As crunch time approaches in Congress on a new round of pandemic relief legislation, a group of Democratic lawmakers including leaders of the House Oversight and Reform Committee urged House leadership in a July 24 letter to include in any bill at least $1 billion of additional funding for the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF).

That figure would match the new TMF funding approved by the House in May in the HEROES Act pandemic relief legislation – a bill that found no traction in the Senate and earned a veto threat from the White House. It also would fall in line with the proposal of several major tech groups in late June.

Despite Trump administration proposals to provide $150 million of new money to TMF in each of the last two fiscal years, new appropriations have totaled only $25 million in each of those years. Fiscal Year 2021 budgets approved earlier this month by the House Appropriations Committee provide $25 million for TMF next year.

Learn more about flexible funding vehicles like TMF in this issue brief.

The fund was created to finance IT modernization projects by Federal agencies, who agree to repay borrowings through savings generated by the projects. That repayment requirement has tempered agency demand for TMF-funded projects, and TMF has still not spent all of its funding from previous years.

In their June 24 letter to House leadership, Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of House Oversight, and Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., chairman of its Government Operations Subcommittee, renewed the call for “at least” $1 billion of new TMF funding and stressed the importance of shoring up Federal IT infrastructure to better provide key services to citizens during the pandemic and beyond.

“Throughout this global health crisis, millions of Americans facing illness, unemployment, food insecurity, and an inability to pay their mortgages or rent have looked to the Federal government for help,” the House Democrats said. “Yet despite urgent Congressional action to provide unprecedented levels of economic assistance, those in need have had their misery exacerbated by a broken IT infrastructure that has prevented them from receiving timely support.” In particular, they cited the technical inability of the Federal and state governments to deliver unemployment and stimulus payments to large numbers of people.

“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,” they said. “In many respects, those IT systems have not delivered during the pandemic and that should galvanize us all to action.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.