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COVID-19 & the Arts: Will Federal Stimulus Bill Help ?

During the pandemic, arts organizations in the Quad Cities are struggling to find federal financial help.

While $2 trillion in new federal spending will go to help businesses and individuals hurt by the global coronavirus pandemic, nonprofit arts organizations worry they may not see much relief. In late March, Americans for the Arts estimated that nationwide, the arts and culture sector would face a $3.6-billion economic loss just to date, due to closures required by Covid-19. 

Agency CEO Robert Lynch said he was grateful for $300 million Congress approved to support nonprofit cultural groups, but it’s not nearly enough to insure their long-term survival.

Credit RME
RME Executive Director Tyson Danner

Half that amount is devoted to the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, some of which will filter to the states, according to River Music Experience executive director Tyson Danner.

"They might as well have saved the money and threw it into a different pot, because $150 million for the entire country is just hardly anything."

Danner contrasted the response in the US with Germany, which has a long tradition of state support for the arts, dedicating $54 billion in relief.

“European governments are willing to fund arts and culture. Meanwhile, here in America we have to battle every year just to keep any funding going."

Credit Putnam Museum
Putnam Museum President and CEO Rachael Mullins

The RME, like most small businesses and nonprofits, is applying for the new $350 billion paycheck protection program, which offers loans equal to eight weeks salary for organizations with less than 500 employees.

Rachael Mullins, head of the Putnam Museum, said there may be money available from the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

“I think most organizations in our community are hoping there are state and federal resources that we can bring into our community, rather than relying on local charitable dollars. We all believe strongly those dollars should be focused on human-service needs."

Credit Figge Art Museum
Figge Art Museum Executive Director Michelle Hargrave

Michelle Hargrave at the Figge Art Museum is also hoping for state and federal help.

“We're looking into if we're eligible for support from the NEA. If not, we're hopeful some of that money will trickle down to the states, and that we might qualify for some funding from the Iowa Arts Council if it does.”

Formerly the arts and entertainment reporter for The Dispatch/Rock Island Argus and Quad-City Times, Jonathan Turner now writes freelance for WVIK and QuadCities.com. He has experience writing for daily newspapers for 32 years and has expertise across a wide range of subject areas, including government, politics, education, the arts, economic development, historic preservation, business, and tourism. He loves writing about music and the arts, as well as a multitude of other topics including features on interesting people, places, and organizations. He has a passion for accompanying musicals, singers, choirs, and instrumentalists. He even wrote his own musical based on The Book of Job, which premiered at Playcrafters in 2010. He wrote a 175-page history book about downtown Davenport, which was published by The History Press in 2016. Turner was honored in 2009 to be among 24 arts journalists nationwide to take part in a 10-day fellowship offered by the National Endowment for the Arts in New York City on classical music and opera, based at Columbia University’s journalism school.