The Federal Government Shutdown and Its Impact on the Arts

Government Shutdown

At 12:01am on October 1st, with the failure of Congress to pass a temporary funding bill – known as a continuing resolution – which would have funded the government for several months, the U.S. federal government ran out of money triggering the first partial government shutdown since 1995.

While many essential government functions will continue during the shutdown, including the delivery of mail and Social Security checks and the payment of air traffic control work and active duty military members, there are wide-ranging implications for most federal agencies and departments, including the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA has released a shutdown contingency plan detailing how they plan to respond to the crisis in Washington.

Starting today:

  • All but 7 of the agency’s 156 employees will be furloughed
  • Grant processing is expected to be significantly slowed
  • The massive staff reduction will cut off communication to the 50 state arts agencies
  • The NEA’s website will not be updated or monitored
  • Entities already awarded a grant will not see grants rescinded
  • Grantees may continue their projects and may submit payment requests and reports during the lapse in appropriations, but they will not be acted upon and will not be paid until normal operations resume
  • NEA staff will not be available to answer any questions

While the full, actual effects of the 2013 shutdown will depend significantly on how long it takes Congress to pass a bill to fund the federal government, much can be learned from reviewing the effects of the last government shutdown.

In 1995, NEA employee furloughs meant that grants were not processed, programs and events were halted, and NEA partners, including the 50 state arts agencies were cut off from their primary federal cultural agency.

In addition to the 2013 shutdown’s impact on the NEA, the shutdown will result in the following:

  • The facilities of the Smithsonian Institution, including museums, and zoos will be closed every day the shutdown is in effect
  • All national parks will close, including the more than 40 Artist-in-Residence programs throughout the National Park Service system
  • Cultural centers receiving federal funds such as Wolf Trap and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (the nation’s busiest arts facility) could face partial closure

Stay tuned to the Arts Alliance Illinois blog for more updates on the effects of the 2013 federal government shutdown and their effects on the arts as they become available.

Image credit: Flickr user nluflickr