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Tech firms applaud stimulus package

Congress approves a package that would provide tax breaks for computer equipment purchase and extend unemployment benefits for some workers.

Tech companies are cheering a new economic stimulus package that would provide tax breaks for computer equipment purchase and extend unemployment benefits for some workers, saying it could help pave the road for recovery.

The Senate passed H.R. 3090 in an 85-9 vote Friday. The House approved the bill Thursday after a hard-fought battle over competing economic stimulus measures in the narrowly divided Congress. The compromise measure is a much slimmer version of earlier proposals, the result of trade-offs between those seeking more unemployment aid for axed workers and those seeking tax breaks for ailing companies. President Bush is expected to endorse it.

High-tech companies--which have been hit especially hard by the triple whammy of Sept. 11, the recession and the dot-com bust--are hoping the bill will give a much-needed boost to their industry by increasing orders, spurring investment in computers and software, and creating jobs.

"With IT spending growth in the U.S. barely registering a blip on the economic radar screen, this action is a much-needed shot in the arm," Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, said in a statement praising the bill.

The tech industry is particularly pleased with a provision that lets companies write off an additional 30 percent of the costs of tech equipment and other new capital expenditures over three years. The Business Software Alliance (BSA), an anti-piracy group representing most of the industry's major software companies, lobbied heavily for that plan.

This week, BSA Chief Executive Robert Holleyman sent a letter to House members urging passage of the bill, saying high-tech companies still need help despite the brighter economic outlook.

"The high-tech community, as well as other industries and businesses, continues to struggle and is working hard to avoid layoffs or other cutbacks that would hurt our employees," Holleyman wrote, citing a particular need for the 30 percent write-off.

William Archey, president and CEO of the American Electronics Association, also applauded the plan. "The high-tech industry is firmly united in its support of an economic stimulus package," Archey said in a statement, adding that he hopes the bill will "stimulate greater investment, particularly in high-tech equipment, and provide the kind of stimulus that will strengthen American companies and create more jobs across the country."

The bill gives an additional 13 weeks of unemployment aid to some people who have used their 26-week allotment.

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