From Christine Christine W. McEntee, Executive Vice President/CEO, American Institute of Architects, Washington, D.C.:
I’m sure by now, you have heard loudly from readers that the premise of your editorial “Congress to AEC industry: Drop dead!,” March 2009, is based on missing details about the scope of spending in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. As one of the most active participants in helping provide input to Congressional leaders who created the bill, the AIA determined that it was a credible first effort on the part of the federal government to help provide the meaningful jobs this industry so desperately needs.
While the design and construction industry didn’t get the comprehensive funding that the AIA advocated, there are still many opportunities for members of the industry. You are correct in asserting that the $8.8 billion slated for Governors can be used for both education and public safety. However, the bill provides an additional $44 billion (five times as much) that goes directly to local school districts to spend solely on education activities, of which school modernization is one allowable use. Public safety is not an allowable use of that $44 billion pot.
Already, we are hearing of states and school districts using their stimulus funds for school modernization.
Additionally, the bill includes an additional $22 billon in school construction bonds that can be leveraged into billions more for school construction. By any estimation, Congress has intended to help create jobs for the industry.
Another way in which the stimulus bill will help the industry is through funding of $49.3 billion for transportation infrastructure. Transit facilities, such as airport facilities (terminals) and Amtrak facilities are all funded out of this account, with up to $18.8 billion available for these activities.
Yes, the Congressional compromise cut billions for energy efficiency activities that might have led to work for firms, however, the bill did included $3.2 billion (twice as much as what was cut) for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program. Many cities are already ramping up plans to use the funds for building retrofits. The bill also increases to $3.2 billion (from $800 million) funds available for qualified energy conservation bonds, meaning that the bill actually increases grant and bond funds for energy efficiency by $5.6 billion.
Finally, your assertion that the funding allocated for GSA projects was for "existing project backlogs" only is inaccurate. There is nothing in the legislation that stipulates funds be used only for projects in the backlog. The GSA has made clear that the scope and variety of projects to be funded will require bringing in new A/E firms as well as providing work to those with existing relationships with GSA.
There are other provisions in the bill that provide opportunities for the industry to get back to work, including providing more than $10 billion in public housing repairs, modernization, and greening. In total, the AIA estimates that the bill includes $131 billion in funds that can go towards the design and construction of buildings.
As you continue to follow the stimulus spending in your publications, I invite you to find out more about what the bill includes for architects and others by visiting our Rebuild and Renew resource center at www.aia.org/rebuildandrenew.