Van Hollen, Wyden, Colleagues Push for Access to Digital Resources for State and Local Governments Managing COVID-19 Crisis
Senators Propose Boosting Funding and Cutting Red Tape So Federal Technology Resources Can Aid Benefits Systems Overwhelmed by Unprecedented Need, Outdated Technology
U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), along with 14 of their colleagues, wrote a letter urging Congressional leadership to provide additional digital resources for state and local governments managing the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on local communities.
In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the legislators wrote: “The COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmed state and local government benefits systems due to unprecedented numbers of applications and outdated systems. More than 22 million Americans have filed unemployment claims in the past four weeks alone. News reports abound showing hours-long hold times for Americans seeking assistance with unemployment claims, small business loans and grants, and other emergency programs. These federal programs, which are administered by the states, are of the utmost importance to American workers and businesses. They must be able to serve this skyrocketing need, per Congressional intent in the CARES Act.”
The legislators pushed Congressional leadership to make federal digital resources – like the Unites States Digital Service (USDS) and the Technology Transformation Service (TTS) – more readily available to state and local governments. In order to do so, the legislators encouraged that the following be included in the next COVID-19 package:
- Provide a $50 million emergency appropriation to the Office of Management and Budget Information Technology Oversight and Reform Fund for USDS to hire additional skilled technologists who could immediately begin to serve their country.
- Ensure these funds are specifically targeted for USDS support of state and local governments use of technology required to administer federal programs or for federal systems that distribute or facilitate the distribution of direct citizen services.
- Waive or significantly streamline any restrictions on USDS to work with state and local governments.
- Encourage USDS to prioritize COVID-19 related projects, including those with state customers.
- Provide a $25 million emergency appropriation to the Federal Citizen’s Services Fund.
- Ensure these funds are specifically appropriated for TTS for support of state and local governments, including use, configuration, and advice on the purchase of technology products and services. This should include cloud service authorizations to enable cloud adoption by state and local governments.
- Waive or significantly streamline any restrictions on TTS to work with state and local governments, including restrictions on funding sources, signatory requirements and acquisition services support through the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act and other related authorizations.
- Waive restrictions on states and local governments from being able to purchase the products created by the federal government.
- Encourage TTS (and General Services Administration as a whole) to prioritize COVID-19 related projects including those with state customers.
Joining Van Hollen and Wyden on this letter were U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.).
Demand Progress, Lincoln Network, Public Knowledge and the Center for Democracy and Technology have endorsed the recommendations made in this letter.
A copy of the letter is available here.
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