Senate Dems join push for $1B TMF boost

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A group of Democratic senators are asking top appropriators to include a six-fold increase to an IT modernization revolving fund in the next round of pandemic relief and stimulus legislation.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) led a letter co-signed by five colleagues urging Senate appropriators to tab $1 billion for the Technology Modernization Fund, the revolving fund authorized by the Modernizing Government Technology Act. The addition would dramatically increase the capacity of the fund, which is currently capitalized at $150 million, to take on new modernization projects.

"The federal COVID-19 response has dramatically exposed the failures of outdated, legacy federal IT systems and shone a light on the need for agencies to more quickly modernize their networks," the lawmakers wrote. They noted that a June report of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, "identified multiple agencies where IT systems struggle to accommodate large percentages of teleworking federal employees, causing system problems that slow the place of normal functions like claims processing, increasing security risk, and making telework inefficient and frustrating."

In May, the House passed the $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act which included a $1 billion boost to the TMF. That bill was not acted on in the Senate, but lawmakers are now considering a new supplemental appropriation to extend unemployment benefits and provide aid to state and local governments. However, Democrats and Republicans are reportedly not yet close to an agreement on the cost of the package.

Last week a group of House Democrats urged their leaders to include the $1 billion addition to the TMF in any new round of stimulus.

The Senate bill released earlier this week does have some funding for technology, including $1.1 billion in grants to states to modernize the technology of old unemployment insurance systems and $2 billion in funding good through the close of fiscal year 2025 to support IRS business systems modernization.

The bill also funds an earlier legislative mandate included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act that lets the Defense Department pay idled contractors. Pentagon officials welcomed the authority but balked at finding the money. The Senate bill provides $10.85 billion to support claims made by contractors under Section 3610 of the CARES Act.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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