Smithsonian gets $25M from stimulus package

Wednesday - 2/18/2009, 6:11pm EST

By BRETT ZONGKER
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Smithsonian Institution is poised to receive $25 million from the economic stimulus plan to help repair existing facilities.

The museum and research complex will get part of the $787 billion stimulus package President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday. A House version of the bill had included $150 million for the Smithsonian to tackle its $2.5 billion backlog on maintenance for its 19 museums, the National Zoo and numerous research centers. That number was slashed to $75 million in the Senate, and cut to $25 million in a compromise passed Friday.

Museum officials are drawing up a list of priorities, Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas said. Officials have said repairs to the shuttered Arts and Industries building, one of the oldest buildings on the National Mall, are among the most pressing needs. The building has been closed since 2004 because its crumbling ceiling was deemed unsafe.

"We're happy to get $25 million. That's over and above our annual appropriation," St. Thomas said, "so that will help solve our infrastructure problems."

Museums would have been barred from receiving stimulus funds, along with casinos, golf courses, zoos and other attractions under a Senate amendment pushed by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. But those restrictions were scaled back in the final legislation, allowing funding for museums and arts groups.

The stimulus package also includes $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts to help struggling arts organizations in every state, a line that had been cut in the Senate. Arts advocates said the funding could save 14,000 jobs in the nonprofit sector.


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