President Bush took the final step necessary to enable the E-rate program to resume its previous practices for approving funding commitments, signing into law a measure that will exempt the Universal Service Administrative Company from having to comply with the Anti-Deficiency Act for another year.
Passage of the legislation will enable the Schools and Libraries Division to resume approving funding commitments before USAC has actually collected the money. The funding crisis arose after USAC was required to comply with the government accounting standards, starting October 1, 2004. The new legislation will give the agencies involved another year to try to figure out how to manage the accounting issues without disrupting the Universal Service Fund programs.
It was unclear when the SLD would release the next wave for the 2004 funding year; the wave is expected to be a large one, reflecting a backlog of applications that have been reviewed. An SLD staff member said he did not expect that the wave would be issued this week. On December 27, the SLD was able to distribute another wave for the 2003 funding year totaling just over $20 million for about 30 applicants. Further details on that wave were expected later this week.