The U.S. legislative landscape continues to evolve as the world learns more about the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. ASTC is listening to our members’ experiences on the ground, and actively working with other museum associations and science engagement stakeholders to advocate for immediate Federal relief and develop policy recommendations that ensure our community’s role in the nation’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. View a list of ASTC’s recent Federal advocacy actions.
On this webpage, you can find advocacy and communications tools to use with elected officials, as well as the latest Federal policy developments. Jump to the section of interest by clicking the links below:
Please share your advocacy successes, challenges, and insights with ASTC by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We also encourage you to share with each other via ASTC’s Advocacy and Public Policy Community of Practice. For more policy and advocacy updates, follow our blog.
Key Messages to Make the Case
ASTC, along with other museum advocates, have been this set of talking points to communicate the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on our field. Feel free to adapt these messages to fit your needs as you advocate for Federal, state, or local relief. Updated July 23, 2020.
Tips for Amplifying Your Message
- Leverage your board. Trustees and Board members can be your biggest supporters and act as allies in making the case to elected officials, funders, and other supporters.
- Look for opportunities for collective advocacy. Your voice is stronger with others. Reach out to your fellow cultural institutions, nonprofits, or education organizations—particularly those in your region or state—as they likely share your concerns and can be resources for strategizing what local and state advocacy might look like. If you belong to other national associations, which may have state affiliates, you can plug into their advocacy efforts.
- Communicate what you are doing. In addition to your elected officials, your members, community partners, funders, and the larger public should all know how you’re being impacted, how you’re responding, and what support you’re requesting from Federal, state, and local governments. Reach them through email, social media, or other virtual platforms.
Federal Advocacy Efforts in the United States
Five bills supporting U.S. relief and recovery efforts have already been signed into law (see below for an overview), and the next Federal relief package is currently under development and deliberation. On May 15, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act or the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (H.R. 6800), which indicates the priorities of House Democratic leadership. The Republican-led Senate is likely to release its proposal for the next Federal relief package during the week of July 20. Members of Congress will need to move quickly if they want to pass a bill before the August recess, which begins August 3 for the House and August 10 for the Senate.
Science and technology center and museum advocates should continue to engage their members of Congress to lift up our community’s needs. For example, the HEROES Act addresses some of the implementation issues of the CARES Act small business loan programs, but it only included $5 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and does not address some of other concerns that we’ve been hearing from the ASTC community.
ASTC continues to advocate on behalf of its members, working with other museum associations and science engagement stakeholders. Please contact email@example.com if there are questions we can answer or concerns that we can help with.
Federal COVID-19 Relief Legislation Passed To Date
- June 5: The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (PPPFA) makes several changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
- April 24: The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act replenished two of the small business loan programs authorized by the CARES Act—the PPP and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program—with an additional $484 billion as the original funds were quickly exhausted. The bill also provided funding for hospitals and for coronavirus testing.
- March 27: The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided cash payments to individual taxpayers, expanded unemployment benefits, established loan programs for small businesses, encouraged charitable giving, and appropriated funding for select Federal agencies. ASTC’s “Guidance for Business and Operations” provides additional information about the CARES Act small business loan programs. Learn more about the grants available via the CARES Act funding provided to IMLS and the Department of Education.
- March 18: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act offered support for individuals and families through the form of food and nutrition assistance, emergency leave for workers, coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, and funds for states to support unemployment benefits.
- March 6: An emergency funding bill provided $8.3 billion to treat and fight the spread of COVID-19.
Results of Collective Advocacy
- On August 6, a coalition of 205 chambers of commerce from all 50 states sent a letter to Congressional leadership requesting Federal funding and forgivable loans for the cultural and performing arts sectors. Chambers of commerce, which represent local business of all sizes and sectors, add a powerful voice to the museum community’s continued advocacy efforts.
- On May 29, 24 U.S. Senators sent a letter to Senate leadership requesting $2 billion for museums in the next federal COVID-19 relief and recovery legislation. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) was the original author and sponsor of the letter.
- On May 6, a coalition of 143 chambers of commerce sent a letter to Congressional leadership requesting Federal relief and funding for the cultural and performing arts sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic, including museums, aquariums, and zoos.
- On April 16, 88 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to House leadership to address concerns about the CARES Act. The letter closely reflects a set of joint asks sent by a coalition of nine museum associations, including ASTC, to House leadership on April 6. Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Fred Upton (R-MI) were the original authors and cosponsors of the letter.
- On March 23, a group of 10 Senators including Cory Booker (NJ), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Sherrod Brown (OH), Edward Markey (MA), Tammy Duckworth (IL), Robert Menendez (NJ), Tina Smith (MN), Chris Van Hollen (MD), and Ron Wyden (OR) sent a letter requesting that Senate leadership provide at least $1 billion for nonprofit museums, administered by IMLS in any forthcoming COVID-19 economic relief legislation. (Note: Wyden sent a letter of his own.) These letters drew on two previous museum coalition requests: the first on March 13 and the second on March 18.
Advocacy at the State and Local Levels
While much is rapidly changing at the state and local levels, it is beneficial to reach out to governors, state representatives, and city officials to put your institution and the broader community of science and technology centers and museums on their radar. In your outreach to state and local officials, you can inquire about actions currently in development and make suggestions for how museums might be involved.
Don’t forget to lift up the ways you continue to contribute to the well-being of your community—such as serving as emergency feeding sites, offering childcare, offering online learning for students whose schools have closed, communicating evidence-based science to the public, etc. This may open up additional funding possibilities and establish a deeper relationship to build on in the future.
Tools You Can Use:
- The National Conference of State Legislatures, the Tax Foundation, and Stateside, a government relations firm, are tracking and reporting actions by state legislatures, executive agencies, and governors.
- The National League of Cities is collecting and sharing actions taken by mayors and local leaders.
- The Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker provides a real-time picture of state, county, and metro-area indicators such as employment rates, consumer spending, and job postings across counties, industries, and income groups.
ASTC encourages its members to share with each other, and with us, news about what is emerging at the local level. We encourage you to use ASTC’s Advocacy and Public Policy Community of Practice to share any specific state-level resources or the messages that are resonating.
Example Social Media
Here are a few sample social media messages to get you started. Be sure to tag your elected officials! Find the Twitter handles for Members of Congress here.
- Science centers & museums are economic engines that employ workers & boost local economies. We face extreme hardship in the face of #COVID19. Support dedicated relief so we can continue our mission!
- #Museums are losing a $33 million a day due to closures as a result of #COVID19. Support our ask to Congress for relief so we can continue our missions for #sciengage & #STEMed!
- We are doing our part to prevent the spread of #coronavirus. Even if our doors are closed, we’re supporting this community by [insert example].
- Science centers & museums are among the nation’s most trusted institutions. We engage learners of all ages with #science. This work is critical for making evidence-based decisions & navigating crises like #COVID19.
- Science centers & #museums are among the nation’s most trusted institutions. The public trusts us to provide education on #COVID19 & fight #misinformation about its spread.
- #COVID19 emphasizes why it’s so important to build #communityscience literacy. Any new Federal scientific research should come with dedicated #sciengage funding!