Thursday, August 19, 2021

Side by side photos - a person with long dark hair wearing a red and turquoise blazer in front of the US and New Mexico flags, and a person with short dark hair wearing a suit and tie in front of the US flag.

On Friday, August 13, 2021, U.S. Reps. Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM) and Jay Obernolte (R-CA) (co-leads) introduced the Creative Economy Revitalization Act (CERA) along with Ted Lieu (D-CA), Rosa Delauro (D-CT), and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) (original co-sponsors). 

CERA, a bipartisan bill, was introduced with over 175 endorsements from interest groups including the arts-related unions within the AFL-CIO, the American Planning Association, Transportation for America/SmartGrowth America, the National Alliance of Community and Economic Development Associations, the Freelancers Union, the Creative Economy Coalition, the Get Creative Workers Working Coalition, and Americans for the Arts. It authorizes $300 million via a new granting program that will mitigate creative worker displacement, stimulate local creative workforce growth, strengthen connections for local creative small businesses and networks, create a pipeline for new creative jobs, enrich communities, increase access to culture, and invest in creative workers and local economies harmed by COVID-19. 

This new grant program is proposed to be housed and administered at the Department of Labor, with advice and collaboration from the National Endowment for the Arts. The grants will go to local, state, and tribal agencies, workforce investment boards, and public or private nonprofit entities who can hire local creative workers and produce publicly available creative projects that meet local needs and priorities. These projects can include public artworks, festivals, performances, written works, anthologies and narrative collection from first responders and historically marginalized communities, and arts education work. 

“I grew up with musicos and poetas coming in and out of our family home. Through art, I gained pride in my identity and an understanding and appreciation for other cultures,” said Leger Fernández. “In a time when our nation is so divided, we desperately need to be reminded of what makes our communities beautiful and diverse. This bill will provide grants to help fund projects that bring communities back together and remind us of what binds us together as Americans.” 

“The arts have long been a staple of our culture in the High Desert, Eastern Sierra, and Inland Empire,” said Obernolte. “As we come together to build back our economies, we must pay special attention to our artists and the industries that were hurt most by the pandemic. Our small and local artists tell the stories of our communities. Their role in bringing us together is more important now than ever.”

During the COVID-19 crisis, creative workers were greatly displaced. At the height of the pandemic, two-thirds of all creative workers (2.7 million people) were completely unemployed, and in August 2021 the unemployment rate of the sector remains 3 to 4 times the national rate. Creative economy jobs dropped by 53% between the end of 2019 and the middle of 2020, and have only recovered about half of that to date. The emergence of new variants of COVID-19 continues to threaten the fragile, partial re-opening of the creative sector that has begun. CERA seeks to employ artists/creatives and strengthen local economies by incentivizing investment in civic infrastructure fueled by creative workers and a recovering creative workforce.

CERA was developed in collaboration with many partners in the creative economy including the Get Creative Workers Working coalition, which is made up of 200 local, state, and federal cultural organizations and agencies. The coalition produced a policy platform from which some of the CERA language was adapted and which has been endorsed by over 2,300 creative economy partners. Americans for the Arts is proud to be part of that coalition.

“Americans for the Arts, in partnership with the nation’s 4,500 local arts agencies, 56 state arts agencies, 5.2 million creative workers and the state arts alliances that advocate for them, endorses this bill to invest in the creative economy,” says Americans for the Arts President and CEO Nolen V. Bivens. “Supporting creative workers makes strong business sense as the arts drive economic and community transformation in American cities and towns. The arts are a national asset, and our country thrives because artists and creative workers are a part of the collective workforce helping our citizens recover and grow from the trauma of COVID-19 and racial inequity, restart stalled local economies, and reimagine our shared way forward.”

Advocates can use our E-alert on the CERA bill to quickly contact their members of Congress to request they join on to the legislation as a Co-Sponsor. 

To find out more about the Creative Economy Revitalization Act, including what you can do to help secure its passage into law, please visit

Pictured: Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández (left) and Rep. Jay Obernolte.