Libraries gain record increases for IMLS, E-Rate in federal relief plan

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.

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.

“The coronavirus pandemic persists in taking its harsh toll on communities. This infusion of support for America’s vital community institutions is crucial,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “The need for access to information for health, job, educational, and unemployment resources continues across the country, especially in communities that were already vulnerable. We are dedicated to reaching those who need this funding the most as quickly as we can, through U.S. states and territories and directly to libraries and museums.”

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.

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, and
  • $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.

Arkansas will receive $2.6 million for its libraries. The Arkansas State Library will be planning its priorities for spending the grant over the next few weeks.

Content for this blog posting was taken from press releases by IMLS and the American Library Association.

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