The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 could bring as much as $900 million into D.C., provide an additional $159 million nationwide to support education, increase financial aid, and provide funding for infrastructure updates at institutions of higher education across the country.
The bill passed in the House of Representatives last week with the support of Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and a version is now being debated in the Senate.
Sarah Campbell, deputy director for capital at the office of the budget director at the D.C. Council, said that the majority of the $900 million would be given to D.C. though much of the money will have to be used for specific projects.
“Most of these funds are specifically targeted. They are expanding the amount given to already existing programs,” said Campbell.
According to a press release from Norton’s office, this would involve a great deal of money for infrastructure projects.
“Norton said there will be $148 million for school renovations and a tremendous showing from the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which allocated almost $376 million for transportation infrastructure improvements here,” according to the press release.
The District will also receive tax credits with the new stimulus bill which will allow it to weatherize low-income homes and local schools, expand jobs for veterans, to invest in economically developing areas and to be more energy efficient, according to the press release.
Georgetown would also be helped by the new stimulus plan. The version of the bill passed by the House and the version being considered in the Senate reserve funds for financial aid programs. However, the bills differ greatly in how that money is to be spent.
“There is sufficient divergence on what the two bills would do that it is very difficult to determine what will end up in the ultimate bill,” said Scott Fleming, associate vice president for federal relations.
The version of the stimulus bill passed in the House, for example, would appropriate $15.6 billion to the Pell Grant program, allowing students to take out an additional $500 in loans, making the maximum grant $5,350. The Senate’s version of the bill allocated only $281 in funding to the Pell Grant program for 2009-2010, but would raise that to $400 by 2010-2011.
Fleming said he was skeptical about the future of the additional Pell Grant funds in the bill as a result.
“There are some Senators who are arguing that a number of areas of spending should be removed from the bill, and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) has cited Pell Grant funding in particular,” said Fleming. “So, the fate of the Pell increase is undecided at the moment.”
The House’s bill would also increase the maximum Stafford loan by $2,000 per year, while the Senate’s version of the bill did not mark any additional funds for the loan.
Additionally, the House’s stimulus bill includes $6 billion for higher education infrastructure, while the Senate cut that funding down to $3.5 billion and combined it with a stimulus for energy efficient projects on campuses. These funds have been set aside for projects that are “shovel-ready.” It is currently unclear whether or not Georgetown, with its construction of the new business school and other projects, would qualify for any of these funds.
While Fleming is unsure specifically of what the final legislation could hold for Georgetown, he pointed out that the plan also provides funding for research.
“Both bills include, again in different forms, increases in research funding at NIH [National Institutes of Health], NSF [National Science Foundation] and elsewhere that could very well provide opportunities for Georgetown researchers,” Fleming said.