Category Archives: Latest News

New Web Portal Aims to Help Small Communities Apply for Federal Funding

Since the passing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act earlier this year, there are billions of dollars available for local governments to update crumbling infrastructure. However, accessing those funds is not always as easy as it sounds when navigating the grant application process and accompanying bureaucracy feels more like a funhouse Odyssey than a walk in the park. Luckily, a new joint venture will launch this summer designed to help small and mid-sized cities secure the federal bag.

Local Infrastructure Hub, a collaboration between the US Conference of Mayors (USCM), the National League of Cities (NLC), and Results for America will go live July 1st as reported by American City & County. Read more >

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Covid Recovery Funds Offer Plenty of Options for American Counties

As reported by American City & County, the US Treasury announced its final rule for the State and Local Coronavirus Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF) under ARPA. SLFRF totals $65.1 billion to be allotted on a per county basis with plenty of provisions that allow counties to distribute these funds as they see fit.

One of the key provisions will allow approximately 70% of counties to declare $10 million as lost revenue, which enables them to allocate that money for the following general government services:

  • Constructing schools and hospitals
  • Road maintenance and other infrastructure
  • Health services
  • Government administration and staff
  • Environmental remediation
  • Police, first responders, and public safety

The Treasury’s ruling also improves revenue loss calculations to include utility revenue and liquor store sale options for counties, clarifies eligible uses of distributed funds for capital expenditures, streamlines options for providing premium pay by broadening the pool of eligible employees, authorizes re-hiring local government staff, and most importantly given ever increasing cyber threats, allows recovery funds to be used for improved cybersecurity. Read more >

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Small Counties Can Make Big Impacts on Economic Mobility

The National Association of Counties (NACo) recently released a report detailing how American counties are uniquely positioned to improve economic mobility for residents. While the report identifies seven key areas that counties can focus on, it notes “county authority generally lends the most breadth in supporting financial security” because counties “can promote and educate residents on saving for emergencies or retirement, facilitate programs to promote homeownership, or enact workforce development programs to increase earning potential.” Such programs can help people bolster their personal resources and have a positive impact in terms of relative economic mobility, which measures how individuals rank in terms of income distribution over their lifetime, relative to their peers and parents. Read more >

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Infrastructure Bills Provide Special Considerations for Smaller Communities

With the passing of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, state and local governments will soon have the resources necessary to address longstanding infrastructure needs that traditionally have only been able to be funded on an annual basis. Instead, this bill allows cities and counties more breathing room to fully prioritize major projects and implement solutions over a five-year period to adequately meet the demands of their constituents.

The bill has set aside $284 billion for transportation, $55 billion for water, $65 billion for broadband, $73 billion for energy and power, $21 billion for environmental remediation, $8.3 billion for western water infrastructure (to address drought conditions), and $46 billion for resiliency purposes. Read more >

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New Webtools are Now Available for Creating and Evaluating State Redistricting Efforts

With the 2020 census numbers recently released, rising populations in Montana and several other states will eventually lead to additional congressional seats within the U.S. House of Representatives. Before that can happen, though, each state must undergo a complicated redistricting process to ensure the new congressional districts are drawn to accurately represent constituents without devolving into partisan gerrymandering. While this may seem like a tall order in today’s hyper-partisan political climate, three organizations have already developed powerful webtools that allow anyone to draw new districts according to a variety of criteria. Cooler yet, many states are allowing citizens to submit their evaluated proposals for consideration in how new districts will be finalized. Read more >

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More Jobs, New Blood, and Adaptation in Public Education

With the 21-22 school year fast approaching along with increased anxiety over the uptick in COVID-19 Delta variant cases, there is a silver lining to a looming, potential storm cloud. Namely, that despite significant job losses for public education in 2020, the US added 943,000 jobs in July—220,000 of which were in local education—according to a report cited by American City & County from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This has led to an influx of ambitious and optimistic teachers and education programs determined to showcase what school districts have learned in the past year and how they continue to adapt to ongoing pandemic-related challenges. Read more >

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Local Governments and Blockchain: A Match Made in Digital Heaven

Despite niche interest outside of the cryptocurrency community during its inception in 2008, blockchain technology is starting to go mainstream as local governments explore new ways to utilize the digital ledger system for improved security, efficiency, and transparency.

This is because blockchain technology offers an easy way to track and verify digital transactions. For example, each taxpayer to pay their property taxes to the county through the blockchain would have their payments logged as a unique “block” containing encrypted transaction information and timestamps. Each transactional block would also contain information referencing the block that preceded it (known as a cryptographic hash function). Read more >

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With Cyberattacks Still on the Rise, Security Solutions Abound for Utility Districts

With a recent report from the FBI showing a 69% increase in cybercrime between 2019 and 2020, it should come as no surprise that such attacks cost US governmental entities just shy of $19 million last year. Most worrisome is that these attacks have not only increased in frequency but in intensity as well, targeting vital aspects of American infrastructure—from oil companies to police departments. Perhaps one of most concerning instances, and one that seemed to fly under the radar, is the water plant that was hacked in Oldsmar, FL back in February.

Hackers managed to find a way to exploit a remote-access loophole that allowed them to increase the amount of lye (used to manage pH levels) fed into the water system. Read more >

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More Funding for Infrastructure Means Broadband, Water/Sewer Improvements and Jobs

With the American Rescue Plan Act that passed in March, the Treasury Department has begun to set aside $350 billion in emergency funds for qualifying states, local and tribal governments. Among other things, Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds can be used to support public health costs, ameliorate the negative socio-economic effects of the past year, and perhaps most importantly, invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.

Broadband infrastructure investments are particularly timely after a year that saw dramatic increases in both remote work and overall data usage. According to American City & County, over 30 million Americans currently do not have access to high-speed internet, especially in rural areas. Read more >

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Evolving Cyberthreats Lead to Evolved Cybersecurity

With more people working from home, cybersecurity is more important than ever. Threat actors are becoming increasingly bold in their attacks and ransomware continues to be the preferred method of infiltration. Cybersecurity experts, however, are also adapting with the times by focusing on a previously overlooked aspect of ransomware attacks: dwell time.

According to cybersecurity news outlet Dark Reading, “dwell time” refers to “the length of time an interloper remains undetected inside the network.” They note that traditionally, ransomware attacks operate under “smash-and-grab” tactics. Where, once downloaded, malicious files attempt to encrypt as many files and workstations as possible. Now, though, these files are lingering, allowing operators to lurk in the shadows of a targeted network, studying how it operates and identifying valuable resources to exploit or hijack for bigger payoffs. Read more >

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