National Humanities on the Hill meetings with legislators followed by passage of bill including $180 million in funding for NEH
By Karen Price
Over the last two years, PA Humanities has injected millions of dollars into growth and recovery in Pennsylvania’s cultural sector through grants and relief funding with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
With nonprofit organizations that are doing humanities work across the state continuing to need assistance as they recover from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, PA Humanities staff and board members connected with 65 percent of Pennsylvania’s U.S. Congressional representatives or their staff members last week to discuss the importance of fully funding the NEH. As part of the annual Humanities on the Hill event, organized by the Federation of State Humanities Councils, staff and board asked for lawmakers’ support of the FY 2022 House Interior Bill that would include funding to both the NEH and federal state partners including PA Humanities.
“Our advocacy work is critical for building meaningful working relationships with our federal congressional legislators and securing their ongoing support for the NEH,” PA Humanities Board Member and Government Relations Chair Christina D. Saler said. “Through events like Humanities on the Hill we are able to directly connect with them and demonstrate at a very personal level how the humanities are making a real difference in their districts and across the state.”
Soon after this national advocacy push, which included the combined efforts of councils across the country, Congress passed an FY 2022 omnibus bill that included $180 million for the NEH. This is an increase of $12.5 million over the previous year and the largest in a decade, and will help councils such as PA Humanities meet their states’ growing cultural infrastructure needs.
“This increase from Congress is a win for Pennsylvania,” PA Humanities executive director Laurie Zierer said. “That’s five percent more funding that we’ll be able to devote to supporting the recovery and growth of humanities organizations across the state. Some of that support will enable our staff at PA Humanities to develop a Learning Network for our grantees to share on-the-ground knowledge about topics including how to manage and plan for change. Together, we are building our strength and resiliency, so we can all thrive through our human connections in our communities.”
Just four months ago, PA Humanities announced $1.4 million in grants to 92 recipients as part of the PA SHARP – Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan – program. Recipients of those grants reported the funding would help preserve or create 586 jobs. Combined with the Pop-Up Grants and PHC CARES grants of 2020, PA Humanities has provided critical support to museums, historical societies, libraries and other vital cultural organizations to help navigate the unprecedented difficulties related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During PA Humanities’ meetings with lawmakers and staff, they were able to share specifics about the support given to organizations within each member’s district. Representatives also learned about the statewide PA SHARP Learning Network, which gives grant recipients the opportunity for resource sharing, networking, support and professional development in the areas they identified as most important.
Staff and board also shared which of PA Humanities’ core programs – PA Heart & Soul, Teen Reading Lounge, and Chester Made – are active in each district, and how the support of elected officials is critical to the continued success of these programs as well as the many nonprofits that play vital roles in their communities.
“I was so encouraged and heartened by the positive comments we received from our conversations with legislators this year,” Saler said. “They seemed energized by all the incredible work of NEH-supported grantees and programs in their district. I’m looking forward to following up with them over the summer, when we’ll have even more to share.”