State Commission Recommends $575 Million Investment In Mass. Cultural Sector

All 13 members of a commission created to chart the arts and cultural sector's path out of COVID-inflicted hardship voted Tuesday to recommend spending hundreds of millions of dollars of federal stimulus funding on the industry's recovery.

The COVID-19 Cultural Impact Commission, which brought together lawmakers, cultural organization leaders and individual artists, submitted its final report to legislative clerks that calls for use of $575 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to support institutions upended by the pandemic.

"When we started this, we knew that the arts and culture industry had been decimated by the pandemic," said Rep. Carole Fiola, a Fall River Democrat who co-chaired the commission, during its final meeting Tuesday. "Now, we just hope that everybody will use some of this information that we have worked hard on and will be able to effect some changes. With the windfall of ARPA funds, there is no better time for us to be looking for some investment into this economic engine in Massachusetts."

The commission's final report urges the Legislature to spend $575 million of the roughly $5.3 billion that state government received from ARPA on the arts and cultural sector. Its spending recommendation landed $25 million lower than in an earlier draft, though the final report also increased the proposed spending on recovery and reopening grants from $325 million to $375 million.

Most of the other suggestions and analysis remain unchanged from the draft. Commissioners called for spending $40 million on a marketing campaign to promote the arts and tourism sector, $60 million to achieve infrastructure and equipment upgrades in the industry, and $100 million on arts and culture workforce development, community development and youth education.

Rep. Dan Hunt, who chairs the House Committee on Federal Stimulus, told the State House News Service on Tuesday that his panel will read the report as it prepares for hearings this summer on distributing the ARPA funding.

"I think right now, we're wide open to everything," Hunt said when asked about the $575 million request. "The ARPA legislation is pretty broad in what you can spend on, and the arts and cultural community is specifically named in that document."


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