Cities and Counties Make IT Investments Via ARPA
NACo, NLC and Brookings dashboard currently has a tally of 2,334 projects totaling $18.4 billion. However, Alan Berube, a Brookings senior fellow, tells StateScoop that those figures are only a fraction of the funding that localities will likely spend on government services.
“Among those cities and counties that put together their plans early on — those are the plans that are reflected in the tracker — they had enough project-level specificity,” he says.
Many of the projects related to broadband expansion efforts, both large and small. Palm Beach County, Fla., is using $43 million to expand its broadband infrastructure and boost internet connectivity in areas such as public libraries and parks and offer internet coverage to students via the School District of Palm Beach County. According to the dashboard, Colorado Springs, Colo., is likewise using $1 million to “develop and implement strategic fiber-based projects, identifying broadband goals to connect unserved and underserved” areas of the city.
Municipalities are using federal money to support remote work activities. Seattle is using $2.45 million to allow the city’s IT department to “make investments in equipment, tools, and technology to enable city employees to telework remotely” in response to the effects of the pandemic, the dashboard notes.
And several localities are investing in cybersecurity. For example, Prince George’s County, Md., is using $10.7 million to deploy tools to “maximize the early detection of cybersecurity vulnerabilities and incidents on its networks, protect and defend and respond,” the dashboard notes. The county is going to invest in solutions to enhance “visibility into and detection of cybersecurity vulnerabilities and threats to the enterprise and agency networks to bolster the cybersecurity posture,” according to the dashboard.
Monmouth County, N.J., is leveraging $4.3 million for cybersecurity upgrades including “hardware and software for advanced phishing protection, cyber recovery, firewalls and hardware licensing and multi-factor authentication.”
Best Practices for Using Federal Funds for IT Projects
At the NACo conference, county IT leaders said they are aiming to use federal funds to spur near-term technology wins.
Justin Loose, CIO of Berks County, Pa., says his office is looking to use ARPA funds to procure technology needed to support virtual activities, including in conference rooms and courtrooms, StateScoop reports.
“Any time you can make things happen quickly, there’s a savings there,” he says.
Loose is also looking to use ARPA funds to modernize legacy IT. “I can’t say enough about using ARPA money for application modernization,” he says.
Lynch mostly agrees, according to StateScoop, but also urges caution. “Government should never be cutting edge,” he says. “It should be with tried-and-true technologies. When folks say they want an Amazon-like experience, I get uncomfortable because Amazon has billions of dollars for R&D. It’s just not a realistic goal.”
John Matelski, CIO of DeKalb County, Ga., says IT officials need to consider the fact that federal funds will eventually run out. “Things need to happen now, you need a plan,” he says. “There’s no guarantees what will be available in the future.”