Bipartisan Bill Looks to Give Arts Workers $300 Million Boost

October 5th, 2021

A new bill supported by American Republicans and Democrats alike and seeking to provide $300 million to workers in the pandemic-struck arts sector last week came one step closer to being signed into law. The Creative Economy Revitalization Act (CERA) was introduced in the House of Representatives on August 13 by representatives Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM) and Jay Obernolte (R-CA); on September 29, Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) brought the bill before the Senate.

CERA, which was inspired by the Works Projects Administration established by the government of Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression of the 1930s, aims to create a grants program under the auspices of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, with the intention of providing jobs for those in the creative field. The grants would be administered to eligible entities, including government, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations, by the Department of Labor, working in tandem with the National Endowment for the Arts. Those receiving the funding would be tasked with producing art or art-related events—such as performances, exhibitions, and large-scale murals—easily accessed by the public.

To date, the bill has garnered wide support, with more than 175 arts-related organizations, including Americans for the Arts, Arts Workers United, Department for Professional Employees – AFL-CIO, Freelancers Union, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), and the US Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC), endorsing its passage. The bill responds in part to pressure exerted by city leaders across the nation who pointed to the economic impact on the creative field, which had blossomed in the previous two decades preceding the pandemic. In 2017, the sector was valued at $877.8 billion and thus provided 4.5 percent of the US GDP, contributing more to the national economy than the construction, transportation and warehousing, travel and tourism, mining, utilities, and agriculture industries. Following the advent of Covid 19, the industry cratered; thanks to the twin specters of the Delta variant and vaccine deniers, it has been slower to return than hoped.