The latest COVID-19 relief legislation being prepared by House Democrats – the HEROES Act – proposes $1 billion for the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) to help Federal agencies improve their information technology systems.
The $1 billion figure is a fraction of the $3 billion amount favored by longtime TMF champion Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and included in a House Democratic draft prior to passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed in late March. But it also would mark a gigantic leap forward for the TMF program which has only received $25 million of new funding in each of the past two fiscal years.
Text of the HEROES Act legislation says the $1 billion of TMF funding is intended for “technology-related modernization activities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” The legislative language does not include information about how long the funding would remain available, or any changes to repayment rules.
The HEROES Act, which clocks in at 90 pages, includes several other noteworthy technology-related measures:
- Department of Education – $90 billion for a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund that would provide grants to states to support K-12 and college institutions. The flexible funding can be used for, among other things, purchasing educational technology, coordinating efforts between state educational agencies and public health; training and professional development for college and university faculty and staff to use technology and services related to distance education; and emergency financial aid to postsecondary students for technology expenses.
- 2020 Election – $3.6 billion in grants to states for contingency planning, preparation, and resilience of elections for Federal office.
- Broadband – $1.5 billion to close the “homework gap” by providing funding for Wi-Fi hotspots and connected devices for students and library patrons, and $4 billion for emergency home connectivity needs.
- Census Bureau – $410 million in expenses due to delays in the 2020 Census.
- National Science Foundation Research and Related Activities – $125 million to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.
- House of Representatives – $5 million to support an upgraded imaging solution for House imaged laptops due to COVID-19, an increase in inventory of satellite phone, mobile Wi-Fi hotspots, and updated satellite bandwidth technologies. This request also encompasses funding for the newly formed Select Committee that will provide oversight of the funds provided for coronavirus and economic aid.