FY 2020 Federal Budget Boosts Funding for History Programs

This article originally appeared on the National Coalition for History website on December 18, 2019.

On December 17, the House of Representatives passed two bills (HR 1865 and HR 1158) which fund the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year 2020 (FY20). The Senate is expected to consider the bills on December 18 and President Trump is expected to sign them into law before federal funding authority expires on December 20.

Click here to access a chart showing how programs of interest to our community fared. It includes the budget for FY20 and compares it with FY19 and President Trump’s original FY 20 budget request. Click here to see a second chart that provides funding trends over the past three fiscal years to give some historical perspective. When viewed from that time frame, the numbers show a general upward trend, again with the exception of NARA.

Congress had already passed funding bills for some federal agencies by the start of the fiscal year on October 1, 2019. Across the board, history, archival and education programs were either level funded or received small increases. This should be considered a major victory, since the president had proposed eliminating the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and other programs.

Here are the highlights:

  • The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)received only $359 million for operating expenses a $14 million reduction from FY 19. Two years ago, NARA’s OE budget was $385 million. NCH will be focusing its advocacy efforts in 2020 on reversing this trend.  $22 million of NARA’s OE budget is earmarked for a project to increase digitization capabilities at Archives II. $2 million is designated to fund the Civil Rights Cold Case Review Board which has languished because of a lack of funding.
  • The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), which the president had targeted for elimination, received a $500,000 increase up to $6.5 million.
  • The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) received $162.5 million, a $7.5 million increase from the FY 19 level of $155 million. The Trump administration had sought to eliminate both the NEH and National Endowment for the Arts in its FY 20 request to Congress.
  • K-12 history and civics programs at the Department of Education: Despite President Trump’s threat to eliminate them, federal K-12 history and civics programs were level funded. The Presidential and Congressional Academies for American History and Civics received $1.8 million and the American History and Civics grants program received $3 million, for a total of $4.8 million.
  • The Title VI/Fulbright-Hays International Education programs received modest increases. Title VI (domestic programs) was increased from $65 million to $68 million. Fulbright-Hays (overseas programs) was increased by $1 million, up to $8 million. Together the programs received $76 million. While $4 million is not a significant amount, it does mark the first time these programs have received any increase in almost a decade. Both programs had been targeted for elimination by the administration.
  • The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)received a $10 million funding boost up to $252 million. Library Programs were increased by $6.2 million ($195.4 million total) and Museum Programs by $3.8 million ($38.5 million total). This is another agency the president had targeted for elimination.
  • The National Park Services’ Historic Preservation Fund will receive $118.6 million this fiscal year, a $16 million increase over FY 19. Within this amount $52.6 million is provided for grants to States and $13.7 is provided for grants to Tribes. The bill also includes $18 million for competitive grants to document, interpret, and preserve historical sites associated with the Civil Rights Movement. The bill includes $10 million for competitive grants to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and $16 million for the Save America’s Treasures competitive grant program for the preservation of nationally significant sites, structures, and artifacts. The bill includes $21.9 million for the Heritage Partnership Program and provides $7.5 million for preservation grants to revitalize historic properties of national, State, and local significance in order to restore, protect, and foster economic development of rural villages and downtown areas. The American Battlefield Protection Program received a $3 million increase up to a level of $13 million. The Interior bill allocates $3.3 million to the US Semiquincentennial Commission which is finalizing its report to the president making recommendations on commemorating the United States 250th anniversary in 2026.
  • The Library of Congress received a $28.9 million increase up to $725 million for FY 20.
  • The Smithsonian Institution received a $4 million increase up to $1.047 billion. There was a shift of priorities with the Salaries and Expenses budget increased by $53.7 million ($793.6 million total) and a reduction of $49.8 million (253.7 million total) in the Facilities Capital budget.
  • The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars received $14 million, a $2 million increase from last year.