Draft Senate COVID Relief Bill Includes $1B for Technology Modernization Fund

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The fund gets a second chance at a boost after a $9 billion proposal didn’t make it to the House-passed bill.

A preliminary draft of the Senate’s American Rescue Act includes $1 billion in appropriations for the Technology Modernization Fund within the General Services Administration, according to a source familiar with the legislation.

The amount is far less than the $9 billion House Democrats initially requested in January in President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief package, but a substantial upgrade over the zero dollars in TMF funding included in the House’ version of the COVID-19 relief bill, which passed over the weekend.

The Senate’s preliminary draft also includes $850 million in IT-related funding for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the U.S. Digital Services. Under the proposal, $650 million would go to CISA for cybersecurity risk mitigation and $200 million would flow to USDS.

The Senate is expected to finalize its version of the bill in the coming days. The House-passed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill—which cleared the Democratic-controlled House with no Republican support—includes billions in technology funding.

The largest single tech investment in the House bill would direct about $7.6 billion to the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which supports broadband capabilities and remote learning in schools nationwide. The bill would also provide an additional $2 billion to beef up the nation’s unemployment insurance system infrastructure. The system, operated out of the Labor Department, came under scrutiny by the agency’s inspector general in February after an ongoing audit of CARES Act funds found the federal government had doled out at least $5.4 billion in fraudulent unemployment claims.

Only a few of the proposed technology funding upgrades in the bill contain specific appropriated dollar values, with technology frequently underpinning other health-related costs, like PPE. 

However, the bill does allocate $140 million to the Indian Health Service for IT, telehealth infrastructure and electronic health records system upgrades. IHS, which provides federal health services to 2.6 million American Indians and Alaska Natives annually, is in the midst of a massive upgrade to its IT infrastructure and recently engaged industry on the matter.

In addition, the House version of the bill would appropriate $21.2 million to the Railroad Retirement Board for “IT investment initiatives.”