House Democrats released an updated version of their $2.2 trillion HEROES Act COVID-19 relief legislation yesterday that retains over $1 billion in proposed new funding for the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF).
The House approved its original $3 billion HEROES Act relief legislation in May, but the bill found no traction in the Senate and opposition from the White House.
The $1 billion of proposed new TMF funding to help Federal agencies improve IT systems is specifically designated in the bill for “technology-related modernization activities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally.” The text of the legislation does not detail how long the funding would be available, or if current TMF repayment rules would apply.
The proposed funding in the latest version of the HEROES Act is a fraction of what legislators like Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., have called for to help agencies modernize during the pandemic. In April, he pushed for a $3 billion increase to TMF as a part of COVID-19 relief funds. “The TMF proposal is being discussed for future relief packages and remains one of my priorities,” Rep. Connolly told MeriTalk via email earlier this year.
The updated version of the HEROES Act also includes money for sustained tech investments across several agencies in line with the original proposal. To safeguard the 2020 election, Democratic members of the Appropriations Committee propose $3.6 billion in grants to states for contingency planning, preparation, and resilience of elections for Federal office, and $3 billion for an Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund.
In July, six Senate Democrats joined the call for tech modernization funding in coronavirus relief legislation. Sens. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Mark Warner, D-Va., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Robert Casey Jr., D-Pa., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., wrote, “We should provide a major funding allocation to the TMF now for projects that will provide the bandwidth, security, and functionality needed to make teleworking Federal workers just as productive at home as in the office, and for other urgent COVID-19 response needs.”
Under FY2021 regular appropriations legislation approved in July, the TMF would receive only $25 million of new funding.