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State IT details of the emergency relief bill

The $2 trillion bill the U.S. Senate passed this week to provide emergency relief in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic contains several provisions that could address technology issues facing state governments as they work through the public health crisis. While much of the money is directed toward bailing out major industries and small businesses, extending unemployment insurance and providing one-time direct cash payments to individuals and families, some portions of the bill could tackle states’ IT needs prompted by the spread of the novel coronavirus. Among the items are boosts to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's broadband grant programs; direct aid to state governments, which face mounting costs as they react to the pandemic; a one-year delay of the Real ID deadline that motor-vehicle departments have been racing to meet; and $400 million in grants from the Election Assistance Commission that states could use to expand the use of mail-in and absentee ballots. The House is expected to vote on the package today. Benjamin Freed has details.

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Things are different for IT workers these days, too.

As with many whose daily lives have been disrupted by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the technology officials working in state and local government say that while their core mission remains to support agency operations, they’re being confronted with new tasks and challenges they hadn’t previously considered. “This is not business as usual for us,” said Connecticut Chief Information Officer Mark Raymond, who told StateScoop that his office is currently outfitting unoccupied dorm rooms and state facilities with IT infrastructure in case those buildings have to be used as makeshift health care facilities if the number of COVID-19 patients overruns the state’s hospitals. Raymond said he's also had to help businesses determine if they're "essential" and can remain open under a statewide stay-at-home order, and figure out how state commissions can hold virtual meetings that are still open to the public. Colin Wood reports.

Coronavirus delays Toronto's 'smart city' decision

As number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus rose above 300 in Toronto, the city’s waterfront regulation agency decided on Thursday to extend the deadline for a decision related to Quayside, the “smart city” project that Google spinoff Sidewalk Labs is trying to build there. Waterfront Toronto's board of directors decided at a closed-door meeting on Thursday to extend their decision deadline from May 20 to June 25, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. Ryan Johnston reports.

Technologists rally against pandemic

A loose network of more than 1,000 data scientists, user-design experts and civic-minded technologists — called the U.S. Digital Response for COVID-19 — formed last week to aid state and local government agencies in the fight to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The group, led by several nationally known civic-technology leaders including Code for America founder Jennifer Pahlka and former Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer Cori Zarek, will offer aid on everything from logistics and data visualization to back-end development. “A lot of resources are focused on the federal government, as they should be, and that sometimes leaves state and local leaders without as much direct coordination and opportunity to work together,” Zarek told StateScoop. Separately, New York State has also announced the formation of "Technology SWAT Teams," recruiting engineers and designers from the likes of Google and Microsoft to assist the state government's response. Ryan has more.

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