Two representatives jointly introduced a bill to authorize the U.S. Treasury to mint coins to contribute to maintenance and programming at the National WWII Memorial.
The National World War II Commemorative Coin Act, proposed by Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Congressman Peter King (R-NY), would establish commemorative coins representing the sacrifice and commitment of WWII veterans. All proceeds from the sale of the coins would go to the Friends of the National World War II Memorial (Friends), a non-profit that helps maintain the memorial and provides educational programming and commemorations throughout the year.
The National Parks Service does deal with the care and maintenance of all memorials on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., such as removing graffiti in the wake of George Floyd protests.
But organizers want to be able to support an already burdened NPS and deal with bigger picture items that may not be critical projects now, but can pose a threat later, according to executive director Holly Rotondi.
“The original architects have identified points of concern – and while they may not be critical projects now, they will over time,” she said. “But the NPS has so many critical projects on the queue and we want to address these problems now.”
One such problem is that the lighting system needs to be redesigned and replaced, which would be about a $500,000 project, Rotondi said. The mortar is also wearing down, and calcification has been developing on the granite.
The goal is to raise at least $6 million for the memorial, with a maximum of about $9.5 million if they sell out of commemorative coins, according to Rotondi.
Aside from helping to fund long-term maintenance projects, the money would help continue educational programming and commemorative services that have shifted to a virtual setting among the COVID-19 pandemic.
The memorial usually hosts over five million visitors per year, and since switching to a virtual setting, Rotondi said the viewership of commemorations has actually been much higher.
“We’re reaching a wider audience and that is something we’re really proud of. We’re able to incorporate so many more veterans and families into that story in such a more personal way,” she said.
Since the start of the pandemic, the team has been trying to rally their constituents to reach out to veterans and learn and preserve their stories.
“We’ve lost so many of them already, there’s only less the 400,000 left of the 16 million who served, and we want to capture those stories before it’s too late,” she said. “Now is the time because they’re sitting at home.”
Bringing in more money with the help of Congress and the U.S. Treasury would help them to continue these efforts both virtually and in-person once they can return to the monument.
The bill was introduced last October and has accrued almost 100 cosponsors. It needs 290 to be considered for legislation. Rotondi is optimistic about its support.
She said it is a pretty easy ask, considering the Treasury would reimburse itself for whatever money it put into the project before giving the money to the organization.
“Republican, Democrat, there is bipartisan support across the board,” Rotondi said. “As soon as they know what the bill is about, they’re in support of it. They just need to know about it.”