WASHINGTON — Nevada’s two Democrats in the House today endorsed a waiver that could allow the economically strapped state to qualify for federal stimulus grants for schools even if it can’t meet the financial requirements.
Reps. Shelley Berkley and Dina Titus asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to support a waiver provision in the final economic recovery bill that House and Senate leaders are expected to finalize in the coming days.
“A waiver of this nature will give states like Nevada the best chance to receive the funding that they so desperately need for critical education programs,” the lawmakers said in a letter to Pelosi.
A copy of the letter also was delivered to Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee who is expected to be on the House-Senate conference panel writing the final bill.
The Senate version of the stimulus bill would allow the secretary of education to waive the requirements that states must meet to obtain education grants. The House version contains no waiver provision. At stake are at least $256 million in grants from a “state stabilization fund” in the bill.
Democrats in the Nevada Legislature say they fear their state will fail to meet so-called “maintenance of effort” requirements in order to qualify for the money.
Those rules require states to maintain spending for elementary and secondary education, and for higher education, at least at what was spent during the 2005-06 fiscal year, a bar that could be too high.
“Nevada has been one of the states hardest hit by the recent economic downturn,” Berkley and Titus said in their letter. With unemployment above the national average and with Nevada leading the nation in foreclosures and personal bankruptcies, “the economic situation is particularly grim.”
Nevada is not the only state concerned about the stimulus bill.
Robert Strange, a policy associate for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said Florida, New York and several other states are worried that they also won’t qualify for the federal grants.
And, Strange added, “Just because the waiver is in there doesn’t mean the secretary of education will grant it.”
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at email@example.com or 202-783-1760. Review-Journal Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel contributed to this report.