On March 11, US President Joe Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which authorizes $1.9 trillion in relief funding for those impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. A lot of attention has been paid to the relief payments to Americans but the bill targets other agencies of interest to electric utilities.
One boost comes in the form of $650 million for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). CISA is heading up the response to the SolarWinds Corp breach. You may recall that it was discovered in December of 2020 that a massive cyberattack had occurred and that many companies who use servers from SolarWinds Corp (including the U.S. government, The New York Times and many, many others.) were impacted.
The Technology Modernization Fund, which is focused on IT and government agencies and also includes cybersecurity, received a whopping $1 billion. A recent project funded by the TMF helped the USDA move some of its data centers into the cloud.
On the energy side, most of the relief is for low-income customers impacted by Covid-19. The bill provides $4.5 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LiHEAP) and another $500 million for drinking water and wastewater assistance.
The bill also provides $100 million to the EPA to issue grants to address disproportionate environmental harms to minority or low-income residents. There are also provisions that offer funds to monitor air quality under the Clean Air Act.
All together the assistance that could impact the electric utility industry totals more than $6.5 billion, which should alleviate some of the pressure that many utilities have been under as they have sought to continue to serve customers impacted by Covid-19.
The national conference of state legislatures has a nice summary of the bill on this page.
Read the entire bill here.
Our March 24-25, 2021 DISTRIBUTECH+ will focus on digitalization and data analytics for utilities. See what sessions will be presented here.