CAM sponsors bill to make museums accessible to everyone
It is with great pride that I share the news that the California Association of Museums (CAM) is sponsoring a bill in the California State Legislature that would build on the success of the national Museums for All program and boost funding for the California Cultural and Historical Endowment’s (CCHE) Museum and Cultural Resources Program. We are eager to work closely with the bill’s author, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), our members, and our advocacy partners to pass this bill through the Legislature and make museums more accessible to all Californians.
If you haven’t yet heard of the Museums for All program, I encourage you to learn more. It is a cooperative initiative of the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Association of Children’s Museums. The purpose of the program is to increase access to museums for low-income communities by eliminating financial barriers. Museums for All enables holders of Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards to gain free or low-cost admission to participating museums during regular hours of operation. California’s EBT card, the Golden State Advantage card, is issued to low-income individuals or families to facilitate the process for receiving food assistance and cash benefits.
Because the program is specifically offered to eligible EBT cardholders, Museums for All greatly reduces—or eliminates—the financial barriers that may prevent low-income families from experiencing museums and benefiting from high-quality learning experiences. It also expands each museum’s visitor base and helps our field serve some of our state’s most disadvantaged populations. A museum’s participation in Museums for All is completely voluntary and will always remain so.
CAM and Assemblymember Garcia’s bill, AB 755, would: (1) create a California-based program that will offer individuals and families with EBT cards free or very low cost ($0-$3.00 per person) admission to museums and (2) provide a grant to participating California museums. The purpose of the modest grant is to support each museum’s costs for participating in the program and experiencing an influx of new visitors. This costs could include producing marketing materials, translating text panels or brochures, training personnel, maintaining the integrity of hands-on exhibit components, and/or staff time to collaborate with local social service agencies.
AB 755 would also allocate additional funding to CCHE’s Museum and Cultural Resources Program, which includes the Museum Grant Program. The Museum Grant Program supports small capital projects in museums, including the acquisition of real property, or construction projects at museum facilities or venues. It is designed to enhance school and public programs, help museums diversify and expand audiences, and support the role of museums within their communities. Additional support to CCHE’s Museum Grant Program would enable more California museums to apply for and obtain funding.
As many of you know, President Trump's proposed FY 2018 budget includes the elimination of IMLS, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Given this uncertain future, our call to create a California-based Museums for All program and boost funding for museum services becomes even more vital.
It is also important to mention that this appropriation request by CAM and Assemblymember Garcia is not an increase over what the Legislature and Governor appropriated in CCHE's current budget. Last year's budget process boosted CCHE's budget by $4.5 million for one-time expenditures. We are asking for this level of funding to continue.
Given the shifting political and economic realities in this nation and State, we know this bill has many hurdles to overcome as it winds its way through the Legislative process. Our chances of success are eminently better with the support of our members and partners. I strongly encourage you to join our cause and submit a letter of support for AB 755.
Visit www.calmuseums.org/AB755 to get the most recent information on the bill and to download a sample support letter as an museum, individual, or supportive organization. We’ve made it very easy for you!
With your help, we can take real steps to make museums more accessible and support them in serving all Californians.