Museum Alliance Seeks $4 Billion In Immediate Relief From Congress With Coronavirus Closures Devastating IndustryMarch 19, 2020 | In the Press
The Alliance of American Museums sent a letter to Republican and Democratic leadership in both the House of Representatives and Senate today, seeking at least $4 billion for nonprofit museums in COVID-19 (coronavirus) economic relief legislation to provide emergency assistance through June. In addition, AAM urged Congress to adopt a temporary “universal charitable deduction” to help incentivize charitable giving which is expected to decline in the months ahead.
According to AAM, museums nationwide are losing a minimum of $33 million a day due to closures as a result of COVID-19 and will need significant federal support to not only maintain jobs, but secure the nation’s cultural heritage which they hold and help rebuild the nation’s tourism industry.
The organization estimates as many as 30% of museums, mostly in small and rural communities, will not re-open without significant and immediate emergency financial assistance.
AAM is the only organization representing the entire scope of the museum community which includes 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.
Combined, those institutions amounted to a total of more than $50 billion in gross domestic product, 726,200 jobs and $12 billion in taxes to local, state and federal governments in 2016 according to AAM.
“The related ‘museum economy’ is vast and is facing an existential threat from the closures required to address the COVID-19 pandemic,” AAM’s letter to Congress stated.
Yesterday, the New York Times reported that the Metropolitan Museum of Art anticipates losing $100 million due to coronavirus closure and doesn’t project reopening until July.
“As we write this letter, museums of all sizes are experiencing closures, attendance free-fall, canceled events and actual layoffs,” AMM’s statement read. “Most of these are cash-based businesses; their economic lifeblood is people visiting.”
And people are not visiting. When they may be able to again is unknown.
While coronavirus impacts elsewhere on the travel industry–airlines, hotels, cruises–have been written about and discussed endlessly in the news media, the “devastating impact on the nonprofit museum community” has thus far barely merited a mention.
Beyond the cultural and entertainment value of museums, they “play an essential role in the nation's educational infrastructure, spending more than $2 billion a year on education,” according to AAM.
“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,” AAM wrote Congress.
Museums have begun freely sharing virtual exhibitions and content accessible to those who are otherwise isolated; maintaining outdoor spaces and supporting the families of health care workers and first responders with access to child care and meals.
Unlike their counterparts around the world, museums in the United States, across the sector, rely on governmental funding for less than 25% of their operating revenue. At art museums, botanical gardens, children’s museums and zoos and aquariums, the figure drops below 20%, to an industry low of 10% at science and technology museums.