Updates on the DCLA Budget Hearing

Dear Members,

Last Tuesday, June 30th, Mayor DeBlasio and the City Council, led by Speaker Corey Johnson, agreed on an FY 21 budget, which was voted on by the Council that evening in a lengthy live-streamed vote.

Two challenges that both governing bodies faced were:

  • Addressing the rising expenses facing the City due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, which left the City's FY 20 budget with a $9 Billion deficit.
  • Responding to demands from the Council and City-wide protests to cut $1 Billion from the Police Department.

The Mayor and the City Council were not able to come to a full agreement on these issues; as a result, the announcement of the budget deal was not followed by the traditional "handshake" between the Mayor and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. Instead, the Mayor and the Council held separate press conferences.

Below are the highlights of the budget followed by details on the cuts to the Department of Cultural Affairs. For more information read the New York Times Article


  • Since taking office in 2014, the Mayor has increased the city budget by $19 Billion and added 30,000 jobs.

  • To help balance the budget, the Mayor borrowed $4 Billion from the City's reserves. Given the future budget projections by financial watchdogs, this was seen as a controversial step.

  • If the Federal government does not come to the aid of NYC, the Mayor will have to cut 22,000 jobs in the next fiscal year.

Highlights of the Passed Budget 

  • The restoration of $100 million for the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP);
  • Across the board budget cuts to all City Agencies;
  • Reduced trash pickup;
  • The elimination of overnight service on the Staten Island Ferry.

Details on the DCLA Budget 

Based on our initial review, the FY 21 Adopted Budget for the Department of Cultural Affairs included approximately $23M less for DCLA than was included in the FY20 adopted budget for cultural programs and the Cultural Institutions Group.
Cuts to cultural programs included the following:
  • The Cultural Development Fund Grant program was cut by nearly at least $9M. (We are waiting to learn how these cuts will be applied.)
  • The Cultural Institutions Groups (CIGs) were cut by approximately $15.5M.
  • The NYC Council Cultural After School Adventure Initiative (CASA) was cut by approximately $3M.
  • The NYC Council Cultural Immigrant Initiative was cut by approximately $1M.
  • The NYC Council SU-CASA Initiative (programming for seniors) was cut by approximately $2M.
  • The Subway Performer Program was eliminated.
  • The Energy Subsidy Program for Non-CIGS was reduced by approximately $625K.
  • In addition, approximately $15.5M was cut from the Department of Education’s budget for Arts Education program.
Approximately $20M was included in the FY21 adopted budget for DCLA but has not yet been allocated to specific programs. This funding will likely be used to offset some of the cuts to the Cultural Development Fund Grant program and the members of the Cultural Institutions Group.
On Monday, both DCLA Commissioner Gonzalo Casals & Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer were on the [email protected] 

While DCLA sustained cuts, CM Van Bramer explained that the Baseline of DCLA was held. The 15% reduction to DCLA came from the $23.5M that had been added over the years by the City Council. In addition, both CM Van Bramer and Commissioner Casals highlighted that there were no cuts to the Coalition of Theatres of Color Initiative in the FY21 adopted budget, a testament to the organizing power of New York City’s cultural organizations.

CM Van Bramer called DOE Chancellor Richard Carranza to discuss the cuts to the DOE and CASA program. They are committed to ensuring that BIPOC children are served through CASA: details on this program will be worked out. DCLA will work hard to release these funds as soon as needed.

We need to be prepared for the mid-year budget modification when further cuts to all agencies can be enacted.

Commissioner Casals thanked Jimmy for his incredible support and advocacy for DCLA. He also thanked all of the activists on the call.

As difficult as it will be to adjust to these cuts, this budget is a testament to you and your advocacy, not only for the arts but for social justice. As someone who has been doing this for a long time, I am truly humbled by all you accomplished. Advocating virtually via Zoom was a tremendous challenge that you mastered and overcame! Bravo to everyone who testified during the 8 hour City Council Hearings, who submitted testimony, and who asked your audience to advocate as well!

I want to thank our team at Cozen O’Connor for all their work and help with this analysis. Thank you to my dear friends and colleagues who agreed to testify on my behalf on May 21st: Board Member José Cheo Oliveras of Teatro Círculo, Sade Lythcott, and Jonathan McCrory of National Black Theatre and Board Member Deadria Harrington of the Movement Theatre Company who testified on June 23rd. And thank you to our Interim Director of a Development, Melissa Sandor, for her notes on the [email protected] Calls.

Ginny Louloudes 

Executive Director

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