Stimulus Funding for Telework and Telehealth in the CARES Act

Published: March 30, 2020

Federal Market AnalysisBudgetCoronavirus (COVID-19) PandemicEconomic StimulusPolicy and LegislationTelework

Federal agencies have funding to purchase the telework equipment and services they need during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Key Takeaways

  • The CARES Act provided 14 federal agencies with $4.6B in new funding, a portion of which will be used for telework and telehealth requirements.
  • Agencies are expected to invest in network bandwidth, IT equipment, software, and some related services (e.g., help desk support).
  • FY 2021 IT budget requests for network and end-user investment provide some idea of the scale of CARES Act funding that could go into telework/telehealth for smaller agencies, but not for the large ones.
  • Appropriated funds could quickly find their way into federal procurements for telework and telehealth, especially at agencies with the authority to designate prioritized Rated Orders in the Federal Priorities and Allocations System (FPAS)

Stay tuned! As part of its ongoing coverage, GovWin’s Federal Market Analysis team is preparing a detailed report on stimulus funding for federal agencies.

Millions of federal employees are now working from home due to mandates that people self-isolate to slow the spread of COVID-19. This development is placing unprecedented stress on agency network and computing resources. Telehealth – consulting with health care providers via computer video interface – is also picking up as citizens (especially veterans) requiring help turn to whatever means they can while remaining in self-isolation. The growing demand for telework and telehealth connections has prompted many federal agencies to request additional funding for equipment, software, and even network bandwidth. Congress responded by appropriating funds in the newly signed CARES Act for agencies to invest in the required capabilities.

That’s the good news. The less-good news is the frustrating lack of granularity in the legislation. So, whereas an agency like the Department of Agriculture might be granted $25M in funding for its “Distance Learning, Telemedicine, and Broadband Program,” there is little guidance showing how much of that total the USDA’s Rural Development component might spend on teleworking capabilities.

Today’s post summarizes the budgets included in the CARES Act for telework, and the agencies that requested the funding. It then compares those numbers to the funding agencies requested in their FY 2021 budget requests for networking and end-user services. Telework/health capabilities require network services, information technology hardware, and software, so the budget numbers in the network and end-user categories could provide an informed estimate of the percentage of appropriated funding in the CARES Act that could potentially go to telework and telehealth.

Total Appropriated Funding

The table below shows $4.6B in funding appropriated to agencies that requested additional resources for telework/telehealth investments. Although the language used by Congress in the final CARES Act varies from agency to agency, the following quote from the bill provides the general gist of how the funding is worded: “To support telework and operational and security activities related to coronavirus prevention, preparation and response.”

The funding for some agencies; Veterans Affairs, for example, includes a bit more detail, referring to “the purchasing of devices, as well as enhanced system bandwidth and support,” but even that language does not say much. Industry should probably assume that each agency which requested funding will need some combination of network bandwidth, supporting help desk services, IT equipment, and software.


Requested FY 2021 Network and End-User Funding

Here is the funding these same agencies requested for network and end-user investment in the coming fiscal year. These numbers should provide some idea of the costs agencies anticipated before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.

These totals are for fiscal 2021, but the numbers for fiscal 2020 are about the same. What we can learn from these numbers varies by agency. Clearly the agencies receiving high funding totals (i.e., VA, HHS, Interior, etc.) will not spend hundreds of millions of dollars on telework/telehealth investments. There is more potential for smaller agencies like the EPA and NRC to spend a good portion of their appropriations on those capabilities since their missions are not explicitly COVID-19 related and because the appropriated total is reasonable compared to what they already anticipated needing for FY 2021.

The bottom line is that the agencies listed here are going to be investing in IT goods and services related to telework and/or telehealth. Solicitations for related requirements at agencies like HHS, DOD, and Energy could come out quickly, too, because they are all authorized to place Rated Orders via the Federal Priorities and Allocations System (FPAS).