CARES ACT – Direct Federal Aid for New Digital Solutions Promoting Telework
[10 Minute Read]
Through the 2020 CARES Act, the federal government has set aside $150 billion in the Coronavirus Relief Fund for much-needed direct federal assistance to state and local governments to address challenges from COVID-19. Agencies looking to transition to digital solutions to support safe, effective telework and remote collaboration have been able to access the emergency relief funds for federal support to fund new technology solutions.
In this blog post, we’ll cover 1) a high-level overview of the Coronavirus Relief Fund, 2) examples of state governments successfully accessing funds for software expenditures that promote remote collaboration, and 3) individual states’ guidelines for directing relief fund allocations.
Coronavirus Relief Fund: High-Level Spending Guidelines
Each state receives a minimum allocation of $1.25 billion, with actual allocations varying by state and outlined in this Treasury document.
Three main principles qualify expenditures, which must be:
- Directly related to COVID-19
- Not accounted for in budget approved prior to March 27, 2020, and
- Incurred between March 1, 2020 and December 30, 2020
At the time of this blog post, less than 3 months remain until expenditures can be incurred for emergency relief fund. As of August 24, 2020, the level of expenditure activity varied greatly across each state – ranging anywhere from only 0.2% of total allocations spent in Alabama to 74.5% spent by California. Click here to see how much your state has spent its share of allocated relief fund as of August 24, 2020.
Many states have not spent the majority of their relief fund allocations – providing both opportunity and urgency for state and local governments to quickly move forward identified expenditure needs before December 30, 2020.
We maintain the view that Congress will extend the last expenditure date beyond December 30, 2020. Many state governments have yet to spend most of their allocated funds, and states will continue to grapple with public health and fiscal fallout from COVID-19 well into 2021. However, it would be prudent for agencies to plan without expectations of an extension, and expedite requests for expenditure needs in the remaining months of 2020 to advance much needed projects.
Utilizing Relief Funds to Transition to Digital Solutions That Accelerate Telework and Remote Collaboration
Many government agencies have accelerated plans to adopt new digital technology solutions that enable effective remote work for public employees to facilitate safe, social-distancing during the pandemic.
Software solutions that help agencies conduct workflows digitally, collaborate remotely with internal and external stakeholders on the cloud, and provide more information to the public digitally are helping agencies transform their workforce and workflows to better adapt to COVID-19 and evolving future needs.
With the Coronavirus Relief Funds, state and local agencies are able to access direct federal aid to help fund important digital transitions. Successful examples are:
- The state of North Dakota approved requests for $68.3 million of relief funds for telework, cybersecurity and transition to digital services, with half a billion dollars of total funds remaining to be used as of June 2020
- The state of New Hampshire listed “New telework costs for remote municipal operations such as computers, software, and networking costs” as an allowable expense for reimbursement by local agencies
- The state of Oklahoma approved teleworking software expenses for state agencies through SHI International Corp
Details on State-Level Implementation of Relief Funds
Every state is making relief funds accessible to any state and local agencies that meet federal guidelines for eligible expenditures, as well as its own state agenda if one exists.
Each state has devised guidelines for how its relief funds will be disbursed, what authority will be approving, disbursing and overseeing payment of funds in which manner. A complete list of each state’s guidelines for relief funds allocation can be found here. Examples of these are:
- The state legislature of Alaska approved Governor Mike Dunleavy’s proposal for specific distribution of relief funds across initiatives including small business relief, health and education, transportation, and public safety.
- The state legislature of Oklahoma passed SB 1944 which requires a publicly accessible daily dashboard from the Office of Management and Enterprise Services to publish how the relief funds have been spent
- The six-member agency of North Dakota Emergency Commission can review and approve requests for relief funds. As of June 2020, the commission had approved half a billion dollars of expenditure requests
- In the state of New Hampshire, the Governor’s office established a new Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery (“GOFERR”) to assist and direct management and expenditure of the relief funds.
For transportation planners looking to transition to new digital solutions that support remote collaboration and telework, we strongly urge you to act now to explore options within your state for accessing remaining federal relief funds to support these important transitions.
Have a question or comment? We’d love to hear from you. You can reach us at [email protected].