Legislative Update -- February 4, 2021February 4, 2021
ALA Action Alert! Build America's Libraries Act
Introduced on January 28 by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Build America's Libraries Act (S. 127) would provide $5 billion in funding to repair, modernize, and construct library facilities in underserved and marginalized communities. ALA and ILA encourage all library advocates to contact Senators Durbin and Duckworth to urge them to cosponsor the Act. There are currently three cosponsors: Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
Special Districts Provide Essential Services Act
We've reported about this bill prior; it was first introduced in the 116th Congress and has now been reintroduced in the 117th in both the House and the Senate as S. 91 / H.R. 535. It does not call for additional appropriations, but rather to address the omission of special districts from the definition of "unit of local government" in the CARES Act and to codify special districts' eligibility for current and future relief funding. ALA and ILA have signed onto a letter of support initiated by the National Special Districts Coalition for this bill; it currently has two Illinois co-sponors in the House: Representative Robin Kelly and Representative Bobby Rush.
Broadband in Illinois
The Broadband Advisory Council (BAC), created in 2019, includes an ILA representative to raise awareness in the BAC of libraries' potential to help achieve its goals, and informing libraries about opportunities. The BAC works with the Illinois Office of Broadband, housed in the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The office is responsible for administering the Connect Illinois broadband infrastructure grant program and develops related programming such as in the areas of community planning and capacity building and digital literacy, adoption, and inclusion.
- Libraries are explicitly eligible for the Illinois Connected Communities grant program (up to $150,000); see the Notice of Funding Opportunity, p.4. This is the second round of funding.
- Libraries are encouraged to partner with organizations that received grants in the first round of funding. View the list here.
- The BAC recently released an affordability study of universal broadband; libraries have a role to play in several of the report's recommendations (see p.9-10), particularly those relating to partnerships with community organizations that provide digital skills training (like libraries!), increasing public awareness of affordability programs, and improving the pipeline of computing devices.