As we get ready to break out the champagne flutes and toast to a new year, MeriTalk SLG is taking a look back at the most popular state and local government stories from the past year.
Right after assuming office, the Biden Administration went to work on stopping the spread of the COVID-19 virus through executive orders (EO) aimed enhancing data collection capabilities among relevant industries and establishing a national testing strategy that includes a contact tracing element.
At the start of the year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sought public comment on how to best distribute $3.2 billion of funding approved by Congress in 2020 as part of combined FY 2021 government funding and COVID-19 relief legislation to help low-income Americans access internet services.
For the seventh time in the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ (NASCIO) half-century existence, the White House changed political parties with the Biden Administration. Given the fact that Federal funds support as much as half of state IT budgets, it is no surprise that such changes in Washington, D.C. can have a significant impact on states’ IT bottom line. MeriTalk discussed this development with NASCIO Executive Director Doug Robinson, who expressed general optimism along with a healthy dose of uncertainty.
President Biden’s Labor Secretary Marty Walsh emphasized that state unemployment insurance (UI) systems are in sore need of technology upgrades during testimony at his Feb. 4 confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
Federal lawmakers in both the House and Senate have included an additional $2 billion for the Department of Labor (DoL) to distribute to help states upgrade UI infrastructure. That $2 billion has been earmarked for DoL to use to help facilitate timely UI payments and promote equitable access, as well as to detect and prevent fraud in the UI systems.
The FCC voted to formally adopt a Report and Order that establishes the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. The program uses $3.2 billion in Federal funding to provide qualifying households discounts on their internet service bills and an opportunity to receive a discount on a computer or tablet.
In April, the Biden administration proposed that the Federal government take a giant leap into the national broadband service market – traditionally the province of the private sector – in order to close persistent service availability and affordability gaps across the United States.
In a report, NASCIO found that despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic radically changing the nature of government service delivery in the last 12 months, state CIOs and their teams adjusted to maintain stability, resiliency, and flexibility. NASCIO found that despite the pandemic, state CIOs’ workforce priorities remained largely the same.
In the first week of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB), more than one million households enrolled to benefit from the subsidy program, according to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. Households in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa enrolled in the program, according to the FCC.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency announced that .gov top-level domains will be available at no cost for qualifying organizations beginning immediately – a move that should help on the cybersecurity front especially for smaller governmental entities.
Reps. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., and John Curtis, R-Utah, introduced the Accelerating Rural Broadband Deployment Act, which would increase internet access in rural America by relaxing government regulations. Sens. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., introduced a companion bill in April of this year.
The FCC announced that 2.3 million households have enrolled in the EBB Program in its first three weeks. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that since launching in mid-May, households in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and American Samoa were approved to receive a discount on their monthly internet bills and have selected a participating EBB provider to receive internet service at home.
The House of Representatives voted to approve the State and Local Cybersecurity Improvement Act as part of a slate of cyber bills that passed under suspension of normal rules. The bill would create a $500 million-per-year grant program run by the Department of Homeland Security to help state and local governments improve their cybersecurity. State, local, tribal, and territorial governments will have to present a comprehensive cybersecurity plan to be able to access and use any grant money from the program.
In a move to improve the city’s transparency, Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin has released Inside L.A. City Finance, a new online dashboard that tracks the city’s financial information in real time. The dashboard contains data sets and visualizations that show the current balance in each of the city’s 800-plus funds, including the General and Reserve Funds.
The FCC announced the launch of a new map showing nationwide mobile coverage and availability data from the largest wireless providers. The FCC said the new map “represents a significant improvement over other data previously published by the agency.” The commission said the map also serves as a public test of the standardized criteria developed to facilitate improved mapping under the Broadband DATA Act.
Peterborough, N.H., confirmed that it has lost $2.3 million in taxpayer money due to two instances of email-based scams. In a press release posted on Facebook, Peterborough Town Administrator Nicole MacStay and Select Board Chair Tyler Ward said in July town officials learned the ConVal School District had not received a $1.2 million monthly transfer from the town. Through an investigation, town officials learned the money was lost as part of email-based fraud.
NASCIO announced the finalists for its State IT Recognition Awards. NASCIO said the award nominations “showcase the use of information technology to address critical business problems, more easily connect citizens to their government, improve business processes and create new opportunities that improve the lives of citizens.” Award winners were eventually announced during the NASCIO Annual Conference in October.
StateRAMP, the nonprofit formed by leaders from state and local governments and the private sector to help state and local governments manage their third party supplier cybersecurity risks, has released the initial roster of its Authorized Vendor List. StateRAMP’s mission is to promote cybersecurity best practices through education, advocacy, and policy development. The organization supports its members to improve the cyber posture of state and local governments, and the citizens they serve.
SLG leaders are struggling to get a good night’s sleep amid growing cybersecurity fears, according to a new report from MeriTalk. The new report draws on results from MeriTalk’s survey of 100 SLG IT decision-makers with the goal of understanding how organizations can gain traction in the fight to reduce risk, improve cyber hygiene, and outmaneuver adversaries.
The FCC authorized $554 million for broadband deployment through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. The $554 million is part of the third round of funding, and combined with the first two rounds of funding already announced, the FCC has announced a total of $1 billion in funding for that purpose. As part of the latest funding wave, the FCC said 11 broadband providers will bring fiber-to-the-home gigabit broadband service to over 180,000 locations in 19 states.
After more than two months of angling and dealmaking, the House of Representatives voted to approve the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework – on November 5, which sent the bill along with its $2 billion in cyber funding and $65 billion in broadband appropriations to President Biden’s desk for his eventual signature.
The FCC announced that it is ready to authorize $709 million in its fourth round of funding for new broadband deployments through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. Combined with the first three funding wave announcements, the FCC has now committed $1.7 billion in funding for new broadband deployments. In this funding wave, 50 broadband providers will bring broadband service to over 400,000 locations in 26 states.
In the past two years, SLG leaders have improved their means to produce meaningful data analytics, but they still find themselves struggling to accomplish this as the amount of data collected increases at an exponential rate, according to a new report from MeriTalk. MeriTalk surveyed 75 IT decision-makers and 75 program managers from SLG organizations to understand how organizations are utilizing data analytics and what they need for effective, data-driven governments.
The Washington State Department of Health (DoH) launched WA Verify, the state’s new Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record system to help residents prove vaccination status when required. In a press release, the DoH said vaccine verification options now include a Digital COVID-19 Verification Record from WAVerify.org, which includes a QR code that can be scanned by a SMART Health Card reader, or a certificate of COVID-19 Vaccination from MyIR Mobile.