military museums, natural history museums, planetariums, presidential libraries, public gardens, science and technology centers, and zoos. The related “museum economy” is vast and is facing an existential threat from the closures required to address the COVID-19 pandemic.”
    I am deeply concerned and will be watching to see if Congress helps to fund the cultural community. With the mental stress and frenetic pace in our world today, it’s the beauty, education, and respite that offer richness and meaning to Americans young and old. PLEASE FUND MUSEUMS.

  16. I am deeply concerned and will be watching to see if Congress helps to fund the museum community. With the mental stress and frenetic pace in our world today, it’s the beauty, education, and respite that offer richness and meaning to Americans, young and old. PLEASE FUND MUSEUMS.

  17. Please include our museums in the stimulus package! We will need them even more, to encourage and inspire us, to transport us when this crisis is over.

  18. Please include museums and the arts in the $2 trillion bill. As we stay hime to keep our communities safe, we reach out to museums and art forums for education and inspiration. These institutions needs your support to keep their doors open.

  19. The museums have played a great role in education. If you don’t know where you came from you will never know where you are going. We would like the Covid-19 Stimulus bill to include the Non-profit organizations such as museums as well.

  20. Please support the arts and museums. I am a high school teacher and the arts save some students who would otherwise drop out. These are the fields they enter after high school and it is essential to give them the same support we give to businesses.

  21. Many Museums are non-profit organizations, who depend on admissions and generous donor contributions. In these times of economic stress it is imperative that we don’t forget about museums and their missions within their communities and beyond. As a manager in one of these museums I see the financial heart-ship that is placed on us, and the need to cut back on costs as much as possible. That sometimes means laying off well established staff members, reducing much needed equipment maintenance and more. Please consider museums as a vital part of the communities throughout the United States and help them as much as any other business to stay fiscally healthy and maintain operations.

  22. Please save our museums in nyc. They are critical to our education. Please dont forget us in the economic stimulus package. I work in one of the most visited museums in the world (THE MET). The museum is my home away from home. Please chuck schumer, remember our children. Our children’s children and the future of a big cultural institute.

  23. Without the financial support for the arts and museums, such as the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge Massachusetts, the loss of adventure to be a participant in the visual appreciation of the arts and opportunity to gain knowledge by visiting museums, will impede the real life experiences gained from viewing the genuine masterpieces. During this unknown time of closure of the museums , is oppressive. To halt funding indefinitely will leave a void in our children’s’ and adults’ education. It will indubitably eliminate the ambience of being in a museum of quintessential icons of the artworks.

  24. Please support the arts and this country’s museums! They hold our history and such treasured pieces that need to be shared with the world. They also do SO much for education, therapy and healthy activities in our communities!

  25. Please support our museums! I work for The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA. We a part of this countries history. As we are a non-profit we depend on donations, and admissions. This museum is part of our community and the world for education,joy,and connection. During this time in our history we’re at a loss. The loss of interaction, the emotional experience that brings us together as a people, and the loss of our livelihood.

  26. Museums save lives. They are a creative, emotional, intellectual and inspirational lifeline. Without the arts, we do not have a country!

  27. I ask that you include museums in your relief efforts They are a valuable asset to communities all over the country thank you

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