Key Provisions in the Senate’s HEALS COVID-19 Relief Bill

Published: July 28, 2020

Federal Market AnalysisCoronavirus (COVID-19) PandemicCybersecurityInformation TechnologyPolicy and Legislation

The Senate has introduced its version of a phase-four COVID-19 stimulus and relief bill with key operational and information technology provisions.

Key Takeaways

  • Congress is set to adjourn for recess on August 7, so if further pandemic relief is to materialize by then both chambers will need to reconcile legislative differences and pass a final bill.
  • Information Technology, telework and cybersecurity provisions include $2B for the IRS to modernize information technology systems,  $306M for Energy cybersecurity and IT, $53M for CISA to enhance federal network security, and $26M for Treasury, in part to support telework and cybersecurity.
  • The FCC would receive $1B to reimburse small telecommunications firms for the cost of removing prohibited equipment that pose national security risks to their networks and replacing it with more secure technology.

Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) introduced a new stimulus package proposal, the Help, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act. If passed into law, it would provide another round of direct stimulus payments, including extending unemployment benefits, freezing Medicare premiums, offering additional Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding and extending liability protections for businesses facing COVID-19-related lawsuits. This Phase 4 relief would follow the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act enacted in March.

New Potential Emergency Appropriations

The HEALS Act includes over $306 billion in emergency appropriations and while the bill focuses primarily on economic stimulus and COVID-19 relief, several provisions are geared toward federal departments and agencies for Coronavirus response and agency operations.

National Institutes of Health – $15.5B

Funding highlights include:

  • $10.1B to reopen NIH-funded research laboratories and reconstitute lost research
  • $1.3B for COVID-19 specific research to smaller ICs at the direction of the NIH Director
  • $1.2B for the ACTIV public-private partnership to prioritize and speed the development of treatments and vaccines
  • $1.2B for the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences

Department of Transportation – $10.1B

Funding highlights include:

  • $10B for the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP) to maintain operations at the nation’s airports impacted by reduced passenger travel
  • $50M for the FAA administrative costs for air traffic control tower cleanings, janitorial services and supplies, and IT costs resulting from employees working remotely
  • $26M for the Office of the Secretary’s increased administrative expenses to implement activities related to coronavirus, including telework and cybersecurity needs, CARES Act oversight, improving the transportation operations center and purchasing PPE

Department of Defense (DOD) – $29.4B

Funding highlights include:

  • $10.8B to support claims for payments pursuant to Section 3610 of the CARES Act
  • $8B for procurement and acquisition efforts to support the defense industrial base (DIB)
  • $5.3B for Coronavirus Defense Production Act Purchases - Defense Industrial Base capacity and throughput initiatives that support the workforce, operations, facilities and equipment of critical industrial partners and fragile small business providers essential to national defense who are at risk due to COVID-19 impacts.
  • $705M for the Defense Health Program (DHP) to complete expansion efforts of manufacturing capability to maximize the medications available to protect personnel and for medical PPE for the Defense Health Agency for medical personnel and patients.

Operations and Maintenance (O&M) – The DOD, military departments and reserve components receive the following O&M funds for the construction and sustainment of temporary facilities for quarantining individuals and units deploying to or returning from OCONUS locations; for non-medical PPE; for teleworking and distance learning and training capabilities; and to support necessary COVID-related safety measures.

  • Army – $882M
  • Navy – $458M
  • Marine Corps – $136M
  • Air Force – $969M
  • Defense-Wide – $112M
  • Army Reserve – $8M
  • Army National Guard – $30M
  • Air National Guard – $12M

Procurement – DOD components would receive the following in Procurement funds to support enhancements that maximize teleworking, distance learning, and training capabilities, including the procurement of equipment to facilitate those efforts.

  • Defense-wide – $484M
  • Army – $49M
  • Navy – $35M

Revolving and Management Funds – For the Defense Working Capital Funds to remain financially solvent and avoid furloughs during the operational slowdown associated with the pandemic.

  • Army – $600M
  • Navy – $660M
  • Air Force – $524M

RDT&E – Funds to support additional technological investments across the services including the evaluation of certain technologies to support digital training capabilities, solutions for classified services, and collection capture and transmission capabilities, among others.

  • Defense-wide – $21M
  • Air Force – $2M

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – $3B

Funding highlights include:

  • $1.6B for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to make up for fee shortfalls that normally support immigration processing and customs-related activities
  • $208M for TSA for enhanced cleaning and investments in technology necessary to reduce physical contact with travelers
  • $150M for FEMA to enhance operations and improve networks and facilities to respond to increased disaster declarations
  • $73M for the Secret Service for construction and enhanced security screening and inspection equipment for secure facilities
  • $53M for CISA to remediate vulnerabilities and enhance federal network security

Department of Commerce – $968M

Funding highlights include:

  • $448M for the Census Bureau to field operations and data processing for the 2020 Census
  • $20M for NOAA for continuity of operations of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather and Climate Operational Supercomputing System

Department of Energy – $307M

Funding highlights include:

  • $306M for the Office of Science to support COVID-19-related research and development activities, including equipment, enabling technologies, and personnel and for related cybersecurity and information technology needs

Other Noteworthy Provisions

  • $2B for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to modernize information technology systems to enhance taxpayer service and strengthen cybersecurity protections
  • $1.5B for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to cover current funding claims and submitted contractor claims based upon Section 3610 of the CARES Act
  • $1B for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program to provide small telecommunications providers funds to offset the cost of removing prohibited equipment that pose national security risks to their networks and replacing it with more secure technology. (This provision is not COVID-19 related, but rather addresses cybersecurity and supply chain security requirements in previous National Defense Authorization Acts.)
  • $377M for the General Services Administration for the West Wing 2 Modernization and Pennsylvania Screening Facility per U.S. Secret Service directed upgrades for enhanced pandemic response capabilities and resiliencies