Fri, 01/28/2022 5:10 p.m
Senator stresses the importance of restoring funding for library construction grants and distributing digital inclusion grants
On Friday, New York State Senator Sean Ryan joined representatives from the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library at the Crane Branch Library to discuss the importance of distributing digital inclusion grants funded in last year’s budget and the Restoration of funds for the construction of libraries, which should be cut, highlight this year’s budget. The Crane Branch is currently going through a large, multi-phase construction project, the financing of which is supported by the construction aid of the State Library.
Ryan led efforts to add $20 million in library construction assistance to last year’s state budget. The budget for the most recent 2021-22 fiscal year included $34 million in construction assistance and nearly $130 million in total assistance to public libraries throughout New York. The FY2021-22 Executive Budget proposal includes cuts in the library construction appropriation, which will be reduced to $14 million in FY2022-23. After the proposal was announced, Ryan and MP Kimberly Jean-Pierre pledged to fight for the restoration of proposed cuts in library construction funding.
Library Construction Assistance supports the maintenance, renovation, and expansion of existing facilities, as well as the new construction of public libraries across the state, with a focus on the digital equity needs of diverse communities.
As lawmakers begin finalizing the fiscal year 2022-23 budget, the $15 million in funding from the statewide Digital Inclusion Grant Program, established as part of last year’s state budget, has not yet been distributed. Instead, funds for the program have been reallocated in this year’s budget proposal. As Chair of the Senate Library Committee, Ryan recently joined Jean-Pierre, Chair of the Assembly’s Library Committee, and senior members of their respective committees in sending a letter to Robert F. Mujica, Director of the Budget for the State of New York that the program funds are paid out on time.
The Statewide Digital Inclusion Grant Program was created in recognition of the need for affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet. It is designed to help local organizations across New York address disparities in access to essential digital technology in their communities by providing affordable home broadband access, technical support, and training courses for schools, libraries, and nonprofit organizations.
Ryan said: “The pandemic has highlighted what we already knew about our public libraries: They are the cornerstones of their communities. For the past two years, libraries have been a lifeline for New Yorkers across the state, providing Internet access at a time when broadband Internet has become even more necessary in our daily lives. The Statewide Digital Inclusion Grant Program will do a lot to connect New Yorkers to these increasingly important services, but it can’t help anyone until we get the money out the door. It is imperative that we cash out last year’s budget and commit to fully fund our libraries so they can continue to serve the public effectively.”
Kenneth H. Stone, Deputy Director-Chief Financial Officer, Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, said, “As demonstrated by the elevator under construction here, the New York State Library’s construction assistance is critical to the provision of accessible physical access and energy-efficient systems Library facilities, many of which are more than 50 years old. Funding for digital inclusion helps our 37 libraries provide electronic access to the community. This includes free Wi-Fi inside and outside library buildings, access to services such as telemedicine, and support to connect recently arrived refugees to the online world.”