On the Hill: President Biden’s FY22 Budget Recommends Record Funding for Historic Preservation

By Shaw Sprague posted 06-09-2021 15:46


Following last year’s enactment of the most significant funding levels ($144.3 million) for historic preservation to date, the Biden Administration released its FY22 budget with a record $151.8 million in proposed funding for the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) at the end of May.  It is particularly noteworthy and somewhat unusual for the Administration to support increasing the authorized level of funding for the HPF and may signal its willingness to consider future increases above the Fund’s statutorily authorized funding level of $150 million in future budgets. 

Credit: Architect of the Capitol

Overall, the Administration’s record-setting $6 trillion budget includes $1.52 trillion in domestic discretionary funding, a 16% increase over last year’s enacted levels and $753 billion in defense spending, a 1.7% increase over last year’s levels.    

Although the President’s budget is just a recommendation and Congress ultimately decides how much to appropriate, it nevertheless establishes key priorities of the Administration and charts the course for how the President intends to implement his “Build Back Better” agenda.  

As noted above, Congress provided a record high $144.3 million for the HPF in FY21 and the preservation community sought full funding of $150 million for the Fund in both in FY21 and FY22.  The National Trust also submitted testimony in support of the full funding request to the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee in April.  

Other Highlights

The biggest increase in HPF programs was for the Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs), which received a 53.3% increase over its FY21 enacted level of $15 million to $23 million.  The State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs) received an increase of $2.0 million (3.6%) to $57.675 million for FY22. In addition, the Biden budget generously provided $21.750 million, (a 29.85% increase) for African American Civil Rights grants, $3.375 million for the History of Equal Rights Grants (formerly Civil Rights Grants for All Americans), and $10 million (a 33.3% increase) for Paul Bruhn Revitalization Grants under the HPF as part of its record-setting request of $151.8 million.  Funding for Save America’s Treasures maintained its $25 million enacted level, and the Underrepresented Communities grant program received $1 million, the same level as FY21 and also included within the SHPO level. 

Addressing deferred maintenance in the National Park System is a priority of the Biden Administration, with the budget recommending an increase for line-item construction (for individual projects) of $146.7 million – an 11.3% increase over the FY21 enacted level.  The Administration chose to maintain level funding for the Repair and Rehabilitation ($135.980 million) and Cyclic Maintenance ($188.184 million) accounts despite the National Trust’s request for increases of $150 million and $205 million, respectively, for these two programs. Also included in the President’s budget are the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration fund project lists for deferred maintenance projects of the National Park Service, as well as the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Indian Education. This additional, dedicated funding to address maintenance backlogs for federal agencies was made possible by enactment of the Great American Outdoors Act

For the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Administration’s budget proposes $67.674 million for the National Conservation Lands system, a sharp increase of $21.855 (47.7%) million from last year, as well as an increase of $2.062 million for cultural resources management, a 6.4% increase from FY21.   

The Administration chose to reduce its request for National Heritage Area Partnerships to $22.248 million (a 6.8% reduction) in FY22.  The National Trust and the preservation community are committed to major increases for this program and have submitted testimony to Congress in support of $32 million for National Heritage Areas.  

Similarly, the Biden budget includes generous increases for Independent Agencies with increases of $33.5 million (20%) for the National Endowment for the Arts, $10 million (6%) for the National Endowment for the Humanities, and $825,000 (11.1%) for the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.  

Shaw Sprague is Vice President of Government Relations at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.