The upper house of the French government is on its way to approving an increased culture budget for 2021, but expanded funding for an app that helps youth engage with cultural activities has been cut.
On Monday night, the French senate put a proposed increase in funding for Culture Pass, an app that gives 18-year-olds access to a €500 ($607) credit to spend on cultural experiences, on the chopping block—and the senate moved to put the money elsewhere.
The app has been in its pilot phase since it was test-launched in 2019. Anyone who is 18 years old may download the app onto their phones and spend the credit on cultural outings, courses, books, or digital subscriptions.
An increase of funds to the Culture Pass had been included in the cultural budget for 2021, with the minister of culture, Roselyne Bachelot, hoping to increase its allotment from €40 million to nearly €60 million as it heads toward a full launch in 2022. But now, that €20 million will be used for heritage preservation and archeology instead.
Bachelot’s ambitions were curbed as several senators from both sides of the political spectrum found the suggested increase excessive. Senator Catherine Dumas called it “unjustified” given the personal financial situation many in the country find themselves in.
“The budget system is quite schizophrenic: when things go wrong, we put money on the Culture Pass and not where there is a need and where we know it will be used,” said senator Sonia de La Provôté.
Culture minister Bachelot pushed back, saying the app “has contributed to the revival of the cultural sector.”
Culture Pass was one of French president Emmanuel Macron’s campaign promises. The floating credit for young people to spend on culture was rolled out in several provinces in France over the past two years, with partial funding coming from the state and private entities. A total of 640,000 bookings have been made on the app since February 2019.
Though new registrations were high this year—88 percent—the average money spent via the app was just €130 ($158), suggesting that the €500 credit could be too much, said the senators who either suggested curtailing the program or scrapping it entirely.
“At the very moment when culture is at a standstill, when artists are dying in our country, we’re pouring €59 million into the Culture Pass,” said senator Jean-Raymond Hugonet. “It’s not the right time, not the right formula, not the right process.”