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Foundation Matters

Congressional Support for Preservation During the Pandemic

Posted: June 11, 2020

HCF President and CEO Winslow Hastie and Chief Advocacy Officer Cashion Drolet (pictured above) traveled to Washington, DC in early March (just a few days in advance of the stay-at-home orders being issued) to participate in National Historic Preservation Advocacy Week, as we do every year. For many years, Winslow has served as the State Coordinator for South Carolina, helping to assemble a variety of advocates from around the state to push a compelling narrative on Capitol Hill about the power of preservation. We met with the offices of Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott and Congressmen Jim Clyburn and Joe Cunningham to lobby them on new legislation important to preservation and to update them on preservation activities in Charleston. Specifically, we advocated for full funding for the Historic Preservation Fund, the Historic Tax Credit Growth and Opportunity (HTC-GO) Act and the Great American Outdoors Act. Additionally, we asked our House delegation to join the Historic Preservation Caucus.

However, only a few days after returning from Washington, DC, the country changed dramatically; business-as-usual ceased as stay-at-home orders were issued and our nation shut down to stop the spread of the pandemic. The work of Congress, too, pivoted to passage of major legislation to respond to the pandemic, fund health care, and stabilize the economy. By mid-March, Congress approved two legislative packages that provided emergency funding for federal agencies and developed domestic and international response to the pandemic.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748), the third legislative pandemic response package, was signed into law on March 27th and included $2.2 trillion in funds to address many of our nation’s needs in our current health and economic emergency. This legislation provides essential funding and programs to begin our nation’s recovery. However, it is important to note that the CARES Act also provided much-needed funding for the non-profit sector, including the arts and humanities. This funding is vital in supporting a sector of the economy that also has been operating in a state of economic crisis due to loss of revenue from closures, event cancellations, and a general decline in charitable contributions.

Specifically, the CARES Act includes the following provisions positively impacting the non-profit sector:

Historic Charleston Foundation is grateful to Congress for including these important measures in the CARES Act. We believe strongly that organizations dedicated to cultural and historic resources play a vital role in communities and will be an important part of our nation’s economic recovery. However, the work of Congress has not ceased in the COVID response arena, and HCF is working hard with our advocacy partners in DC to ensure that organizations dedicated to cultural and historic resources remain part of the conversation and are appropriately prioritized in the future stimulus legislation.

Recently, HCF signed onto a letter, along with 379 preservation organizations from across the country, to respectfully request additional investments in certain programs to catalyze the economic recovery of non-profit organizations, small businesses, and the arts and culture sector, while protecting historic and cultural resources.

The letter makes the following asks of Congress:

Congress is expected to pass additional stimulus legislation this summer. However, exactly what that package will include and when it will start moving is unclear. That’s why it is important for HCF to go on record with our partner organizations in sending our letter to Congress to make our requests clear and remain engaged in the conversation.

Further, we are working proactively with our friends at the National Trust for Historic Preservation to set up virtual meetings with key members of the South Carolina Congressional delegation and their staff in the coming weeks to discuss the important role that historic preservation plays in our communities and our preparedness to play a role in our nation’s economic recovery. HCF believes strongly in the effectiveness of our federal advocacy work and directing federal investment into protecting historic and cultural resources locally and beyond.

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