Note: This post has been updated with statements (see below) from IMLS, COSLA, SHLB, and the FCC.
Libraries are eligible for billions of dollars in recovery funding as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 passed by Congress on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) received $200 million, the largest single increase in the agency’s 25-year history. The package also provides billions of dollars in academic, public and school library-eligible programs, including the Emergency Education Connectivity Fund through the federal E-rate program.
American Library Association (ALA) President Julius C. Jefferson, Jr., praised the bill. “Libraries are a lifeline for millions of people, and the people who know that best are those who need this rescue package most. Because libraries stepped up, people without home broadband have been able to keep their jobs, students and teachers have continued to learn in a remote context, and seniors and other vulnerable people have safely connected with doctors and maintained contact with loved ones. Now libraries are also helping people register for the vaccine and even serving as temporary clinics.
Of the $200 million for IMLS, $178 million is allocated for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and will go to state library administrative agencies on a population-based formula, with a $2 million state minimum. State libraries will distribute ARPA funding to local libraries according to state priorities, to maintain and enhance library operations and services, including:
- offering greater access to technology, including through expanding digital networks and connectivity, purchasing hotspots, computers and digital content;
- establishing mobile digital labs;
- enhancing workforce development and jobseeker programing; and
- ensuring training and technical support for libraries, including to assist with the safe handling of materials.
In addition to IMLS funding, ARPA also includes $7.172 billion for an Emergency Education Connectivity Fund through the Federal Communications Commission’s E-rate program. Participating libraries will receive 100 percent reimbursement for the cost of hotspots and other Wi-Fi capable devices, modems, routers, laptops, tablets and similar devices to loan to patrons. ALA will provide input during the rulemaking process for the new program, which must be developed by the FCC within 60 days of the bill’s passage.
The rescue legislation provides billions of dollars in library-eligible funding to meet critical needs, including:
- more than $360 billion to state, local and tribal community governments to offset potential cuts to public health, safety, and education programs
- $130 billion for education costs associated with the safe reopening of K-12 schools; hiring additional staff; reducing class size; modifying school spaces; and addressing student, academic, and mental health needs
- $40 billion for colleges and institutions of higher education to defray pandemic-related expenses and provide emergency assistance to students, with half the funding dedicated to student financial aid
- $135 million each for National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities to support state and regional arts and humanities agencies. Forty percent of this funding is designated for grants and administration for state arts and humanities agencies, while forty percent will go for direct grants eligible to libraries.