Levin, Grijalva and Young Lead Bipartisan Letter Urging Support for America’s Libraries in Upcoming COVID-19 Legislation

April 23, 2020
Press Release

Congressman Andy Levin (D-MI), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Don Young (R-AK) today sent a bipartisan letter signed by more than 100 House members urging House leadership to include stabilization funding for America’s libraries in future COVID-19 legislation. Specifically, the letter asks for at least $2 billion in dedicated fiscal stabilization funding through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in the next COVID-19 response bill.

“Libraries connect people through learning and culture across age, income and geography,” said Congressman Levin. “While free access to books is key to why we love and must protect libraries, it is their digital resources that make them especially important during the COVID-19 crisis. Many libraries around the country offer a wealth of online tools — e-books, movies, online tutoring and homework help, applying for jobs, and even telehealth. We must make sure these resources are available during this pandemic by lifting up these institutions that were building out these online resources long before the current crisis, and supporting their efforts right now.”

“Libraries are critical infrastructure for communities across the country, and they too are hurting during the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Congressman Grijalva. “Along with providing everyone with access to books and the Internet, they will be critical centers for helping their communities recover from this crisis. In order to avert large budget cuts, library funding must be included in future stimulus and recovery legislation.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put the importance of our libraries in the spotlight. As schools have shut their doors and moved toward online learning, the resources made available digitally through libraries are more critical than ever,” said Congressman Don Young. “Internet access isn’t always available to families, and libraries serve as a needed lifeline for students who require internet connectivity to learn. Additionally, the scope of what our libraries do has expanded during this pandemic. Libraries across the nation are now serving a larger role, distributing school lunches, medical supplies, and learning devices. Librarians and other staff are being asked to do more, and our libraries are serving as a pillar of safety and stability for communities. They need financial support to meet this critical moment. I am proud to join Congressmen Levin and Grijalva in support of our nation’s libraries, and urge Leadership to support the IMLS in the next COVID-19 response bill.”

Signers of the letter include:

Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02); Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE -At Large); Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01); Brendan F. Boyle (PA-02); Anthony G. Brown (MD-04); Julia Brownley (CA-26); Salud Carbajal (CA-24); André Carson (IN-07); Ed Case (HI-01); Judy Chu (CA-27); David N. Cicilline (RI-01); Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr.  (CA-39); Wm. Lacy Clay (MO-01); Emanuel Cleaver, II (MO-05); Steve Cohen (TN-09); Tom Cole (OK-4); Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11); TJ Cox (CA-21); Sharice L. Davids (KS-03); Danny K. Davis (IL-07); Peter A. DeFazio (OR-04); Diana DeGette (CO-01); Suzan DelBene (WA-01); Debbie Dingell (MI-12); Mike Doyle (PA-18); Eliot L. Engel (NY-16); Veronica Escobar (TX-16); Adriano Espaillat (NY-13); Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01); Bill Foster (IL-11); Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11); Ruben Gallego  (AZ-07); Jesús G. "Chuy" García (IL-04); Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15); Al Green (TX-09); Deb Haaland (NM-01); Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20); Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-Delegate); Jared Huffman (CA-02); Shelia Jackson Lee (TX-08); Pramila Jayapal (WA-07); Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30); Henry C. "Hank" Johnson, Jr. (GA-04); Marcy Kaptur (OH-09); Kathy Castor (FL-14); William R. Keating (MA-09); Joseph P. Kennedy, III (MA-04); Daniel T. Kildee (MI-07); Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08); Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02); Jim Langevin (RI-02); John B. Larson (CT-01); Barbara Lee (CA-13); Alan Lowenthal (CA-47); Ben Ray Luján (NM-03); Stephen Lynch (MA-08); Doris Matsui (CA-06); Lucy McBath (GA-06); Betty McCollum (MN-04); James P. McGovern (MA-02); David B. McKinley, P.E. (WV-01); Jerry McNerney (CA-09); Grace Meng (NY-6); Joseph D. Morelle (NY-25); Stephanie Murphy (FL-07); Joe Neguse (CO-02); Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14); Ilhan Omar (MN-05); Chris Pappas (NH-01); Chellie Pingree (ME-01); Mark Pocan (WI-02); Ayanna Pressley (MA-07); David Price (NC-04); Jamie Raskin (MD-08); C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (MA-02); Bobby L. Rush (Ill-01); Tim Ryan (OH-13); Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (MP-Delegate); John P. Sarbanes (MD-03); Jan Schakowsky (IL-09); Bradley S. Schneider (IL-10); David Scott (GA-13); Terri Sewell (AL-07); Donna E. Shalala (FL-27); Albio Sires (NJ-8); Elissa Slotkin (MI-08); Daren Soto (FL-09); Jackie Speier (CA-14); Haley M. Stevens (MI-11); Mark Takano (CA-41); Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02); Rashida Tlaib (MI-13); Paul D. Tonko (NY-20); David Trone (MD-06); Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07); Peter Welch (VT-At Large); Frederica Wilson (Fl-24); and John Yarmuth (KY-03).

A signed copy of the letter can be found here and the text is below:

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy:

We appreciate the inclusion of $50 million in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for libraries to expand Internet access across the country.  This funding was a vital first step, but we will need to do more to help Americans stay informed and connected during this crisis. We urge you to include at least $2 billion in dedicated fiscal stabilization funding through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in the next COVID-19 response bill.

Libraries are vital institutions not just for the resources they provide the American people, but the economic value they bring to communities, rural, suburban and urban. According to IMLS, Americans make more than 1.3 billion visits to public libraries each year. Libraries employ nearly 370,000 American workers and generate billions of dollars in economic activity, including the purchase of $4 billion in books and other materials annually.

With libraries across the nation taking necessary steps to safeguard their employees and communities by closing their doors to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we should do all we can to ensure library services continue, remotely for now and in-person in the future.  Without an immediate robust infusion of federal support, libraries will be forced to make massive cuts, both in terms of staffing and purchases.  These cuts would ripple throughout our communities, impacting support for education, workforce recovery, and access to computers and the Internet.

Additional federal support will also ensure libraries can continue providing essential services during this crisis. Libraries have expanded access to digital educational content, computing devices, and broadband connections. They have also been delivering books, boosting e-book offerings, movie rentals, and other reading and entertainment resources, and hosting online story times, virtual classes, exhibitions, and discussion groups.

Libraries have also gone above and beyond their missions to contribute to the COVID-19 response. They are leveraging their physical spaces to host local emergency planning meetings and serving as distribution points for food, medical supplies, student laptops, books, and hotspots. They are also lending and using their 3D printers to print face-shields and related items for health workers. Finally, like other public and private institutions, libraries are meeting communities’ demand for information resources, like career development for those who have been laid off. 

If libraries can avoid huge cuts, they are uniquely positioned to lead communities in their recovery.  Small businesses and entrepreneurs will rely on library resources to reconfigure business plans and conduct market research. At the same time, many of the millions of new job seekers in economic distress will depend on libraries to apply for assistance and improve their job search and interview skills. Students and adult learners will continue to need library books, digital resources, technology access, and hotspot lending.

We urge the inclusion of $2 billion to be distributed through IMLS under the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).  The LSTA programs will allow relief to effectively and efficiently reach every state to meet local needs, particularly in low-income and rural areas. This funding should include a minimum state allotment of at least $10 million and waive matching and maintenance of effort requirements. In addition, $200 million would be reserved for direct grants from IMLS to support libraries most impacted by COVID-19 and $40 million for IMLS to administer these funds and conduct outreach, research, and data collection. 

We must ensure libraries across the country can continue providing needed services to our communities, keep employees working, and prepare to reopen stronger than ever. We thank you for your longstanding commitment to our public libraries and your consideration of our request as you craft the next COVID-19 response measure.