Congress’s Omnibus Federal Spending Package Funds IMLS for FY21, No COVID Relief for Libraries

On the afternoon of December 21, Congress released and passed a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending package. The FY21 budget, along with a $900 billion Emergency COVID Relief spending package, includes a $5 million increase from FY20 for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), including nearly $2 million for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). The bill did not, however, include direct funding for libraries.

U.S. Congress exterior against blue skyOn the afternoon of December 21, Congress released and passed a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending package after it moved quickly through both houses, avoiding a government shutdown shortly before the midnight deadline; it will now move on to President Donald Trump for his signature. The FY21 budget, along with a $900 billion Emergency COVID Relief spending package, was approved by the House 359–53 and the Senate by a 92–6 vote, and will keep the federal government funded through September 30, 2021. The bill includes a $5 million increase from FY20 for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), including nearly $2 million for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).

Among other measures in the pandemic relief bill for people and businesses hit hard by loss income, the package included a temporary supplementary unemployment benefit of $300 per week and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most individuals, plus subsidies for businesses, money for schools and health care providers, and help for renters facing eviction. The bill did not, however, include direct funding for libraries.

The bipartisan Library Stabilization Fund Act (LSFA), introduced in July by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI), proposed a dedicated $2 billion relief fund for libraries, to be administered by IMLS. It would have addressed financial losses incurred during the waves of pandemic shutdown and bolstered library services going forward, with priority given to the hardest-hit communities.

But despite backing on both sides of the aisle, including letters of support to Senate and House leadership from 147 members of Congress, and a strong grassroots campaign endorsed by library advocates across the country, COVID relief for libraries was not included in the federal spending package.

IMLS, however, welcomed its eighth consecutive increase in federal funding appropriations—after the Trump administration’s preliminary budget proposed to shutter the agency for the fourth year in a row. LSTA received $197.5 million of the overall $257 million IMLS budget, with an increase of $2 million directed to the Grants to States program. The FY21 appropriations bill includes increases for other line items important to libraries, including:

  • $28 million for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy program, an increase of $1 million, with at least half of this funding dedicated to school libraries
  • $167.5 million in funding for each of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, marking a $5.25 million increase over last year for both agencies
  • $462.8 million for the National Library of Medicine, an increase of $5.9 million
  • $757.3 million for Library of Congress, an increase of $32 million
  • $117 million for the Government Publishing Office, level funding over last year
  • $377 million for the National Archives and Records Administration, an $18 million increase.

“Federal support for libraries is not only a wise investment in times of crisis: Sustained funding can build capacity to meet community needs in the long run,” said American Library Association (ALA) President Julius C. Jefferson Jr. “At the same time, I won’t hide ALA’s disappointment that there is no direct funding for America’s libraries in the new emergency relief package. ALA stands firmly behind libraries’ need for additional resources. Americans desperately need what libraries have to offer, but waning resources jeopardize it.”

The bill also includes $81.9 billion for K–12 schools and higher education, available through September 22, with some funding dedicated for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions. Advocacy at the state, campus, and school district levels will be needed to obtain some of this funding.

An earlier framework had proposed a nine-digit infusion for IMLS to deliver state grants for broadband funding. Legislators instead opted to provide direct assistance, including emergency benefits to cover the coast of broadband for low-income households and those of recently unemployed individuals, with additional benefits for households on tribal lands.

“This incredible momentum will resume into the next year as we continue the push for recovery funding for libraries,” said Jefferson. “ALA has already begun to engage with the 117th Congress to ensure the current political favor translates into direct support for library workers and library stabilization as America continues to recover from the pandemic.”

Author Image
Lisa Peet

lpeet@mediasourceinc.com

Lisa Peet is News Editor for Library Journal.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


RELATED 

ALREADY A SUBSCRIBER?

We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing

ALREADY A SUBSCRIBER?