Proposed FY23 Federal Budget Boosts IMLS, Cuts IAL; Advocacy Deadline Is Tight

On March 28, President Joe Biden released his proposed federal budget for Fiscal Year 2023. The $5.8 trillion budget focuses on reducing the deficit as well as investments in economic growth and job creation. The final FY22 budget was only signed into law on March 11, meaning that the appropriations process began later and deadlines for final FY23 appropriations will be tight.

ALA infographic on federal budget path to fundingOn March 28, President Joe Biden released his proposed federal budget for Fiscal Year 2023. The $5.8 trillion budget focuses on reducing the deficit as well as investments in economic growth and job creation. The final FY22 budget was only signed into law on March 11, meaning that the appropriations process began later and deadlines for final FY23 appropriations will be tight.

In this budget blueprint, funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) saw a slight increase of $8.8 million. This includes $3.6 million more for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) over the FY22 budget—but also a $1 million cut to the U.S. Department of Education’s Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program. Of the increases for LSTA, approximately $1.2 million would go to the Grants to States program and $2.4 million to national leadership projects.

Biden proposed $88.3 billion in discretionary spending for the U.S. Department of Education, including an increase in funding for Pell Grants, upping the maximum grant amount by $2,175, and increases for programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities other institutions serving underrepresented groups. Free community college is no longer on the table, nor student loan forgiveness, although the budget proposes spending $2.7 billion on the Office of Federal Student Aid, an $800 million increase over 2021, toward better customer service for student loan borrowers—and efforts to facilitate the public loan forgiveness program bode well for new librarians.

This is also the second year in which the budget contains money for congressionally directed funding—earmarked appropriations for federal construction spending in lawmakers’ home states, which could mean opportunities for public, school, or academic library construction projects.

 

TIME TO ACT

Although in summer 2021 the House approved an increase of $9 million for LSTA and $3 million for IAL, the reconciled budget for FY22 (which began on October 1, 2021) contained flat funding for LSTA and only a $1 million boost for IAL.

The most recent budget blueprint raises LSTA funding to $201 million and reduces IAL to $28 million. While this is the first increase to direct library funding recommended by a U.S. president in six years, rather than level funding or outright calls for elimination, further advocacy is needed to ensure that libraries can provide necessary services and recover from last year’s shortfalls.

“Funding increases for LSTA and other library eligible line items in the federal budget are welcome, but they are not enough to maintain in-demand library services and pay library workers, who carry out those services,” stated Wong. “The $1 million decrease for IAL is disappointing at a time when strong support for literacy is crucial. America’s libraries need more federal support to meet demand and withstand the cost of inflation, currently hovering above seven percent.”

And given the short turnaround times this year, noted ALA Deputy Director of Government Relations Kevin Maher, the time to act is now—the deadline for the House appropriation process is April 27, and the end of May for the Senate.

“Call your members of Congress and ask them to support the annual appropriations letters,” said Maher. “Make sure they understand all the things that libraries are doing in the community, particularly rural or underserved communities, where there really aren’t any other choices people have to access the internet or a lot of services.”

Advocates can use the resources on ALA’s Fund Libraries page, which includes a form to contact local legislators asking them to sign Dear Appropriator letters for LSTA and IAL. Libraries lost a Republican champion with the death of Rep. Don Young (R-AK) in March, noted Maher, but Congressmen Peter Meijer (MI-3), and Rep. Don Bacon (NE-2) have stepped in to take the lead on appropriations letters.

“If America is serious about fostering a love of learning, getting older adults set up for telehealth appointments, preparing a skilled workforce for well-paying jobs, and supporting research and innovation, then Congress and the president must provide robust funding for libraries,” added Wong.

Chart - federal funding for library programs FY17-22

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Lisa Peet

lpeet@mediasourceinc.com

Lisa Peet is Senior News Editor for Library Journal.

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