American Rescue Plan Grants to Organizations: Frequently Asked Questions
Our organization is thinking about applying to the Arts Endowment for Rescue Plan funding. We might also have questions about the application process and other requirements. Can we contact Arts Endowment staff?
Yes, please contact us! We understand that applying for federal funding and managing a grant can be a significant undertaking. Our staff strives to ensure that all applicants, including those who are entirely new to the Arts Endowment application process, receive the support they need. We welcome the opportunity to connect with you.
Contact us with your questions.
If you have a question about access for individuals with disabilities:
Contact the Office of Accessibility at 202-682-5532 / firstname.lastname@example.org or the Office of Civil Rights at email@example.com to request an accommodation or an alternate format of the guidelines.
Technical Assistance Resources
We want the application process to be as easy as possible. We are developing many technical assistance resources, including webinars, tutorials, application check lists, a list of common application mistakes, and other materials. See the Application Resources section of the Grants to Organizations and Grants to Local Arts Agencies for Subgranting guidelines for more information.
Our organization has never applied to or received a grant from the Arts Endowment. Can we apply for Arts Endowment Rescue Plan funding?
Yes, and welcome. To allow for greater access to federal funding and reach a broad constituency, eligible applicants for Rescue Plan funding are not limited to previous Arts Endowment grantees (as was the case in previous emergency funding programs). Organizations must meet some basic eligibility requirements to apply for funding. See here for more information: Grants to Organizations Eligibility and Grants to Local Arts Agencies for Subgranting Eligibility.
My organization is relatively small. Can we still apply?
Yes. We encourage applications from organizations of all sizes, including organizations with small-sized operating budgets.
In fact, we encourage applications from a variety of eligible organizations including: organizations that serve populations that are underserved such as those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by ethnicity, economics, geography, or disability; organizations with small and medium-sized budgets; organizations from rural to urban communities; and organizations that may be applying for federal support through the Arts Endowment for the first time.
What do you mean by “small-sized” or “medium-sized” organizations?
We encourage applications from a variety of eligible organizations. The guidelines do not specifically define “small-sized” or “medium-sized” as these terms can mean different things in different places around the country (e.g., geographic location of an organization, artistic discipline, etc.).
For example, different organizations with the same operating budget size may be considered small, medium, or large depending on where the organization is located. Rescue Plan application reviewers should be able to understand your organization within its own unique environment. In the Organization Information area of the application you’ll be able to describe the mission, history, and background of your organization, as well as provide information about your organization’s budget. This information will help the reviewers better understand your organization.
My organization received CARES Act funding from the Arts Endowment. Are we eligible to apply for Rescue Plan funding?
Yes. Eligible organizations that received CARES Act funding from the Arts Endowment may apply to either of our Rescue Plan programs as long as there are no overlapping costs. For example, we can’t support the same costs during the same period of time with two different grants.
Can our organization apply for Arts Endowment Rescue Plan funding and also apply for other federal stimulus programs offered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) or other federal agencies?
Yes. Organizations are eligible to apply for Arts Endowment Rescue Plan funding even if they have applied for and/or received funding from other federal agencies, provided the organization isn't double-claiming any costs. For example, grantees will be required to keep documentation to show which employees are being paid from each funding source so that the federal government isn't paying more than 100 percent of a salary during the same period of time. Contact the other federal agencies directly with questions about their programs as we are unable to provide guidance on programs other than our own.
Can our organization apply to other Arts Endowment funding opportunities in addition to one of the Rescue Plan programs?
Yes, as long as there is no overlap in costs or activities. An organization may have more than one active Arts Endowment grant at a time, but you must be careful not to charge the same costs to multiple grants that have overlapping grant periods. If you have an active grant, a pending application, or plan to apply at any of our other funding opportunities this year, be sure to exclude from your Rescue Plan application any costs or activities that will be covered in those other grants/applications. You must also meet the eligibility requirements for the other funding program.
The guidelines say that organizations must have a three-year history of arts programming before the application deadline. Our organization’s programming has been disrupted due to the pandemic. How do we account for this in the application?
Examples of your organization’s arts programming do not have to be from consecutive years or seasons. We know that most organization’s programming activities have been disrupted due to the pandemic. As a result, it’s OK to list programming from a recent year other than 2020 or 2021. You may also list 2020 or 2021 arts programming that was cancelled or reimagined due to the pandemic. Virtual programming, planning, and COVID-19 recovery activities are all considered to be arts programming.
For applicants to the Local Arts Agencies Subgranting program, subgranting or other grantmaking activities may be listed in place of arts programming.
Our organization is not an arts organization. How do we know if our arts programming is appropriate and fulfills the three-year history requirement for eligibility?
Applicants must have a three-year history of arts programming prior to the application deadline. For non-arts organizations (e.g., universities, human services, etc.) describe any arts programs or services that you provide. For example, a YMCA could describe its arts instruction program. You will have an opportunity in the application to describe how your programming is arts-related. Only one example of arts programming per year is required, and programming is not required to have taken place during consecutive years.
Our organization is a local arts agency. Which Rescue Plan funding program do we apply for, and can we apply to both programs?
Eligible local arts agencies may apply to the Grants to Organizations program for general operating support OR to the Grants to Local Arts Agencies for Subgranting program. The same organization cannot apply to both programs.
Different eligibility requirements and allowable costs apply to each program. Read the guidelines carefully to determine which program is the best fit for your organization. Local arts agencies that are not eligible under the Subgranting program may be eligible to apply for their own operations under the Grants to Organizations program.
Local arts agencies that apply to the Rescue Plan’s Grants to Organizations program may not use those funds to subgrant.
This chart outlines some of the key differences between the two programs. Contact us if you aren’t sure which program is the best fit for your local arts agency.
For local arts agencies:
Rescue Plan Grants to Organizations
Rescue Plan Grants to Local Arts Agencies for Subgranting
Allowed to subgrant Rescue Plan funds
Allowed to include eligible costs for own operations
YES (up to $50,000)
Must have prior grantmaking experience to be eligible
Must have official designation from local government to operate on its behalf as an LAA
Must have 3 years of arts programming history prior to the application deadline
Must have a history of grantmaking between July 22, 2011 and now
How to Apply
How do I apply for Rescue Plan funding?
Submitting an application is a multi-step process. For Part 1, you will submit a brief form to Grants.gov. For Part 2, you will fill out a web form in the Arts Endowment’s Applicant Portal. Grants.gov and the Applicant Portal are two separate systems. Read the funding guidelines for information about application deadlines.
What do I need to know about Grants.gov and SAM?
Before submitting to Grants.gov, your organization must register or renew/verify its registration with both Grants.gov and the System for Award Management (SAM). These registrations can take several weeks. If your organization is thinking of applying for Rescue Plan funds, start the registration process as soon as possible. Registering with these systems is always FREE.
To help reduce burden, there will be a 180-day extension for existing SAM registrations that have expiration dates ranging between April 1, 2021, and September 30, 2021. This effort is intended as relief for those otherwise required to re-register during that timeframe. This does not impact entities registering with SAM for the first time.
Contact Grants.gov or SAM directly if you have questions:
- Grants.gov Contact Center: Call 1-800-518-4726, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or consult the information posted on the Grants.gov website at Support. The Grants.gov Contact Center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- SAM Federal Service Desk: Call 1-866-606-8220 or see the information posted on the SAM website at SAM Help.
My organization programs activities in multiple artistic disciplines, which Organization discipline should I select on the application form?
If your organization has a particular discipline that you primarily work in, for example dance, but occasionally presents additional programming in other disciplines, such as film screenings or visual arts, we recommend that you select the organizational discipline that represents the majority of your work.
If your organization regularly presents or produces work across multiple disciplines throughout the year/season, select Presenting & Multidisciplinary Works.
If your organization normally presents work in person, but has pivoted to virtual programming due to the pandemic, select the organizational discipline that relates to your normal, in-person operations. Do not select Media Arts if you are only utilizing video as a means to present or produce due to the pandemic.
We missed the application deadline. Can I submit a late application?
We do not accept late applications. Exceptions to the deadline will be considered only for registration or renewal issues that are the result of failures on the part of DUNS, SAM, Grants.gov, or an NEA system as determined by the Arts Endowment.
We will not make exceptions for applications that are the result of user error, including failure to register in SAM.gov or to verify that your application was successfully submitted to the Grants.gov system. The Arts Endowment is under no obligation to accept applications that are late for these reasons.
Will you contact me if my application is missing anything?
No. Because of the volume of applications, we have a strict approach to incomplete applications. For your application to be considered complete, every item that is required MUST be included in your application package, which must be submitted no later than the application deadline date. Staff will not contact applicants to request missing material. Use the "How to Apply" instructions to make sure that you have included every item. Have the completeness and accuracy of your application package double-checked by a staff member who understands the importance of this task. We can’t stress this enough: Do not wait until the day of the deadline to submit! We suggest setting an internal application deadline for your organization that is 24-48 hours before the actual application deadline to give yourself time to resolve anything unexpected.
If my application is determined to be incomplete, may I add the missing item(s) and resubmit the application?
No. Arts Endowment staff will have to check thousands of applications. By the time that an application is identified as incomplete, it will likely be several weeks after the application deadline. An organization cannot add missing items and resubmit the application after the application deadline. We encourage you to double-check your application package against the "How to Apply" instructions to make sure that nothing is missing.
How will my application be reviewed?
All applications are reviewed by advisory panels made up of diverse groups of citizens from around the country. They evaluate your application based on the Review Criteria published in the guidelines. Panel recommendations are shared with the National Council on the Arts, which then makes recommendations to the Arts Endowment’s Chairman. The Chairman reviews the Council’s recommendations and makes the final decision on all grant awards.
See here for the Grants to Organizations Review Criteria OR see here for the Grants to Locals Arts Agencies for Subgranting Review Criteria.
What do you mean by “artistic excellence” and “artistic merit” in the application Review Criteria?
Our legislation requires that applications be reviewed through the lens of artistic excellence and artistic merit. We have defined these terms in the Application Review section of the guidelines so you know exactly what panelists will be looking for when they review your application. Keep the Review Criteria in mind when you are preparing your application.
Will grants be awarded on a “first come, first served” basis?
No. Grants will NOT be awarded on a “first come, first served” basis. See the Application Review section of the guidelines to learn more about application review.
How competitive are the Rescue Plan funding programs?
We anticipate a large number of applications for Rescue Plan funding. We recognize that the financial needs of the field far outweigh the available funds that will be awarded through these programs. We anticipate making approximately 800 awards in the Grants to Organizations program. We anticipate making approximately 80 awards in the Grants to Local Arts Agencies for Subgranting program.
You may also want to explore our other grant opportunities available this year.
I applied for a CARES Act grant last year, can I receive panel feedback to help me prepare my Rescue Plan application?
No. Due to the large number of applications received, feedback for CARES Act applications is not available.
How do I decide which grant amount to request?
Panelists will evaluate applications based on the review criteria, which includes the applicant’s ability to carry out the proposal. To that end, you’ll want to keep your organization’s size and internal capacity in mind when selecting one of the allowable grant amounts and crafting your application.
We do not have a formula in place based on your annual organizational budget that determines how much you can or should request. Selecting a grant amount is solely the decision of the applicant.
Allowable grant amounts are:
- For the Grants to Organizations program: $50,000, $100,000 or $150,000
- For the Grants to Local Arts Agencies for Subgranting program: $150,000, $200,000, or $250,000
We do not have a set quota for how many grants will be distributed at each level. Additionally, panelists will not be directed to give preference based on the funding tier selected.
As we are encouraging proposals from both new and returning applicants, and from organizations of all sizes, we anticipate receiving a large number of applications. We are expecting to award approximately 800 grants in the Grants to Organizations program, and approximately 80 grants in the Grants to Local Arts Agencies for Subgranting program.
\When choosing a grant amount, applicants to the Grants to Local Arts Agencies for Subgranting program should also consider other factors such as their organizational mission, potential applicant pool, and any unique characteristics of their communities. Out of the Arts Endowment’s fixed-amount grant, Local Art Agency applicants may request up to $50,000 to support their own eligible operating costs associated with administering the subgranting program.
Both Local Arts Agencies and organizations may use an award over a two-year period.
Will I receive less than the amount requested?
Proposals will not be partially funded. If recommended for funding, an applicant will receive the exact amount of their request. For example, if you request $100,000, you will either be recommended for an award of $100,000 or not recommended for funding at all.
Do the Rescue Plan funding programs require a cost share or match?
No. These grants do not require a cost share or match. The application budget form will only ask you to list costs/expenses. Your expenses should add up to exactly the grant amount you are requesting, and should not include costs that will be paid for by other sources.
Do jobs supported through the Rescue Plan have to be new jobs?
No. Rescue Plan funds may be used by an organization to support existing jobs, new jobs, or to restore jobs that were furloughed or eliminated due the pandemic.
The guidelines describe the allowable costs for each program. Is one type of cost preferred over another?
No. The guidelines describe the allowable costs as being “limited to any or all of the following…” One type of cost isn’t preferred over another. It’s up to your organization to choose which cost(s) to include in the budget, and to make the case in the application as to why they are important in relation to the application Review Criteria. Think about where the funds may make the most impact for your organization, or fill a gap that is not currently being funded through other sources.
Can our application focus on just one allowable cost?
Yes. For example, you can submit an application that solely focuses on salaries for staff positions. Allowable costs for each Rescue Plan program are listed in the application guidelines.
Can I include development or fundraising costs?
You may, but only the costs directly related to the administration of this grant. Salaries or stipends covering general fundraising/development activities for the organization are not allowable.
Rescue Plan funds are for specific general operating costs only, what is the difference between a project-based grant and a general operating grant?
While Rescue Plan funds may support work that goes into programmatic activity, these grants are not project-based. In a project-based grant, all of the costs must relate to the execution of a specific project. In an operations-based grant, eligible costs are not tied to a specific project. For example, you may include staff salaries for your curatorial team, as well as artist fees/stipends for teaching artists in your education department, even if these people will not be working together on the same activities. Similarly, fees/stipends for artists and/or contractual personnel must support the services they provide for specific activities as part of organizational operations.
In all cases, staff positions funded by this program may not conduct work independent of the organization receiving funds.
In the Grants to Organizations program, how can artist fees/stipends be incorporated?
Artist fees/stipends are allowable only as part of organizational operations. If you are including artist fees, you should outline what work the artists will be paid for, such as performances, presentations, publications, workshops, and/or the creation of artwork. However, since these costs are not project-based grants (see FAQ above), do not include artist fees/stipends that are tied to a specific project.
Examples of artist fees that could be considered allowable costs:
- A choral ensemble plans to pay its ensemble members to rehearse and perform over the course of the Period of Performance. The organization includes a line item for ensemble member payments in the budget.
- A publisher plans to pay the writers whose work will be featured in books and/or journals issues released throughout the Period of Performance. The organization includes a line item for payment to writers in the project budget, rather than listing particular books or authors.
The guidelines say that staff, artists, and/or contractual positions supported by Rescue Plan funds may not conduct work independent of the organization receiving funds. What does this mean?
If Rescue Plan funds are used to support a staff salary and/or stipends or fees for artists and contractual workers, the time that is charged to the Rescue Plan grant must be spent on work relating to the organization that received the grant. In other words, if Rescue Plan funds are used to support half of a production assistant’s salary, those activities must be related to the organization’s general operations. The production assistant may have other jobs, but those activities cannot be supported with Rescue Plan funds.
Are there any unallowable costs that I should be aware of?
Yes. The guidelines for both Rescue Plan funding programs are very clear about what costs may be included in your grant request. However, here is a list of some unallowable costs that we’re frequently asked about that you may not include in your application budget. Unallowable costs will be removed from your budget.
- Direct grants to individuals. (See the Grants to Local Arts Agencies for Subgranting program for information about subgranting to individual artists.)
- Awards to individuals or organizations to honor or recognize achievement.
- “Artist relief” programs where the funding is intended to alleviate financial hardship (i.e., rent or food assistance to individuals) and does not require the artist to undertake work.
- Travel costs.
- Fundraising or development costs, except for work related to the administration of the Rescue Plan grant.
- Land purchase costs; Construction, purchase, or renovation of facilities (including renovations such as HVAC systems).
- Commercial (for-profit) enterprises or activities, including concessions, food, T-shirts, artwork, or other items for resale. This includes online or virtual sales/shops.
- Mortgage interest, fines and penalties, bad debt costs, deficit reduction.
- Rental costs for home office workspace owned by individuals or entities affiliated with the applicant organization.
- The purchase of vehicles.
- General miscellaneous or contingency costs.
- Social activities such as receptions, parties, galas.
- Alcoholic beverages.
- Lobbying, including activities intended to influence the outcome of elections or influence government officials regarding pending legislation, either directly or through specific lobbying appeals to the public.
- Voter registration drives and related activities.
- Visa costs paid to the U.S. government.
- Costs supported by any other federal funding. This includes federal funding received either directly from a federal agency or indirectly from a pass-through organization such as a state arts agency, regional arts organization, or a grant made to another entity.
- Expenditures related to compensation to foreign nationals when those expenditures are not in compliance with regulations issued by the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control. For further information, see https://www.treasury.gov/about/organizational-structure/offices/pages/office-of-foreign-assets-control.aspx or contact our Office of Grants Management at email@example.com.
These FAQs say that mortgage interest is an unallowable cost. Don’t the guidelines say that mortgage costs are allowable?
Rescue Plan funds may be used to pay mortgage principal during the grant period, but cannot be used to pay mortgage interest.
Should we include utilities costs as a direct cost or indirect cost in the budget?
If you are including utilities costs in your budget, you may not account for them as both a direct cost and an indirect cost in the budget. See the application instructions for more information about indirect costs.
For Rescue Plan Recommended Grantees
I received notification that my organization has been recommended to receive a Rescue Plan grant. Now what?
We will reach out to you with more information after you have been recommended for a grant. You will be required to submit additional information including, but not limited to:
- An Accessibility Form confirming that your organization is in compliance with federal accessibility laws and regulations,
- For awards larger than $100,000, a certification regarding lobbying, and
- If needed, a National Historic Preservation Act/National Environmental Preservation Act Compliance Form.
Do not submit these items with your application. They will only be required of recommended grantees.
After you submit the required documents, the Arts Endowment’s Office of Grants Management must conduct a final review to ensure compliance with Federal rules and regulations before issuing the formal award notice. Grant funds are not available until you receive the formal award Notice of Action. Please note that this review and approval process can take several weeks.
How will I receive my funds?
Payments are not automatically disbursed. After receiving the official Notice of Action, you may submit a payment request. Payments may be requested as an advance for costs to be incurred in the 30 days following the request OR as a reimbursement for costs already incurred. Only costs incurred during the Period of Performance may be requested. More information about payment requests can be found in the Manage Your Award section.