Sixteen Democratic senators, led by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., are requesting more funds for the General Services Administration (GSA) Technology Transformation Service (TTS) and the United Stated Digital Service (USDS) to upgrade COVID-19 coronavirus economic relief tech at the state and local levels.

In an April 22 letter, the legislators explain that state and local government systems are overwhelmed by new requests because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As Americans seek unemployment claims, small business loans, and access to other emergency programs, outdated systems are having trouble accommodating the need, the letter states.

“Many states manage applications and distribute support using 40-year-old legacy software systems,” the senators assert. “Only a relatively small number of technical experts have the skills needed to work with these systems and handle the flood of COVID-19 related applicants.”

Services such as USDS and TTS, which help the government solve complex digital problems and transform how the government uses tech, are facing funding and regulatory hurdles that prevent them from helping states adapt as best as possible, the senators wrote. TTS rules, for example, require Intergovernmental Cooperation Act agreements before beginning work, which can take three to four months to negotiate.

“During this national emergency, when speed is vital for millions of Americans, this red tape is preventing the Federal government’s skilled technologists from helping the state and local agencies that need them most,” the letter states.

To improve USDS, the senators are requesting a $50 million emergency appropriation to hire additional technologists, specifically targeted at support for state and local governments to administer Federal relief. The next COVID-19 relief legislation should also waive restrictions on USDS’s state and local work and encourage the program to prioritize COVID-19 projects, the senators said.

At TTS, senators are asking for $25 million in the next COVID-19 relief legislation for the Federal Citizen’s Services Fund. Like the USDS funds, senators are asking the agency to put the money toward state and local tech improvements and prioritize COVID-19 related projects. The senators specifically call attention to the need for cloud service authorizations to enable cloud adoption by state and local governments and request that the legislation waive restrictions on TTS’s ability to work with state and local governments.

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