MONTPELIER, VT—A bill that includes unprecedented Covid recovery funding for Vermont’s creative sector has been codified into law with Gov. Phil Scott’s signature.
The omnibus economic recovery bill, S.11, includes $9 million to the Vermont Arts Council for Covid-19 recovery grants for the creative sector, which we have advocated for since the 2022 legislative session began.
“The creative sector has proven to be an incredibly important part of Vermont's economy -- and these funds will help the broad range of creative economy businesses and nonprofits get back on sound footing again, as we recover from the financial harms caused by Covid-19,” said Rep. Stephanie Jerome, who co-sponsored the initial legislation (H.624) which passed in the House in March and was folded into S.11.
Creative Futures grants will help to cover operating costs, including rent, mortgage, utilities, and insurance, for creative sector businesses and cultural nonprofits that have sustained substantial economic harm due to the pandemic. The grants are supported by funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), passed by Congress and signed into law in March 2021.
The bill also includes other pandemic recovery funds that will support the creative sector:
- $19 million for a short-term forgivable loan program through the Vermont Economic Development Authority to support Vermont businesses experiencing continued working capital shortfalls as a result of the pandemic
- Community Revitalization and Recovery grants through the Agency of Commerce and Community Development for nonprofits, for-profit businesses, or municipalities
The arts and culture industry will be prioritized in both programs.
Vermont’s creative sector was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, which shuttered theaters, galleries, and museums across the state. In just three months in the first year of the pandemic, from April to July 2020, the sector lost more than 8,000 jobs and more than $216 million in sales, according to a Brookings Institution study. In a more recent analysis, the 197 cultural organizations that applied for the Council’s most recent Covid-relief grants reported $36 million in lost revenue from April 2020 to mid-2021.
The financial picture for Vermont’s core cultural organizations continues to be dire, as theaters, museums, galleries, dance studios, and other indoor community gathering spaces were the first to close to protect public health and are the last to re-open, at least to full capacity. Now to help audiences and patrons feel safe, they’re re-booting programming and re-engaging audiences with Covid-safe equipment and protocols or with new digital programming – all of which are costly.
“A healthy creative sector is essential to the vitality of Vermont’s economy, its downtowns and village centers. The investments in this bill will help creative enterprises build resiliency, invest in infrastructure, and prepare for the future. The creative sector adds immeasurably to the quality of life in Vermont, and this bill represents a significant vote of confidence in its importance,” noted Sen. Alison Clarkson, who co-sponsored the original legislation in the Senate.”
“Creative businesses and nonprofits have been incredibly agile and have responded to the pandemic in imaginative ways, keeping us all inspired and connected through a very difficult time,” said Karen Mittelman, Vermont Arts Council executive director. “Our sector is still struggling, and we are grateful to the legislature and Governor Scott for this critical aid, which is vital not only to help the creative sector bounce back, but to the future of our communities.”
The law also creates a Vermont Film and Media Industry Task Force, convened by the Vermont Arts Council, to study effective ways to cultivate the film and media industry in Vermont.
For more information about the recovery package and for updates on the Creative Futures grant, visit https://www.vermontartscouncil.org/grants/creative-futures-grant-program.
About the Vermont Arts Council
The Vermont Arts Council envisions a Vermont where all people have access to the arts and creativity in their lives, education, and communities. Engagement with the arts transforms individuals, connects us more deeply to each other, energizes the economy, and sustains the vibrant cultural landscape that makes Vermont a great place to live. Since 1965, the Council has been the state's primary provider of funding, advocacy, and information for the arts in Vermont. Learn more at www.vermontartscouncil.org