Senate COVID-19 Relief Bill Prioritizes IT, Telework Across Agencies

The $2 trillion COVID-19 coronavirus relief legislation, passed by the Senate late Wednesday night, includes far reaching Federal agency investments to ramp up the government’s response to the pandemic, including funds for IT and telework infrastructure. The Senate legislation still requires approval by the House of Representatives, and President Trump’s signature.

Here’s a rundown on the some of the bigger items that fund technology-centered efforts:

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

The Health Resources and Services Administration-Rural Health within HHS would receive $180 million for telehealth and rural health activities through September 2022.

At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, $500 million of the agency’s total funding will be put toward public health data surveillance and infrastructure modernization. Specifically, the funds will be directed to investments in COVID-19 data tools, and building state and local public health data infrastructure.

Indian Health Services alone would receive $1.032 billion for its coronavirus response, including electronic health record modernization, telehealth, and other IT upgrades.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

VA would receive $2.15 billion to support IT systems for its response to coronavirus through September 2021. This would fund telework, telehealth, enhanced bandwidth, and other tech transitions that directly mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

Further, the legislation allows the department to enter into short-term agreements with telecommunications companies to provide broadband services for its telehealth and VA Video Connect mental health services.

Office of Personnel Management (OPM)

To combat coronavirus, OPM’s budget increase will be used in part to support “technologies for digital case management, short-term methods to allow electronic submissions of retirement application packages in support of paper-based business operations, and increased telecommunications.”

Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

FCC would use a part of its $200 million in additional funding to provide telecommunications, information services, and other devices necessary to conducting telehealth services.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s $9.1 million boost would support improvements in interagency coordination for protecting critical infrastructure during the coronavirus outbreak.

Of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s $45.4 billion boost, almost $45 million will remain available for IT enhancements and facilities support in response to the coronavirus.

The legislation also directs the Coast Guard to use a portion of its $140.8 million funding increase to boost the capability and capacity of its IT systems and infrastructure.

Department of Defense (DoD)

DoD would be allotted $300 million to support IT procurement and increase agency network bandwidth.

The Defense Working Capital Funds and the Defense Logistics Agency were allotted $1.45 billion to support the defense industrial supply chain.

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

A $35 million increase to HUD’s administrative support offices would support coronavirus-related IT expenditures and the department’s transition to a telework environment.

Department of Agriculture

To aid distance learning, telemedicine, and other broadband initiatives, the Rural Utilities Service would be allotted $25 million in its response to coronavirus.

Department of Commerce (DoC)

The National Institute of Standards and Technology would receive $6 million for continuity of operations during the pandemic.

Department of the Interior (DoI)

With the $522 million granted to DoI’s Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education components, the legislation directs both departments to fund improved teleworking capabilities and IT.

Department of Energy (DOE)

DOE’s Office of Science would receive $99.5 million, in part to enable tech and support research related to the coronavirus.

Katie Malone
About Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.

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