Feb 22 2022

Agencies Eye IT Infrastructure Upgrades Under 2 Federal Acts

Spending priorities differ for states and localities under the American Rescue Plan Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

States and cities have some powerful opportunities to invest in their IT infrastructure thanks to key federal grants programs. Not too long ago, state and local governments received federal aid through the American Rescue Plan Act (Public Law 117-2). And soon, they can turn to funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Public Law 117–58).

For agencies looking to spend now or in the next six months, ARPA funds perhaps provide the most opportunity. States and localities can collect ARPA funds, and many received the first half of their total allocation last year. Another round of funding is due in May.

Many officials are participating in discussions about cybersecurity and equity, both of which can be funded by ARPA and IIJA. How to best build out cybersecurity plans? Who should be involved? When we talk about equity, we often talk about broadband access. And there is funding for broadband projects, from the middle mile to the end.

Cities can spend cybersecurity funds on government-owned utilities as well. Here’s a breakdown of some specific areas of interest in the two programs.

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ARPA Funds a Flexible Array of Projects Now

ARPA is a $1.9-trillion spending package that awards $350 billion to state and local governments. States will collect about $195 billon of that; metropolitan areas will get about $45 billion; and counties and other government departments will receive the rest.

State and local governments can use ARPA funds for a wide range of purposes, including reimbursement of payments made prior to receipt of the funds. They can offset reduction in tax revenue collection due to the coronavirus pandemic. They can also make investments in water and sewer utilities as well as broadband infrastructure.

Approved ARPA expenses could include emergency operations centers, public telemedicine assets, expansion of government IT systems to improve access, cybersecurity upgrades, new broadband infrastructure and more.

Let’s look at a few prominent examples of where states and cities have spent ARPA funds to date. Texas received $15.8 billion in ARPA funds and dedicated $500 million to broadband infrastructure and $150 million to next-generation 911, among other projects. In Arizona, the city of Phoenix received $396 million in ARPA funds. It allocated $10 million to a citywide wireless network, $2.3 million to Wi-Fi connectivity in its community centers, and $3 million to library technology, in addition to other expenditures.

Under ARPA, states and localities also can likely justify spending on services, such as penetration testing, that demonstrate the resiliency of new tech purchases. More broadly, ARPA funds will cover any planned expenditure that was delayed or eliminated due to shortfalls in revenue due to COVID-19.

RELATED: How can state CIOs encourage broadband expansion?

IIJA Will Soon Grant Money for Fixed Programs

Most IIJA funds won’t be available until the summer or fall. Qualifying states can collect those grant funds and distribute them to localities and other recipients. The act authorizes a total of $1.2 trillion, and $1.9 billion of that goes to protecting critical infrastructure from cyberattacks.

IIJA targeted grant programs include:

  • Rural and Municipal Utility Advanced Cybersecurity Grant and Technical Assistance ($250 million)
  • State and Local Cybersecurity Improvement Act ($1 billion)
  • Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure ($1 billion)
  • Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program ($42.45 billion)
  • Digital Equity Act ($1.3 billion)
  • Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation Grant Program ($500 million)
  • Safe Streets and Roads for All ($5 billion)

The U.S. Department of Energy will oversee the $250 million Rural and Municipal Utility Advanced Cybersecurity Grant and Technical Assistance program. This competitive grant will fund defenses for electric utilities and enhance participation in information sharing initiatives. Government-owned utilities can use the funds to buy any technology or service to improve protection against cybersecurity threats.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will manage the $1 billion grant for State and Local Cybersecurity. Although the grants are awarded to states, at least 80 percent of the funds must go to local governments; 25 percent must be obligated to rural areas. States and localities can use this money to implement cybersecurity plans, develop or revise cybersecurity plans, or assist with activities to address imminent cybersecurity threats.

Municipalities eyeing smart city projects can work with their state to allocate IIJA funding to them. Cities could apply funding to Internet of Things sensors and integration of systems to put more systems online and share data widely. There are other funding mechanisms in the act as well. When seeking funding for roads, for instance, agencies might justify expenditures on smart sensors and related infrastructure as part of an overall smart city plan.

This article is part of StateTech’s CITizen blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #StateLocalIT hashtag.

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