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What Does the COVID-19 Stimulus Bill Mean for Tech?

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., are poised to pass historic legislation to help nurse the country through the economic woes related to the coronavirus pandemic. Here are the technology implications.

Washington D.C. on a winter night
Late Wednesday night, the Senate approved the $2.2 trillion stimulus package titled Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provides $150 billion to states and local government to respond to the pandemic and economic crisis caused by COVID-19. The bill now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives for a vote on Friday.

The $150 billion in aid to states and localities in the Coronavirus Relief Fund is mostly allocated by population with a guarantee that each state receives at least $1.25 billion. Additionally, there is $3 billion reserved for U.S. territories and the District of Columbia and $8 billion set aside for tribal governments.

The $2 trillion federal stimulus bill also includes $340 billion (in addition to the $150 billion) in emergency supplemental funding of which more than 80 percent ($274 billion) will go directly to states and localities, according to the Senate Appropriations Committee. An analysis of the various funding streams has identified various technology-related opportunities including $400 million in elections security. Here is a breakdown of some of the key funding streams that are either directly related to technology or may incorporate technology as an allowable expense:

Elections Security — $400 million

The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) will provide grants to the States for the 2020 election cycle.

Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT), and Broadband Program — $25 million

The DLT grant program supports rural communities’ access to telecommunications, audio and video equipment, as well as related advanced technologies for students, teachers and medical professionals.

Economic Development Administration — $1.5 billion

Economic development grants for states and communities suffering economically as a result of COVID-19.

Department of Justice Grants, Byrne JAG: $850 million

Funding to assist state, local, and tribal officers in responding to coronavirus. These funds will go directly to state and local governments and their law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. This is a fairly broad-based use grant that can be used to fund equipment, cars, technology or other-related needs.

Telehealth — $200 million

$200 million for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to support the efforts of health-care providers to address coronavirus by providing telecommunications services, information services, and devices necessary to enable the provision of telehealth services.

Department of Homeland Security — $9.1 million

Funding to address immediate needs for improved interagency coordination for the protection of critical infrastructure nationwide. 

Public Health Data Surveillance and Infrastructure Modernization — $500 million

Funding to invest in better COVID-19 tools and build state and local public health data infrastructure.

State and Local Preparedness Grants — $1.5 billion

Designated funding from FEMA for state and local preparedness and response activities. 

Elementary and Secondary Education — $13.5 billion

Over $13 billion in formula funding directly to states, to help schools meet the immediate needs of K-12 districts to improve the use of education technology and support distance education.

K-12 State Flexibility Funding — $3 billion

A flexible formula funding to be allocated by states based on the needs of their K-12 districts and their institutions of higher education.

Higher Education — $14.25 billion

Similar to K-12, this funding will be used to meet urgent needs related to coronavirus, and to support institutions as they cope with the immediate effects of coronavirus and school closures.

Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Transit Infrastructure Grants — $25 billion

Funding for transit providers, including states and local governments across the country, for operating and capital expenses.

Federal Aviation Administration, Airport Improvement Program (AIP) — $10 billion

Funding to maintain operations at our nation’s airports including construction, rehabilitation, lighting, signage, etc.

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) — $5 billion

CDBG is a flexible program that provides communities and states with funding to provide a wide range of resources to address COVID-19, such as services for senior citizens, the homeless, and public health services.

Homeless Assistance Grants — $4 billion

These funds will enable state and local governments to address coronavirus among the homeless population.

Beyond the funding streams, there are other implications that may drive technology-related spending or projects including:

  • The deadline to obtain a Real ID the federally mandated identification that will be needed to board an airplane is now extended until at least September 2021.
  • The bill includes a massive expansion of unemployment insurance (UI). During the Great Recession when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act extended UI benefits many states were scrambling to update their code and systems to accommodate these changes. What changes, if any, will be needed to make this possible?
  • Additional state- and local-led funding that is tied to COVID-19 that would include the expansion of telework, digital services and more directly funding COVID-19 response related to public health.  
Joe Morris is the vice president of research for the Center for Digital Government, operated by Government Technology's parent company, e.Republic.