H.R. 1343: To return unused or reclaimed funds made available for broadband awards in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to the Treasury of the United States

H.R. 1343

To return unused or reclaimed funds made available for broadband awards in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to the Treasury of the United States

Date
October 5, 2011 (112th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, October 5, 2011, the House is scheduled consider H.R. 1343 under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage.  The resolution was introduced by Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH) on April 4, 2011, and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, as well as the House Committee on Agriculture.

Bill Summary

H.R. 1343 would require the Administrator of the Rural Utilities Service or the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information to terminate any award (including grants and loans) made under the Broadband Initiatives Program or the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program established pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, if the Administrator or Assistant Secretary determines that cause exists (including insufficient level of performance, wasteful spending, or fraudulent spending) to terminate the award.

The bill would direct the Administrator or the Assistant Secretary to deobligate, upon terminating such an award, an amount equivalent to such award, as recoverable, less allowable costs and return to the Treasury's general fund such deobligated amounts and any award returned or disclaimed by a recipient after enactment of this Act. 

The bill would require that the Administrator or the Assistant Secretary pursue available corrective measures to ensure that funds received through an award terminated are not expended during the termination process.

H.R. 1343 would require that if the Administrator of the Rural Utilities Service or the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information receives information from an official with respect to an award made under the Broadband Initiatives Program or the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, established pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and such information pertains to material noncompliance with the award terms or provisions or improper usage of award funds, the Administrator or the Assistant Secretary must:

(1) Immediately review such information; and

(2) No later than 30 days after receiving such information, determine whether cause exists to terminate such award, unless the official who provided such information recommends that the Administrator or the Assistant Secretary limit or not make such a determination.

The bill would require that the Administrator or the Assistant Secretary provide a notification of their determination to the House Committee on Agriculture and the Committee on Agriculture of the Senate; or the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate, respectively; as well as the official who provided the information.

Background

According to the Congressional Budget Office, H.R. 1343 would require the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to terminate certain grant awards if the agency determines that award recipients are engaged in wasteful or fraudulent activities or have not met performance expectations.  The bill also would require each agency, upon receiving notification of material noncompliance with award terms or improper usage of award funds, to determine whether the award should be terminated and to notify the Congress of any terminated awards.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) established two programs to promote the development of broadband services.  The NTIA awarded $4.4 billion in grants to public and private entities to develop a map of broadband availability nationwide and to encourage construction and use of broadband networks.  The RUS awarded $2.3 billion in grants and $1.2 billion in federal loans to fund the deployment and construction of broadband infrastructure in rural areas.

Both agencies are required under current law to promptly terminate grants for wasteful or fraudulent spending or for failure to meet specific performance milestones.  In addition, the Pay-It-Back-Act (Public Law 111-203) requires agencies to promptly return to the Treasury any funds awarded under ARRA that are terminated. Thus, restating those requirements, as provided in H.R. 1343, would not affect federal spending or revenues.

Cost

Based on information from the agencies, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that implementing the new reporting requirements in H.R. 1343 would have no significant effect on spending subject to appropriation.  Enacting H.R. 1343 would not affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.