COVID-19 News: Increased Deficit Not Due to COVID-19, Uniform Essential Employee Guidance Needed, and USAF Seeks Tech for Response

Here’s an overview of some of the latest COVID-19 coronavirus developments on the government and tech fronts:

CBO: Increased Deficit Not Due to COVID-19 Spending

The Congressional Budget Office released its March report, which showed a $741 billion Federal budget deficit in the first half of the fiscal year, which began in October. The deficit was about $50 billion greater than the deficit at the same point last fiscal year. While there was an increase, the CBO said those results were not significantly impacted by the Federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Federal government’s response, including the stimulus legislation, will be more noticeable in the April economic metrics, the CBO said.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Calls for Uniform Approach to Identify Essential Workers

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called for a uniform approach to identifying essential workers and functions. In an April 7 statement, the Chamber described the current approach to identifying essential workers “a patchwork of guidance [that] has emerged domestically and internationally.” Further, it said that the lack of clarity “is impeding efforts to respond to this crisis.”

To help develop the uniform approach, the Chamber released two resources. The first tool tracks each state’s “stay at home” guidance and maps it to guidance from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The Essential Workforce Tracker is intended to help businesses understand the various government orders and guidance. The Chamber has also developed a set of principles titled “International Principles for Safeguarding Essential Economic Functions in the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The principles, developed in collaboration with the public and private sector, will help provide a “more consistent approach to identifying essential economic functions.”

Air Force Seeks Tech for COVID-19 Response

The U.S. Air Force Acquisition COVID-19 Task Force is seeking technology and other resources from industry to aid its response to the coronavirus. An April 6 solicitation from the agency outlines seven mission areas – combatting the spread, welfare of citizens, readiness, logistics, industrial base impacts, medical, and other – for which they are seeking solution briefs. Members of industry can pitch prototypes, commercially available tech, concept demonstrations, or agile development activities that can improve the Air Force’s response to the pandemic. Proposals are being accepted through Sept. 30.

A Treasury Inspector General Warns of COVID-19 Relief Scams

In an April 7 bulletin, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) J. Russell George urged taxpayers to be on “high alert” for scams related to the COVID-19 government relief payments. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, taxpayers will receive relief funding to offset the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Previous government assistance efforts have been used by crooks and scammers who see this as an opportunity to defraud taxpayers in every way possible,” said George. The warning specifically mentioned criminals impersonating IRS officials and phishing attempts. George asked taxpayers to forward all scams e-mails to phishing@irs.gov.

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