The House of Representatives today passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act with a final vote of 246-183, with members voting largely along party lines. No Republicans voted for the legislation and seven Democrats opposed it. The Senate is currently debating the bill and is expected to vote tonight before adjourning for the President’s Day recess. President Obama is expected to sign the bill next week.
Here are some examples of provisions included in the $789 billion economic stimulus that can directly benefit libraries:
- $7.2 billion for broadband to increase broadband access and usage in unserved and underserved areas of the nation, which will better position the U.S. for economic growth, innovation, and job creation. This includes $200 million in competitive grants for expanding public computer capacity at public libraries and community colleges. Additionally, this includes $650 million for DTV, of which $90 million may be used by organizations, including libraries, for education and outreach to vulnerable populations including one-on-one assistance for box installation.
- $53.6 billion for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, including $39.5 billion to local school districts using existing funding formulas, which can be used for preventing cutbacks, preventing layoffs, school modernization (school libraries will benefit from this), or other purposes; $5 billion to states as bonus grants for meeting key performance measures in education; and $8.8 billion to states for high priority needs such as public safety and other critical services (including public libraries), which may include education and for modernization, renovation and repairs of public school facilities and institutions of higher education facilities.
- An additional $120 million for the Older American’s Act to provide community service jobs at nonprofit and public facilities including libraries to an additional 24,000 older Americans.
- An additional $130 million for the Rural Community Facilities Program to provide loans and grants for rural community facilities including libraries.
The next step is to make sure that state officials invest the funds they receive from Congress in libraries. It will be up to you to speak up and let your governor know how libraries are benefiting the community. We will be sending out tools to help you do this in the coming week.
Thanks to you, our system indicates 1,255 messages went to Congress in the last week with hundreds more who called and e-mailed on their own. Without your efforts, libraries would not have been successfully included in this legislation, especially the $200 million in broadband funding. This goes to show that there is strength in numbers, and we have a voice in Congress when we band together to let them know libraries are critical to our communities’ success.
Emily Sheketoff, Executive Director
ALA Washington Office