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April 08, 2021

N.J. to provide $15 million to arts organizations shuttered by COVID-19 pandemic

The additional funding comes as the public health crisis has all but shuttered the arts industry

Arts Funding
N.J. arts culture venues Street View/Google

The COVID-19 pandemic has all but shut down the arts and culture industry for the past year. Above, the Broadway Theatre of Pitman in Gloucester County.

New Jersey is offering the more than 700 cultural institutions across the state a much-needed financial boost as many seek to reopen their doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The state will provide $15 million in federal aid to arts organizations that have been adversely impacted by the public health crisis, according to legislation signed into law Thursday by Gov. Phil Murphy.

"Our arts and cultural establishments are among the best in the nation, but they have faced difficult challenges over the past year," Murphy said. "It’s time we lifted up these organizations and venues to ensure they are still with us as we emerge from the pandemic and look to once again experience the joy they offer."

Half of the funding, or approximately $7.5 million, will be distributed to for-profit arts organizations through the state's Economic Development Authority. The other half will go towards nonprofit cultural institutions through the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

Each state-run organization is required to establish both the size of the grants and the eligibility guidelines in order to receive one.

For example, for-profit cultural organizations that have at least two regularly-occurring live events per week where admission fees are charged and performing artists are paid can qualify for a grant.

But these arts institutions must also provide proof that they had a 25% or greater year-over-year decline in revenue during the second quarter of 2020 compared to the second quarter of 2019, according to the law.

State officials said that this additional funding will help get thousands of residents back to work and boost New Jersey's economy as it seeks to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legislation passed both houses of the state legislature last month with unanimous bipartisan support. Among the bill's sponsors was Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego (D-Atlantic/Burlington/Camden).

"Arts and culture organizations are at the cornerstone of our communities," Addiego said. "They give residents a space to gather, express themselves creatively and explore their passions. Without the presence of these organizations, we would lose a large part of what makes a community a home. With this funding, we can save many of these organizations on the brink of closing for good, allowing them to thrive during and after the COVID-19 pandemic."

The additional funding comes as the public health crisis has all but shuttered the arts industry, forcing cultural institutions to close down for much of the past year and hold little to no in-person events.

But New Jersey has taken several steps to help arts organizations stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The N.J. Arts and Culture Recovery Fund was initiated last summer to help out institutions that have been hit hard by the public health crisis. The foundation has sought to provide funding for artists, venues and event cancellations caused by COVID-19.

The state also rolled out a digital campaign last August called "Keep Jersey Arts Alive," which allowed residents to vocalize their support for New Jersey's cultural institutions and urge their lawmakers to continue funding these vulnerable organizations during the coronavirus pandemic.

State officials estimated last summer that New Jersey's arts venues have lost over $30 million in revenue due to COVID-19.

The arts industry produces roughly $662 million in revenue for the state and employs approximately 22,000 people.

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