The Senate voted March 6 to approve the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act after a lengthy amendment and debate process took more than 25 hours and pushed the vote into the weekend.

The reconciliation bill passed by a 50-49 vote along party lines, with one Republican absent.  The House, which already passed its version of the bill before the Senate took up the measure, must now vote to approve the Senate version before it goes to President Biden’s desk for his signature and becomes law.

Tech Funding Increases

The Senate-approved legislation includes $1 billion of funding for the Technology Modernization Fund, and another $1 billion for a variety of tech priorities included in President Biden’s January proposal. Other tech investments included in the Senate bill feature money for an emergency connectivity fund, COVID-19 data tracking, and unemployment insurance infrastructure. In all, the bill approved by the Senate includes:

  • $1 billion for TMF;
  • $7.17 billion for an Emergency Connectivity Fund via the FCC’s E-Rate program;
  • $2 billion for Unemployment Insurance infrastructure to be administered by the Labor Department;
  • $650 million to CISA;
  • $500 million to the Centers for Disease Control for COVID-19 data modernization and tracking;
  • $200 million for the U.S. Digital Service;
  • $150 million to General Services Administration for a Federal Citizen Services fund; and
  • $140 million for the Indian Health Service for IT, telehealth, and electronic health records infrastructure.

The $2 billion for tech and cyber priorities represents a big win for tech advocates after the House version of the bill failed to deliver any money for TMF, CISA, the U.S. Digital Service, and GSA. An early Senate draft provided new hope for those items, and the Senate’s approval of the bill appears to cement the tech-funding comeback effort.

The House is expected to quickly consider the Senate version of the bill next week, as both chambers are pushing against a March 14 deadline to get the bill signed into law. After March 14, a variety of unemployment programs are set to expire.

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.