The Creative Economy Revitalization Act (CERA), a new bipartisan bill that was introduced in August and brought before the Senate last Wednesday, will bring $300 million to workers in the creative economy if it is passed. CERA was first conceived of by New Mexico Democrat Representative Teresa Leger Fernández and California Republican Representative Jay Obernolte to address the job losses suffered in the arts and cultural sector.
CERA would be enacted through the Department of Labor and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Act would provide funds for both job creation and public art, Leger Fernández explained in an interview. CERA is a grant program, where artists and other creative workers can apply for funds.
There are two eligible categories for CERA grants, according to the bill. One is “Creative Workers,” which includes “backstage or behind-the-scenes staff” and other support staff, as well as visual and performing artists, writers, directors, and more. The other is “Arts and Creative Workforce Programs,” which must provide publicly available arts programming and employ workers from the region in which a given grant proposal is based.
CERA was inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1933-39 New Deal. As part of Federal Project Number One, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) comissioned artists, writers, and creatives for programs across the U.S. In an email, Leger Fernández wrote that, “This pandemic has devastated our creative workers and we must engage them to create art that unites and brings joy to our communities.”
CERA would be an important part of not just the individual recovery of artists and creative workers, but a key part of American economic health. The year before the pandemic hit, art and cultural production brought in $919.7 billion, or 4.3% of gross domestic product, according to the National Assembly of States Arts Agencies. This is more revenue than construction, transportation and warehousing, travel and tourism, mining, utilities, and agriculture industries contribute to the national economy.
A key principle of Federal Project Number One stated that “the arts, no less than business, agriculture, and labor, are and should be the immediate concern of the ideal commonwealth,” and that sentiment from nearly 90 years ago still holds true today.