As Tax Revenues Fall, Regional Arts Commission Prepares To Slash Arts Grants
More than 100 St. Louis-area arts organizations already struggling with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic are about to lose a chunk of their grant funding.
Regional Arts Commission leaders have alerted organizations to expect that grants it awards in its upcoming 2020-2021 cycle will be reduced by at least 60% from typical levels, according to board chair Mont Levy.
Previously announced grants that were due to be paid after June 30 will also be reduced.
The cuts are necessary because of an expected drop in tax revenues generated by local taxes on hotel and motel occupancy, which provides RAC with its largest source of funding. The organization awarded $4.2 million in grants last year.
Board chair Mont Levy said the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission estimated that RAC will receive 75% fewer tax dollars during the fiscal year beginning July 1.
He said RAC will make up some of the shortfall through stricter budgeting and by eliminating grants supporting arts-related programs run by organizations not chiefly dedicated to the arts. Levy said RAC had not cut any of its staff or reduced salaries.
“We are going to be hit hard in the coming months,” Levy said. “If we anticipate more dollars, we will pass those dollars on as we receive them, but it could be worse than expected.”
RAC has already made some changes to help arts organizations that have lost revenue from canceled events after regional officials issued stay-at-home orders and restrictions on large public gatherings. Organizations who received grants to fund programs that were canceled because of the pandemic are now allowed to keep the money and use it for general purposes.
RAC launched an emergency relief fund for artists who have lost much of their income because of coronavirus-related closures. RAC seeded that fund with $100,000 in cash reserves and added about $40,000 in private donations. The fund is now exhausted, and RAC closed applications.
RAC is raising more money for the fund, and its leaders hope to generate $250,000 during a May 31 benefit telethon that will feature performances by at least 15 local arts organizations.
The organization announced a five-year strategic plan shortly before the stay-at-home orders took effect in St. Louis and St. Louis County in March. Levy said the organization is proceeding with these efforts, including professional training sessions for local arts workers in the fall.
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