News Releases

The State and Local Digital Services Act would fund digital service teams to improve government services for users, save taxpayer money 

Senator Murray: “Anyone who has had to schedule a vaccine shot or file for unemployment in the past year knows that this pandemic has moved more and more of our government services online—and pushed many of them to the breaking point”

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), introduced new legislation today to help state and local governments update their technology and replace outdated systems for accessing essential health care, housing, employment, and other services.

The State and Local Digital Services Act authorizes $100 million to fund tech strike teams at state, local, and Tribal governments, using modern design and development techniques that put users first and fix frustrating government websites. The program is modeled on the US Digital Service and 18F programs, which delivered cost-effective tech upgrades at a significant savings to taxpayers. It updates the Digital Services Act, introduced by Vice President Kamala Harris and Senator Murray in the previous Congress.

“Anyone who has had to schedule a vaccine shot or file for unemployment in the past year knows that this pandemic has moved more and more of our government services online—and pushed many of them to the breaking point,” Senator Murray said. “It’s critical that these resources be accessible and reliable. The State and Local Digital Service Act would make commonsense, long overdue investments to help to ensure online government services live up to modern needs and expectations by providing capacity for digital service teams that will save state and local governments money, improve their digital resources, attract top talent to government service, and make it easier for millions of people in Washington state and across the country to get services they need.” 

“People across the country shouldn’t have had to wait weeks to be approved for unemployment insurance, veterans shouldn’t have to grapple with a hard-to-use website to access housing programs, and someone who only has a smartphone shouldn’t be locked out of government services that still aren’t designed for mobile devices,” Senator Wyden said. “Governments should not outsource their mission. They need in-house technology experts to help with research, design, creation, and procurement of digital services. Our new legislation cuts through bureaucracy to deliver upgrades for users, and gets a running start at the huge job of upgrading state and local systems.”

Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) co-sponsored the measure.

Grants could fund a range of tech upgrades, including helping states set up easy-to-use vaccine appointments, providing easy-to-use online licensing forms for farmers, and providing technology procurement support to save taxpayer dollars.

Specifically the bill would:

  • Authorize $100 million over 7 years for state and local digital service grants administered by GSA, ranging from $200,000 to $3 million per year based on the population they serve. These grants require a 10% cost share and 50% of the grant must be used for talent.
  • Allow successful awardees to re-apply for additional grants to sustain their new teams.
  • Restore public trust in government systems by funding new and existing teams of designers, technologists, and civil servants to focus on delivering user-centered digital services.
  • Remove red tape to allow USDS, 18F, and other federal technology services to provide technical expertise to states and local government entities.

The State and Local Digital Services Act is endorsed by broad array of public interest advocates, including: Center for Democracy and Technology, AnitaB.org, the Tech Talent Project, Bitwise Industries, NAVA Public Benefit Corporation, the Public Interest Tech team and the New Practice Lab at New America.

“When interacting with government online, Americans deserve to have a high-quality experience that is reliable, intuitive and private. But governments don’t always have the funding or staffing they need to modernize the delivery of digital services. The Center for Democracy & Technology is proud to support the State and Local Digital Service Act, which will lead the way to more modern and user-friendly digital government services across the country,” said William T. Adler, Senior Technologist for Elections & Democracy, Center for Democracy & Technology.

"There is no path to delivering on the commitments of the American Rescue Plan without improving the capacity of the states to deliver for the communities they serve. This bill goes a long way to supporting states in improving their digital services and ultimately improving the way they serve their residents," said Tara McGuinness, former senior advisor for President Obama and co-author of Power to the Public: The Promise of Public Interest Technology.

Earlier this month, Senator Murray held a virtual roundtable with community members from Eastern and Central Washington about the need to ensure digital equity and expand broadband access for communities that have been historically underserved and overlooked. In 2019, she introduced the Digital Equity Act to help expand broadband access and bridge the digital divide. During the 2020 election, this bill was included in then-candidate Biden’s broadband platform, and earlier this year, President Biden also unveiled his American Jobs Plan, which includes a $100 billion investment to build high-speed broadband infrastructure to reach 100 percent coverage, promote transparency and competition, reduce the cost of broadband internet service and promote more widespread adoption.

Read the bill text HERE. Read a one page summary of the bill HERE.

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