Here’s an overview of some of the latest developments on the government and tech fronts due to COVID-19:
Senators Push for Local Journalism Funding in Next Stimulus Bill
In a letter to Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., several Democrat Senators wrote to ask for funding to support local journalism and media in the next coronavirus stimulus package.
“Local news is in a state of crisis that has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter said. “Communities across the country have seen the further decimation of this important industry as local publications have stopped printing and laid off staff in the last few weeks.”
The letter to Senate leadership makes mention of the World Health Organization identifying a “massive infodemic” surrounding COVID-19. The “infodemic” is cited as “an overabundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.”
“Local news plays an indispensable role in American civic life as a trusted source for critical information, a watchdog for government and corporate accountability, and a building block of social cohesion,” the Senators wrote.
Bill to Educate Voters During Pandemic Introduced
Rep. Bill Phillips, D-Minn., introduced legislation that would ensure that states communicated accurate, up-to-date election information with voters. The Voter Notification of Timely Information about Changes in Elections (NOTICE) Act, introduced April 14, would require all states to “provide robust and accessible information campaigns to inform voters of any election process changes that are made in response to COVID-19.” Additionally, the bill would ensure that local election officials can access funds “immediately” to pay for the required communications.
Philips said that this legislation was needed given that many states are looking to change the voting process given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Some states are expanding vote by mail, no-excuse absentee ballots, and early voting. “All of these measures will help protect our citizens’ rights to participate safely in our democracy. But none of these reforms will be effective unless they are clearly communicated to the public,” Phillips office said in a statement.
“Elections absolutely must occur as scheduled on November 3rd,” said Phillips. “We need to ensure that they are held safely, securely, and fairly. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all of us to make unprecedented changes to our daily lives, and we must ensure that all Americans have the information necessary to participate in our democracy.”
Supreme Court to Hear Cases by Phone in May
The United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments by telephone conference for the first time beginning in May due to the public health emergency.
“In keeping with public health guidance in response to COVID-19, the Justices and counsel will all participate remotely,” the court said in a statement. “The Court anticipates providing a live audio feed of these arguments.”
The Court will hear oral arguments on May 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13. Cases will be assigned argument dates after the Clerk’s Office has confirmed the availability of counsel. The arguments include cases involving the president’s financial records, tribal land in Oklahoma, and the rights of electors in the Electoral College.
(ISC)² Offers Cyber Training During COVID-19
(ISC)², a cybersecurity professional association, announced April 14 that it will offer free or discounted cybersecurity trainings. The trainings include courses from its Professional Development Institute, as well as both online self-paced training and instructor-led training.
“This is a challenging time for many organizations as well as the cybersecurity professionals who keep them safe from cyber attacks, as they work to support remote workforces and keep their businesses running,” said Wesley Simpson, COO, (ISC)². “These professionals still have development and certification goals though, and with travel restrictions and cancelations keeping them from in-person trainings, meetings and conferences, we want to do our part to help them stay on track. These resources are just another way that we can hopefully support the larger cybersecurity community and encourage them to sharpen their skills while dealing with this pandemic.”