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House Bill Could Mean Billions for State, Local IT

Newly introduced federal legislation could create billions of dollars in funding to help state and local governments modernize outdated legacy systems and create more resilient cybersecurity protocols.

A digital padlock over a tech background.
Newly introduced legislation in the U.S. House could deliver $28 billion in federal funds to state and local governments for the purposes of overall upgrades to IT and cybersecurity infrastructure.

The State and Local IT Modernization and Cybersecurity Act is the latest in a string of bills introduced over the past year that seeks to create a federal funding mechanism for state and local governments around issues of cybersecurity investment.

As state and municipal budgets continue to see cratering downturns due to COVID-19-related revenue shortages, concern for how such governments will continue to adequately protect their IT systems has risen. 

The new bill attempts to address those concerns, offering to create three new federal grant programs that funnel billions of dollars in funding to help governments replace old legacy systems and move them to cloud-based systems.

One such proposed grant program — the Modernizing IT Grant Program — would provide $25 billion over a five-year period so that state and municipal governments could accomplish those upgrades. Meanwhile, the Public Health Emergency Information Technology Grant Program would channel money to "emergency IT expenses exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic," helping to cover the unexpected costs associated with the current pandemic. The State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program would provide $2 billion to help state and local governments develop their own cybersecurity strategic plans. 

The legislation was drafted by lawmakers attached to the Cyberspace Solarium Commission who, earlier this year, published a white paper outlining the various deficiencies in U.S. government's IT security strategy. One of the commission's most consistent suggestions has been to use federal funds to help empower state and local government in the area of cybersecurity. 

"Outdated legacy systems not only threaten state and local governments' ability to deliver critical services, but can also expose sensitive data to cyberthreats," said Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., one of the sponsors of the legislation, in a statement. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and modernizing IT infrastructure is an important step towards ensuring our country is well-defended in cyberspace across all levels of government."

Lucas Ropek is a former staff writer for Government Technology.