The Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) would get a $1 billion funding increase in President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Act, according to a preliminary draft of the Senate version of the legislation obtained from sources by MeriTalk. The Senate will debate its version of the legislation this week.

In addition to the sharp rise in TMF funding, the bill would provide another $1 billion of funding for cybersecurity and IT-related spending for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the U.S. Digital Service, and the General Services Administration (GSA).

TMF Funding Gets New Life

According to the Senate legislative draft, the $1 billion of new funding for TMF – which exists to fund Federal agency IT modernization projects and requires repayment of awards – would remain available until September 2025. The draft language mentions no possible changes to the fund’s existing repayment structure.

The $1 billion of TMF funding offered in the Senate draft is a far cry from the $9 billion proposed by President Biden in January but would still represent a historic increase for the fund, which debuted with $150 million of funding but has since received $25 million in new funding in each of the past three fiscal years.

The House zeroed out any increased funding for TMF in its version of the American Rescue Act approved on Feb. 27. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., one of the leading proponents of TMF in the House, said last month that TMF funding failed in the House due to opposition from the Senate, and following negotiations around a funding figure in the $5 to $6 billion range.

Cyber, IT Improvement Funding

The preliminary Senate legislative draft for the American Rescue Act hews much more closely to President Biden’s original proposal to increase funding for the following Federal cybersecurity and IT-related programs:

The draft offers $650 million to CISA for “cybersecurity risk mitigation,” with that funding to remain available through September 2023;

It provides $200 million for the U.S. Digital Service – a technology unit with the Executive Office of the President that provides IT consultation services to Federal agencies – with that money to remain available through September 2024; and

The draft offers $150 million to GSA for the Federal Citizen Services Fund, with that funding to remain available through September 2024.

The Senate draft totals for these items come in at $1 billion, versus the $1.2 billion figure originally proposed by President Biden.

Going Forward

The House passed its version of the American Rescue Act early on Feb. 27, by a 219-212 vote largely along party lines, with two Democrats joining Republicans in dissent, and one Republican not voting.

The version of the bill passed by the House mostly resembles the one originally proposed in January by President Biden, but with much of the tech funding stripped out.

Tech funding that did make the House bill includes $2 billion for the Department of Labor for shoring up state unemployment systems and infrastructure – a need emphasized by Secretary of Labor nominee Marty Walsh in his confirmation hearing.

Outside of the $2 billion for unemployment insurance infrastructure, the biggest tech-related investment made in the House bill is $7.6 billion for an emergency connectivity fund, to help with remote learning.  While the UI infrastructure boost survives unscathed, a Senate draft of the relief package cuts emergency connectivity funding by more than $400 million, to $7.17 billion.

On the Senate legislative front, it appears senators will work on drafting substitute amendments to the House version to bring to the floor.

The Senate plans to bring its version of the bill to a vote later this week. Because the House and Senate versions of the American Rescue Act undoubtedly will have differences, those will need to be reconciled for the bill to become law.

Time is of the essence, as both chambers are pushing to get the bill signed into law before March 14, when some of the unemployment programs are set to expire.

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