The Museum Association of New York is working with the American Alliance of Museums and other museum associations to make the case for museums in this time of crisis. New York State’s museums contribute $5.37 billion to the NYS economy and support over 61,000 jobs.
Museums of all sizes and disciplines are closed. Everyone will experience extensive loss of earned income from restricted attendance and canceled events. Museum advocates say some museums have laid off their entire staffs and at least one in the Capital Region has closed permanently.
Advocates are asking museum supporters to call their Congressional delegation today and ask for at least $4 billion for nonprofit museums in COVID-19 (coronavirus) economic relief legislation to provide emergency assistance through June. You can find your Congressional representative online. A sample letter has also been made available online.
In a message this week the Museum Association of New York asked supporters to tell Congress to adopt a temporary “universal charitable deduction” to help incentivize charitable giving which is expected to decline in the months ahead. Nationwide, museums are losing at least $33 million a day they said, due to closures as a result of COVID-19 and will be in desperate need of significant federal support to maintain jobs, secure our cultural heritage, and help rebuild the nation’s tourism industry.
Talking Points from the American Alliance of Museums
Economic impact data compiled by AAM and Oxford Economics shows that museums contribute $50 billion a year to the US economy; support 726,000 jobs annually; and generate $12 billion in tax revenue to local, state, and federal governments. Museums are economic engines and play an essential role in the nation’s educational infrastructure, spending more than $2 billion a year on education. They are also community anchors, addressing challenges in times of crisis.
Museums of all sizes are experiencing closure, attendance drop-offs, canceled events, and possible or actual layoffs in certain areas. Declines in international and domestic tourism, declines in local attendance, and increases in social-distancing will have a devastating impact on the museum community which operates on thin margins of financial sustainability.
Currently, most museums are experiencing higher unanticipated costs related to increased sanitation labor and cleaning supplies to help prevent the virus’ spread while maintaining operations. Many museums also may need to cope with costs of moving employees to remote work and there are field-wide concerns, especially about the lowest paid and hourly staff potentially being hit the hardest.
In addition to losses in earned revenue, museums are expecting lost charitable contributions as donors reassess their capacity to give due to the stock market’s volatility.
Unfortunately, the Alliance expects hardships to be faced by an increasing number of museums in communities spread across the country in the months ahead, underscoring the need for museums to be included in any economic stimulus relief.
On a positive note, museums are the most trusted source of information in America, rated higher than local papers, nonprofit researchers, the US government, or academic researchers. Museums can take advantage of this high level of public trust to provide education on COVID-19 and fight misinformation about its spread. By empowering the public with the information they need to lower their risk of contracting or spreading disease, museums can help sustain healthy communities, maintain calm, and reduce the chances for an increase in discrimination or xenophobia often created by global diseases.