Cuts could hit Chautauqua

The Ohio Humanities Council may be forced to make a few hard decisions if a funding bill in the U.S. House is passed.

That’s because many well-known initiatives – including the Ohio Chautauqua series, public broadcasting programs, children’s literacy programs and historical societies – may lose money as federal funding to the National Endowments for the Humanities faces a reduction of $71 million.

The Appropriations Committee sent its Fiscal Year 2014 Interior and Environment Bill to subcommittee last week.

In it, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities would each be appropriated $75 million, which is 49 percent less than in Fiscal Year 2013.

The cuts would in turn reduce grants to the Ohio Humanities Council.

“We are literally trying to wrap our heads around this number,” said Pat Williamsen, executive director of the Ohio Humanities Council. “What it means to local programs … we’re not quite sure yet. It is going to force us to make some very hard decisions.”

Through their grant making program, the Ohio Humanities Council awards between $250,000 and $275,000 to other nonprofits that in turn allows them to leverage their own funding.

The Ohio Chautauqua is a series that travels the state every summer featuring scholars who take on the roles of historic figures in an event that combines living history, entertainment and education. The scholars present monologues in character, and answer questions from the audience both in character and as themselves.

It has made frequent stops in Warren, most recently last summer. It is scheduled to return in summer 2014.

Among the reasons for the planned cuts, according to the bill, are that the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities can no longer serve the “core mission” of the federal government.

“Federal subsidies for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting can no longer be justified. The activities and content funded by these agencies go beyond the core mission of federal government,” an explanation of the bill reads.

Williamsen said this shows that the government is not well-informed of the organization’s purposes.

“When I look under the Ohio Chautauqua tent, I’m not seeing anybody driving $50,000 or $60,000 cars,” she said.

Williamsen said they are encouraging patrons to contact their local representatives to express their support of the humanities.

Other agencies would see cuts from 15 to 19 percent. The bill addresses everything from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the American Indian and Alaska Native Programs and the Environmental Protection Agency.

It includes $24.3 billion in base funding, which is a cut of $5.5 billion below the Fiscal Year 2013 enacted level and a cut of $4 billion below the current level caused by sequestration cuts.

“Simply put, this bill makes very difficult choices in an extremely tough budget environment,” said Interior Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson. “In order to fund critical ‘must-do’ priorities, like human health, public safety, and treaty obligations and responsibilities, we’ve had to reduce and even terminate some programs that are popular with both members of Congress and the American people.”