The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC – a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that sits on more than half of a billion dollars in assets, received over $80 million from the federal government in taxpayer dollars even as it is shuttered to the public because of COVID.
By law, the Kennedy Center receives federal funding every year, federal funding fueled by taxpayers who – in the overwhelming majority – have never and will never visit the institution. This despite the fact that the Center has been 80 percent privately funded for the past half-decade.
That is also a 501(c)3 organization means it is allotted generous tax exemptions by the Internal Revenue Service under the label of being an educational organization.
Does $35 million for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts truly count as emergency spending? Read more examples in our new Forbes piece: https://t.co/Zl3UNd7aoo pic.twitter.com/BULvBqcYkL
— OpenTheBooks (@open_the_books) March 27, 2020
In the midst of a global pandemic – and one that has destroyed countless small businesses in the United States and around the world, the Center managed to raise its net assets by $3.3 million.
The over $500,000,000 financial buffer held by the Center is in part the result of Congress allocating roughly $80 million in taxpayer dollars to the organization over the past year.
The Center was awarded $25 million during the first round of COVID relief funding from Congress, down from the proposed $35 million initially sought in the CARES Act.
It received an additional $43.5 million in congressional appropriations, $8 million in grants from the Department of Education, over half a million dollars from the National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs grant program, and $85,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Ironically, despite the COVID relief money being stipulated to defraying personnel costs in an effort to keep people employed, the Center almost immediately furloughed approximately 60 percent of its full-time staff right after the package was safely passed.
“The Kennedy Center fired hundreds of employees after receiving $25 million in COVID-19 relief funding, We must hold them accountable and get to the bottom of this wasteful government spending!” – @RepGregSteube https://t.co/t4e05flSmz
— Oversight Committee Republicans (@GOPoversight) April 8, 2020
“Our extensive financial modeling indicates that if no changes are made to our spending patterns, even if we are able to open in mid-May, with the recent $25 million federal stimulus funding, the Kennedy Center would run out of cash as early as July,” Center President Deborah Rutter wrote to employees at the end of March 2020.
Rutter mockingly took a “pay cut” in 2020. Her annual salary was reduced to $507,375, this information coming from 501(c)3 filings per year. Over the past five years, Rutter’s compensation as president of the performing arts center totals more than $5 million.
In March, all but 150 of the Center’s 411 full-time employees were laid-off. Only 114 of those employees were rehired over the course of 2020.
In total, 36 percent of the Center’s labor force was permanently cut.