Congressional earmarks and libraries: Apply for projects Feb. 28-March 17

In 2021, Congress revived the practice of including earmarks in appropriations bills after a 10-year absence. Earmark funding goes directly to the entity designated by Congress for the specified project (separate from regular federal programs). Earmarks were rebranded “Congressionally Directed Spending” in the Senate and “Community Project Funding” in the House.

In the appropriations laws enacted since then, Congress has directed earmarks to more than 100 projects involving libraries, totaling nearly $150 million (see fiscal year 2022 and 2023 lists).

For the upcoming appropriations bills (fiscal year 2024), interested libraries may submit project requests to their Members of Congress. Here are some points to consider:

When can libraries apply? Most Congressmembers’ application deadlines will likely be in March 2023. Most Congressmembers have not yet announced application deadlines, but several Senators have announced deadlines between Feb. 28 and March 17.

What can libraries request funds for? Projects are typically for specific, one-time activities (and do not fund ongoing activities like annual operating expenses). Most library projects in FY22 and FY23 were capital projects, such as building renovation or construction; others included pilot programs or one-time activities related to technology, children and youth, and history.

Which types of libraries can apply? Library projects in FY22 and FY23 included projects at school, academic, public, Tribal, state, and special libraries.

How much funding can libraries request? The Congressional share of funding for library projects in FY22 and FY23 typically ranged from $50,000 to $2,000,000.

How can libraries apply? Requests are submitted to individual Congressmembers’ offices, each of which establishes its own request forms and deadlines. (Most deadlines to apply for FY24 will likely be in March 2023.) Libraries with a potential project can reach out to their Congressmembers’ offices to discuss the idea and to ask for their form and deadline. Applicants can submit the same request to all the Congressmembers who represent the location of the proposed project (i.e., the Representative for that district and both Senators for that state). Note that some Congressmembers do not accept requests.

When would successful requests receive funding? Following the enactment of the FY24 appropriations law, likely late in calendar year 2023 or in calendar year 2024.

Caveat: The House Appropriations Committee has not yet released guidance for FY24, which may affect deadlines and project eligibility for requests by House members.

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