Action Alert: Bond Bill to Support the Creative Economy's Recovery

Update: Testimony for this bill is now closed. 

MASSCreative encourages individuals and organizations to submit testimony on House Bill 4529, An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth.

The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies held a virtual hearing on bill H.4529 on Friday, June 26. Testimony on this bill will be accepted through Wednesday July 1 at 5pm. 

Governor Baker filed HB.4529 in early March, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic hit Massachusetts.  As a result much of the bill focuses on pre-COVID-19 priorities.  We expect that the bill will go through significant changes during the legislative process. 

We urge all arts and cultural organizations, artists and culture workers, and culture and arts supporters to submit testimony demonstrating the vital role the creative sector plays to the overall economic well-being of the Commonwealth and ask that provisions that support the economic recovery of the Creative Economy be included in the bill.

House Bill 4529, An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth is a bond bill. Bond bills allow the state to borrow money to fund projects. They are different from the annual budget or supplemental budgets that are allocating state revenues that have already been raised or are expected to be raised by tax collection. 

What is a Hearing?

One of the steps in the legislative process is a hearing of the bill by a committee assigned by the Legislature. Committees are assigned bills based on the content and focus of the bill. During a hearing the committee hears testimony from individuals and organizations supporting or opposing the legislation. 

Once the committee has held a hearing, they will recommend the next step for the bill. Next steps can include:

  • Report the bill favorably out of committee - the bill will continue along the legislative process.
  • Report the bill unfavorably out of committee - the bill will not continue.
  • Report the bill to a study - the bill will mostly likely not continue.
  • File an extension - the committee will take more time to decide on the bill's future.

What is Testimony?

Testimony is a written or oral statement expressing support or opposition to a bill. Good testimony includes a well reasoned argument supporting your position that includes specific facts related to the bill. This statement is made to the members of the committee and is different than writing to your specific elected official because only the members of the committee will decide 

What should your testimony include? 

See MASSCreative's submitted testimony

For this bill we encourage including some recommendations on how to include the arts and culture sector’s needs in the bill, including:

  • A COVID-19 Creative Industries Relief Fund for nonprofit arts and cultural organizations.
  • Ensure Massachusetts Unemployment Assistance continues to include 1099/ “gig economy” workers especially for those industries that are unable to reopen at full capacity for the next 12 - 16 months. 
  • As workforce development programs are launched and expanded, ensure artists, cultural workers, arts administrators and creative professionals are eligible.
  • Consider incentives such as tax credits that draw and retain creative business in Massachusetts.
  • Create a COVID-19 loan program with extended repayment terms and forgivable provisions for-profit arts and cultural organizations.
  • Include loan programs, with forgivable terms, for organizations that do not qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program due to the number of W-2 employees. 

Here are some relevant points regarding House Bill 4529, An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth:

The Arts and Culture Sector is integral to the financial recovery of the Commonwealth

The cultural sector creates jobs, revitalizes communities, and fuels tourism across the Commonwealth. In order to fully recover from the pandemic, the Massachusetts economy needs arts and culture.

  • Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations spend $1.5 billion annually.*
  • Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations generate $877 million in indirect spending to restaurants, retail and other businesses by visitors annually.*
  • In 2018 the Arts, Entertainment and Recreation sector employed 63, people on average each month.**
    • This totaled $2.5 billion in compensation annually.**

*Data courtesy of Mass Cultural Council’s 2020 Case Statement

**Data courtesy of The MA Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development

Examples to share: 

  • In the Berkshires, tourism - generated by cultural anchors like MASS MoCA, Tanglewood and Jacob’s Pillow - is the third largest sector of the economy.
  • In Springfield, Worcester, Lynn and Salem large scale public art projects including Fresh Paint Springfield, PowWow Worcester, Beyond Walls and the Punto Urban Art Museum have revitalized downtowns by attracting visitors and residents who experience these cities in new ways and support local small businesses. 
  • Cultural districts on Cape Cod, New Bedford, Fall River and Gloucester power an ecosystem of local businesses by attracting visitors and residents who then shop, eat and play in the district.

COVID-19 Has Financially Decimated the Creative Sector

While cultural activity plays an invaluable role in sustaining our state’s economic well-being and is a crucial part of our long-term recovery, our sector has been hit extremely hard by COVID-19 and the related economic downturn.

As of April 15th, the Mass Cultural Council had surveyed nearly 700 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in the Commonwealth as well as artists, culture workers and creative professionals. 

  • Over a quarter of a billion dollars in revenue has been  lost since the beginning of the pandemic.*
  • More than 15,000 cultural workers were laid off, furloughed, or forced to work reduced hours.*
  • 91% of all respondents report cancelling programming and events, and 95% of organizations with facilities report closing their facility to the public.*
  • Additionally, in a report on the early impacts of COVID-19 from March 16 -22, the Mass Cultural Council reported that individual artists, culture workers and teaching artists had lost more than $2.89 million in personal income.

*Data Courtesy of the Mass Cultural Council.

Massachusetts Reopening Plan will Exacerbate the Arts and Cultural Sector’s Financial Crisis

To make matters worse, cultural organizations are among the last to reopen according to Governor Baker’s phased plan. Many arts and culture groups operate on tight margins with little or no cash reserves. The prolonged closures and reduced contributed revenue mean many arts and culture organizations will not survive.

If the vibrancy and diversity of the arts and cultural sector is not included in the Commonwealth’s economic recovery plans Massachusetts will lose a significant part of its economic strength and our recovery will be protracted. We implore the Committee to add provisions that stimulate the Commonwealth’s creative sector and ensure our overall economic recovery is possible.

Testimony Tips

  • Address testimony to the Senate and House Chairs of the Committee:

The Honorable Eric P. Lesser
Senate Chair, Joint Committee on
Economic Development and Emerging Technologies
24 Beacon Street
Room 410
Boston, MA 02133

The Honorable Ann-Margaret Ferrante
House Chair, Joint Committee on
Economic Development and Emerging Technologies
254 Beacon Street
Room 42
Boston, MA 02133

  • Include your name, address and contact information. If you are writing on behalf of an organization, share a bit about the organization.
  • Testimony is due by Wednesday July 1, 2020 at 5pm
  • Send us a copy of your testimony
    • It helps our government affairs team to know who submitted testimony and any specific examples or arguments included.
    • Testimony can be emailed to Emily Ruddock, [email protected]


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