Multiple IT projects gained funding as the Senate passed H.R. 6157, the FY 2019 minibus appropriations bill for the departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education on Aug. 23. The bill passed the Senate on an 85-7 vote.  The House approved its version of the legislation on June 28, setting up a House-Senate conference committee to reconcile differences in the two bills.

Among IT-related projects, the Senate bill features $85 million for the Social Security Administration (SSA) “until expended for information technology modernization, including related hardware and software infrastructure and equipment, and for administrative expenses directly associated with information technology modernization.” SSA released an IT modernization plan in October outlining how the agency plans to improve its systems. The Senate bill also calls for some of the agency’s unobligated balances to go towards IT modernization projects.

The legislation also provides $20.77 million for the Department of Labor’s “centralized infrastructure technology investment activities related to support systems and modernization.”

Another modernization effort winning funding includes $10 million allocated to the Railroad Retirement Board to supplement its IT investment initiatives.

In the realm of health IT, the bill includes $60.3 million for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to increase health IT interoperability, an increase over the agency’s request for $38.4 million. The bill also includes $15.9 million for the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Grant Program “for quality improvement and adoption of health information technology.”

Finally, the bill makes STEM education a policy priority. “It is the sense of the Senate that dedicated funding for coding courses in kindergarten through grade 12 education should be a top priority,” the bill states. The Senate bill also requires a report from the Department of Education about how it is collaborating with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) on promoting and encouraging STEM.

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MeriTalk Staff