Final stimulus bill keeps billions for IT

Billions of dollars for information technology survived the latest round of cuts to make it to the final version of the economic stimulus package going to a vote in the House and Senate as early as today.

The $789 billion economic recovery legislation retains several major IT items that include $4.5 billion for smart electric grids while making a few small modifications in the amounts for digital health records, green federal buildings and national broadband networks. The previous House version totaled $820 billion and the Senate’s, $838 billion.

House and Senate conference committee leaders maintained the House’s $2 billion allocation in support of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. The Senate bill directed $3 billion to that office.

Health IT overall got a trim. Preliminary reports estimate the total cost of the health IT-related spending and tax provisions in the final version of the stimulus bill to be $19 billion overall, down from an estimated $20 billion in the House measure and $23 billion in the Senate bill.

Rural broadband spending got tweaked slightly with a final figure of $2.5 billion rather than $2.8 billion in the House bill. Total broadband network allocation is estimated at $7 billion, which is a compromise between the House’s $6 billion total and the Senate’s $9 billion.

The General Services Administration’s allocation for green federal buildings was reduced to $4.5 billion, from $6 billion in the House bill.

Most IT programs were carried through to the final bill, including $1 billion for the U.S. Census, $2.5 billion for National Science Foundation research and related activities, and $6.6 billion for Energy Department loan guarantees for innovative technologies.

“We believe that the recovery package, though imperfect, gives Americans much hope and powerful new tools to surmount the challenges of our weakened economy and survived intact,” Bob Kramer, vice president of public policy for the Computing Technology Industry Association, said today in a statement.

House and Senate leaders included Trade Adjustment Assistance in the bill to help retrain workers who lost high-tech jobs and put off for a year the effective date of a 3 percent withholding tax on payments to federal contracts, Kramer said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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