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Stimulus Funding Reaches the Virginia Child Care System

The Virginia Department of Social Services is using $14 million in stimulus funding to automate their child care program.

Governor Timothy Kaine of Virginia announced yesterday that $38 million of stimulus funding would be provided to the Virginia child care program. Fourteen million dollars of this grant will be used to create an automated system for administering and tracking payments to child care providers. When fully implemented, the automated system is expected to improve efficiency and accuracy of child care services provided by state and locality workers. The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) has stated that they are looking to move away from the old generation of stovepipe systems towards a more integrated approach for delivery of services that has the ability to interface with existing legacy applications containing related case information. GovWin is tracking the procurement under Opportunity ID #56236. Any interested vendors must register for a mandatory pre-proposal conference by June 9, 2009, which will be held on June 11, 2009. Proposals are due July 21, 2009.

The Child Care and Development Block Grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be used over the next two years to enhance and expand assistance to income-eligible families through the state's child care subsidy program. Virginia is hoping that the increased financial support will expand child care services, reduce match payment requirements of local departments, raise infant reimbursement rates, and increase the overall efficiency of the child care program. The new child care application is also a smaller part of a proposed Enterprise Applications Master Customer ID (MCID), which will eventually create a web-based legacy systems interaction to integrate and update casework information among VDSS welfare and benefit systems.

Schwarzenegger’s May Budget Revision Considers Cuts to SCHIP

Hampered by a sluggish economy, lower than expected revenues and a worsening budget deficit, California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger (D) released two versions of his May budget revisions which aim to make responsible and necessary cuts. Five of the measures from his first version were rejected by voters May 19, 2009 and now he will begin to consider provisions in the second version that may lead to even deeper cuts. One of the proposed cuts in version two is to the Healthy Families Program, which is California's children's health insurance program (CHIP), limiting eligibility to children with incomes at or below the 200% federal poverty level (FPL). Further, the Governor directed the Department of Finance to develop an additional list of potential budget reductions, which includes closing the Healthy Families Program. The proposal has not been formally made and even if it was it would have to go through the legislative budget process for review and consideration. Advocates for CHIP are in an uproar calling the revisions unacceptable and jeopardizing the health of children in the state. The Governor has previously committed to being a champion of children's health, but the budget recommendations take a major step backward.

Limiting Healthy Families Program eligibility from the current 250% of the FPL to 200% is projected to save $54.5 million, dropping approximately 225,000 children from coverage. The Governor is also seeking federal approval to cut $750 million from Medi-Cal of which 46% are children. These cuts would severely limit access to health insurance for low-income children. The proposal comes at a time when the need for health insurance coverage is at all time high as a result of the loss of employer-based coverage. According to an April 2009 study from UC Berkeley Labor Center, as many as 300,000 kids in California have been affected by these economic conditions.

If the state were to reduce eligibility or even eliminate the CHIP program there would be serious implications for children, such as, the loss of coverage and limited access. In addition, there is the potential for a reduction in contracting opportunities because of the possible inability to pay or even delayed payments. However, the crisis could provide opportunities for technology vendors to offer creative information technology (IT) solutions to help the state do more with less, reduce overhead costs and streamline business practices. Finally, in order for states to receive economic stimulus funding for Medicaid they are required to maintain eligibility standards, methods or procedures that have been effective since July 1, 2008. If a state were to implement a more restrictive eligibility policy after the aforementioned date then they would have until July 1, 2009 to reverse these restrictions to receive retroactive increased federal matching percentage (FMAP). If California were to not meet this requirement they would not receive much needed money to support health and human services programs and may be forced to make even deeper cuts.

Interconnected technologies: License plate recognition and photo speed enforcement

As part of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Law Enforcement Training Management (LEIM) 2009 conference, two technologies, both of which are not new, seem to be at the forefront of crime prevention and saving lives.

License plate recognition (LPR) or Automatic License plate recognition (ALPR) is becoming more prevalent across the country, however, because it can be a large undertaking for a big city or county, agencies must be cautious in moving to implement too quickly. With multiple options for cameras, fixed or mobile units, and also different means of implementation, the road to ALPR is not easy.

Several representatives from the Cincinnati Police Department presented their system at IACP/LEIM, which included mention of ways in which the system can assist in crime investigations. Implementing an ALPR system can also be integrated into state systems and even further to national databases. Using ALPR may become an essential tool for major cities and states to utilize in crime monitoring, gang violence as well as terrorism.

Another technology that is not new, as it was first implemented in New York in 1991, but also can be utilized similarly, is photo red light and speed enforcement. In fact, ALPR programs can be developed using existing cameras for photo enforcement. However, agencies must be cautious in that cameras developed specifically for APLR utilize different algorithms and therefore vendors must seek to cater to the agency's needs and specific desires.

One major aspect of both of these programs, but specifically the red light and speed cameras is the local community's interest. Various local sectors, including business owners, community centers, and parent-teacher associations, all may be an integral part of the process. These groups seek various ways to make the community safer, and bringing red light cameras to prevent crashes and speed cameras to keep motorists at a safe speed. The ALPR ties into this as well, specifically due its ability to provide law enforcement with more tools to keep the community safe.

While the two programs may serve different purposes, both are meant to save lives and to improve the public safety within the community. The vendor community must work with agencies that are looking to develop camera systems and provide ways in which they can help sell the programs to the community, specifically red light and speed cameras. The use of ALPR is starting to become widespread as more agencies see it as a technology which can be used to prevent crime. GovWin considers this budding technology something to be on the lookout for, especially as agencies look to formulate their 2010 budgets and future year planning.

Vermont begins process of building a statewide voice radio interoperability solution

Yesterday, the State of Vermont Communications (VCOMM) released Request for Proposal (RFP) #DPS-0910 for a voice radio interoperability solution. VCOMM desires to seek a vendor to deploy an agency-owned wireless network solution(s) in support of mobile radio V-CALL/U-CALL and V-TAC/U-TAC frequencies. The network will operate in analog but be capable of transitioning to digital interoperable voice communications for mutual aid among local, county, state governmental and quasi-governmental, and federal public safety agencies operating within, and adjacent to, the state of Vermont.

This project seeks a single contractor who can supply the materials and labor on a turn-key basis, including site development, backhaul/interconnect, tower and shelter facilities, and interfacing to other systems and subsystems as required to deploy an integrated interoperability solution. Components of this project include: Microwave radio links, base stations, control stations, mobile radios, and portable radios.

This project was originally released in November 2006, but was cancelled in July 2008. The state had estimated this project to cost around $7.5 million in 2006 when the first RFP was released. GovWin estimates that the total cost could be upwards of $10 million. Proposals for this project are due July 17th.

This project follows the direction taken by other state agencies to implement voice radio interoperability solutions. For example, Maryland and Missouri are in the process of selecting a vendor to provide statewide interoperable communications. Other states, like Massachusetts and Hawaii are hoping that a burst of funding via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) (Economic Stimulus package) can help complete statewide radio projects.

For more information on economic stimulus public safety projects, please join GovWin in a webinar on June 2nd, which will provide a background of State and Local DHS/DOJ Stimulus funding and some of the projects that are positioned to receive ARRA funding.

WASTE TKO: Congress Attempts to Reign in DoD Weapons System Acquisitions

Proponents of Department of Defense acquisitions reform got an important victory yesterday as Congress announced its Conference Agreement for legislation recently passed by both Houses to reform DoD weapons systems acquisitions. With widespread support on Capitol Hill, the bill is viewed as the first step in instituting major Defense acquisitions reform in the coming months. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are expected to approve the conference report in the next few days, as legislators were hoping to get the bill signed into law by President Obama by Memorial Day.

Known as the Weapons Acquisition System Reform Through Enhancing Technical Knowledge and Oversight (WASTE TKO) Act, the legislation was written in reaction to studies conducted by both the DoD Inspector General (IG) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO). These audits revealed nearly $300 billion in cost overruns in recent years, something DoD can hardly afford in the current budget environment. In fact, approximately four out of ten Defense acquisitions were found over budget by the GAO. As a result, acquisition reform featured prominently in President Obama and Secretary Robert Gates' plans for the Fiscal 2010 budget.

In order to improve management of major programs, WASTE TKO places heavy emphasis on the beginning of a program's life cycle, with renewed focus on systems engineering, preliminary design and critical design reviews, and strengthening DoD's developmental testing and evaluation capabilities. Increased oversight and transparency of cost estimation and performance assessment will also help deter future cost overruns. Taking aim at the acquisition process itself, specific WASTE TKO provisions attempt to gain higher levels of competition at both the prime and subcontractor levels. Prototyping is alsoemphasized, requiring its use at either the system or subsystem level, unless waived for rapid acquisitions needed for urgent warfighter requirements.

Although future legislation will impact other types of DoD acquisitions, the legislation focuses specifically on future weapons systems acquisitions, a category that commonly features broad areas such as:

  • Aircraft
  • C4I
  • Ground Vehicles
  • Missile Defense
  • Missiles and Munitions
  • Shipbuilding and Maritime Systems
  • Space Based and Related Systems

As a result, traditional weapons programs as well as future procurements related to technology-based systems could be affected. These include major DoD programs like the Joint Tactical Radio System, Future Combat Systems, the Warfighter Information Network, and the Global Positioning System. DoD will have little choice but to reign in expensive acquisitions as budget decisions get tougher and weapons programs are forced to compete with general operations for funding. Contractors bidding on various weapons systems opportunities should be prepared for increased oversight and reporting throughout the acquisition's lifecycle.

Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins to Retire

Texas Health Care Commissioner steps down, leaving big shoes to fill and even bigger projects to manage.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) issued a news release stating that Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins notified Governor Rick Perry of plans to retire. Hawkins was appointed to the role in January 2003, replacing former Commissioner Don Gilbert. For the past few years, he has overseen the state's five health and human services agencies, their combined annual budget of $25 million and over 50,000 employees. He led one of the largest reorganizations after the 2003 Texas Legislature consolidated 12 state agencies into the five new agencies. Most notable is that the reorganization was completed on time with approximately $1 billion in savings and no service disruptions. On the flipside, Hawkins was blamed by some for the misfortunes of the public assistance call center fiasco and reportedly battled with the feds over the roll-out of the eligibility system.

During Hawkins' tenure, he oversaw several major projects and procurements, including the infamous Texas Integrated Eligibility Redesign System (TIERS). The new Commissioner will lead on-going efforts to modernize the state's eligibility enrollment system for Medicaid, Food Stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and other benefit programs. Since October 2008, HHSC has completed the conversion of cases for the various entitlement and benefit programs for all offices in the Central Texas area (region 7) into TIERS. As the roll-out continues it will be the job of the new Commissioner to oversee a smooth transition and prevent the loss of benefits in accordance with the transition plan outlined in House Bill 3575. In addition, the state is engaged in the re-procurement of the Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS) Fiscal Agent Services which is estimated to be a $600 million contract based on the incumbent contract with ACS.

There has been no official word as to who will be Hawkins' replacement. State Representative Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) has been quoted as saying she has heard lawmakers name Lowell Keig as a potential replacement. Keig is a lawyer for Youth and Family Centered Services Inc., which is a ten-state health, education and life skills provider focused on troubled youth. In 2000, he served as Chief of the Elder Law and Public Health Division under former Texas Attorney General John Cornyn.

Once a new Commissioner is named, the impact of the change in leadership will become clear, as well as the new agenda and goals for leading HHSC over the next several years. Vendors interested in doing business in Texas with HHSC should pay close attention to the Governor's decision. Building a relationship with the selected candidate will help determine future business partnerships. Further, the new Commissioner will be tasked with solving the problem of processing benefit and entitlement applications in a timely, accurate fashion, and may seek additional external assistance.

The following are related GovWin Opportunities:

  • TIERS Maintenance and Support: GovWin Opportunity #42134
  • MMIS Fiscal Agent Services: GovWin Opportunity #43517
  • Eligibility Support Services: GovWin Opportunity #41073
  • Enrollment Broker for Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program: GovWin Opportunity #42078

Rapidly Responding to the R23G Surprises

Earlier this week, the U.S. Army's Communications and Electronic Command's (CECOM) much anticipated follow-on to CECOM's Rapid Response Program (CR2), Rapid Response – Third Generation (R2-3G) publicly posted award notices.

R2-3G provides a streamlined task order process that allows agencies to rapidly obtain contractor services in support of urgent requirements. A total of seven contracts have been awarded with a combined ceiling value of $16.4 billion over a five year performance period. Vendors awarded on the R2-3G program include Raytheon Company, Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems, Booz Allen Hamilton, Computer Sciences Corporation, General Dynamics Global Force, Adams Communications & Engineering Technology (an 8a veteran-owned small business) and R4 Inc (a service disabled veteran-owned small business).

The most surprising element of this awarded contractor's listing is not whose names are on it, but the CR2 incumbents whose names are not; specifically, ARINC and VSE Corporation. ARINC, a top contractor on CR2, had accumulated over $1.84 billion in tracked obligated funding to date. At this point, it is unclear as to why ARINC was not included in the follow-on vehicle. As of 2:15 PM EST this afternoon, a protest has not been filed with the GAO but perhaps one will be posted shortly. VSE's total obligated value for CR2 task orders to date stands at $1.68B, a momentum that appears to have been gained post Lockheed Martin's inability to obtain additional work (based on the reach of the program ceiling).

So what can we expect from this next generation of awardees? If the spending pattern remains the same for R23G as it was for CR2, Lockheed Martin will hit the ground running. Under CR2, it won over 90% of awarded work serving to fulfill materiel requirements at Army as well as other Defense agencies.

Since FY03, CECOM has awarded 1,636 task orders through CR2 totaling over $11 billion in obligated funding. The system includes analysis of task orders issued through the end of January 2009 and will run concurrently with the vehicle's January 2011 expiration date.

GovWin's Federal Task Order database has information on 1,636 CR2 task order awards including 1,564 statements of work along with details on over 13,000 CR2 task order modifications. According to the database, there are 344 task orders that will expire between now and January 30, 2011 including Northrop Grumman's $250 million task order for aircraft survivability equipment.

As deadlines and ceiling values approach, CECOM will need to start seeking new options for completing these tasks which opens the door for vendors to go after the recompete work. GovWin's Federal Task Order Database is designed to help companies identify possible teaming and recompete opportunities.

Top CR2 Contractors (by Obligations to date):

Governor Crist Designates Team to Capture Health IT Economic Stimulus Dollars

Florida Governor Charlie Crist named the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) as the entity to lead the state's efforts to draw down economic stimulus funding provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for health information technology initiatives. The Health Information Exchange Coordinating Committee (HIECC) will advise the agency.

Under the federal stimulus plan, a state or qualified state-designated entity must consult with stakeholders and apply for federal funding and/or implementation grants to promote health information technology.

ACHA's secretary chairs HIECC, which includes representatives of health care providers and organizations, health plans, consumers, health information organizations, information technology organizations, Florida medical schools, and the Florida Department of Health. The first task of HIECC is to develop a Health Information Exchange (HIE ) Plan, which will describe the goals and objectives for electronic health information exchange. The plan will build on current activities and will address coordination with related economic stimulus funded programs, including broadband infrastructure to access health care providers.

An overview of the Florida HIE Plan is available on the Florida Health Information Network. Public comments are being accepted until May 22, 2009, for the following categories:

  • Broadband infrastructure
  • Multi-payer and Medicaid HIE
  • Personal health records
  • Population health
  • Provider interfaces to HIE
  • Regional HIE gateways
  • State-level HIE
  • Vision statement and objectives of the plan

GovWin's Take

  • Florida is ahead of several states in its planning for economic stimulus related health information technology funding. They are taking an integrated view of President Obama's objectives and are seeking to integrate multiple funding streams, including grants for broadband, to advance their efforts to create a state-level HIE that links all facets of the health care industry together to improve the quality of health care and reduce costs. Getting involved with those efforts will put vendors in a strong position with other states.

  • Vendors that provide solutions to support health information technologies should send well-reasoned comments supporting those solutions before the deadline or will find themselves reacting to the state's plans instead of influencing the objectives of the plan.

For additional information about Florida's HIE activities, HIECC meeting minutes and other information are available on the Florida Health Information Network. GovWin members that subscribe to our State and Local Health Care Vertical Profiles should also review the Florida Health IT Application Profile.

State Fiscal Stabilization Fund Dollars Now Available to Nine States

On April 17, California became the first state to have its application for initial funding under the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (member login required) approved by the U.S. Department of Education, becoming eligible for nearly $4 billion. Since then, eight other states have had their applications approved.

As I blogged earlier, these states are required to use 81.8% of this funding to support education. However, 18.2% may be used for other government purposes.

California, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Wisconsin plan to use that 18.2% in the following ways:

Elementary and Secondary Education 0% 79% 0% 48% 0% 0% 0% 0% 46%
Medicaid 0% 0% 0% 0% 9.8% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Modernization, Renovation or Repair of Public Colleges and Universities 0% 0% 0% 5% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Modernization, Renovation or Repair of Public School Facilities 0% 0% 0% 5% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Other 0% 0% 0% 0% 56.4% 0% 0% 76.5% 13%
Public Colleges and Universities 0% 21% 0% 42% 33.8% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Public Safety 100% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 100% 0% 40%
Undetermined 0% 0% 100% 0% 0% 100% 0% 23.5% 1%

Source: State Fiscal Stabilization Fund Applications

Mississippi will use its "Other" funds to partially restore government services and Wisconsin will do so as well and use some of the funds for local government aid. Utah intends to spend:

  • $33 million for the Utah Science and Research Initiative
  • $15 million for Motion Picture Industry Incentives
  • $10 million for the Home Purchase Grant Program
  • $5 million for Alternative Energy Project Incentives
  • $2 million for Engineering Initiatives at Public Colleges and Universities
  • $1.8 million for the Foreclosure Prevention Program

GovWin's Take

  • States that have not determined how they will use their funds present prime opportunities for vendors as they will be open to using the money to gain efficiencies in government operations and/or create or retain jobs. Companies should review the recent budget recommendations and gubernatorial state of the state speeches (fee required for some GovWin members and all non-members) for Maine, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin to determine those states' greatest areas of pain. Having solutions for those areas, will give your company the inside track.

  • Vendors that serve the public safety market should be going back to prospects that have put projects on hold due to revenue shortfalls and seek to revive those projects. In addition to funding from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, an additional $2.7 billion is available from the U.S. Department of Justice to support state and local law enforcement projects. But California, South Dakota, and Wisconsin should be at the top of your list of states on which to focus.

  • There is opportunity for architecture, engineering and construction firms in Minnesota as the state will be using 10% of its funding reserved for general government purposes to modernize, renovate or repair college, university and school facilities across the state. These are also opportunities for communications infrastructure companies.

Will This Little Piggy Take HIT To Market?

Swine Flu has increased awareness of the need to improve public health reporting systems and integrate with electronic health record systems (EHRs).

Public health officials are aggressively responding to the recent and expanding outbreak of Swine Flu, whose scientific name is H1N1 Flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the US, as of May 7, 2009, there have been 896 confirmed cases in 41 states and two deaths. Supplemental funds, totaling $1.5 billion, have been requested by the president to fund disease tracking, surveillance and monitoring efforts; however, it is too early to designate the use of the funds at this time.

This public health emergency has highlighted the role of information technology (IT) in providing disease management tools, real-time data, demographic data, trending capabilities and information dissemination. Integrating disease registries with EHR systems provides an opportunity to enhance preparedness, expedite tracking and reporting of diseases, and prevent the spread of disease. As officials mitigate the Swine Flu pandemic, emphasis will be placed on unifying surveillance architecture to improve data collection productivity. Questions are being raised as to whether the heightened attention to surveillance and disease tracking systems will last. In the past, attention and funding were thrown at the anthrax attacks and SARS outbreak, but quickly faded, leaving behind gaps and according to some experts, inadequate systems. Some say the stimulus funding may provide the answer.

The economic stimulus package allocates $19 billion for several health IT provisions, including $17.2 billion in Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive payments for hospitals and physicians demonstrating meaningful use. The funding may help spur growth to improve public health systems and integrate with EHRs, making public health part of the broader health IT agenda. Vendors with EHR solutions should make certain of the system's ability to incorporate and integrate with biosurveillance systems and registries. Further, the emergency creates opportunities for disease management vendors and EHR vendors to forge partnerships.

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