Appropriators Eye $650 Million for Coupons

It may not get out of committee, and it certainly won’t help a lot of people before the Feb. 17 (for now) end of full-power analog television.

But in a stimulus plan released Thursday (Jan. 15), the House Appropriations Committee included $650 million for the converter-box coupon program that is now out of funds and relying on recycled dollars from expired coupons to send out new ones.

The 13-page plan states that there will be no “earmarks” in the package, but it does list $550 billion for nearly every aspect of government activity, from roads and bridges to worker benefits. It also envisions tax cuts for 95 percent of Americans ($275 billion in “economic recovery tax cuts,”) although the Appropriations Committee doesn’t have jurisdiction over tax policy.

The $650 million for coupons constitutes almost half of the $1.3 billion-plus already spent on the program.

The plan also includes $6 billion in broadband development funding.

It’s unclear when a stimulus package will make it through Congress, but several news reports have predicted a mid-February goal, and incoming President Obama and many others have said that the package should be completed and approved as quickly as possible.