Senate draft of COVID-19 relief bill proposes $1B for Tech Modernization Fund

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A draft of the Senate version of the American Rescue Act includes $1 billion for the Technology Modernization Fund, according to a source familiar with the bill’s text.

The $1 billion injection would be a favorable increase over recent appropriations into the fund — a central pot of money that agencies can apply for to fund impactful modernization projects under the stipulation that they’ll pay it back within five years. In fiscal 2020, the TMF received only $25 million. It also comes after lawmakers considered completely removing the fund from the relief bill in early February.

Still, it falls well short of the $9 billion the Biden administration proposed for the TMF as a core driver for IT and cybersecurity modernization amid the nation’s response to COVID-19.

If the provision makes it into the final version of the Senate bill and is passed, it must also make it through negotiations before becoming part of the final bill handed to the president. Historically, it’s been the Senate that’s most wary of doling out TMF money.

The need for TMF funding was pushed hard by several Democrats last summer. In a letter, a group of tech-minded lawmakers urged congressional leadership to consider government IT reform as a critical part of pandemic recovery. Signees included top Capitol Hill tech advocates Reps. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, Ro Khanna of California, Robin Kelly of Illinois and Rhode Island’s Jim Langevin.

“The fate of the world’s largest economy and millions of American households rely on the ability of government IT systems to deliver in an emergency,” says the letter. “In many respects, those IT systems have not delivered during the pandemic and that should galvanize us all to action.”

The Senate also drafted other IT- and cyber-related provisions in its version of the bill, which FedScoop reviewed, including an additional $650 million for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) for “cybersecurity risk mitigation.” The U.S. Digital Service would also get a $200 million bump.

Many other agencies would see funding increases for tech, like the $25 million would be made available to the Department of Agriculture to improve the technology used in distributing food relief and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP) benefits. Several educational funding boosts also include technology allocations.

Meritalk was the first to report news of the draft.

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Congress, coronavirus, General Services Administration (GSA), Senate, Technology Modernization Fund, TMF
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