Congress sends $19.1B disaster relief bill to president

Washington, D.C. – A $19.1 billion disaster aid bill cleared a final hurdle in Congress with a 354-58 vote in the House on June 3. The U.S. Senate passed the bill earlier on May 23 with a 85-8 vote.
The president’s signature of the bill would release billions of dollars to communities around the country decimated by disasters. It also includes a provision for sending $4 billion to Texas that Congress allocated last year to assist with Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts.
The bill also aims to help hurricane victims in the Southeast, flood victims in the Midwest, and wildfire victims in California. It includes monies to repair highways and infrastructure such as military bases and helps farmers cover crop losses, and extends a national flood insurance program to Sept. 30. Puerto Rico would receive $1.4 billion in aid that includes a $605 million nutrition program and $304 million of community development grants to help it rebuild from 2017’s Hurricane Maria.

Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s $783M annual plan

Louisiana– The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s proposed $783 million coastal annual plan includes 23 levee and coastal restoration projects to be under construction in Southeastern Louisiana during fiscal year 2020 and another 20 projects to undergo engineering and design work. These projects are part of the state’s $50 billion, 50-year coastal Master Plan. Some of the projects include the following:

– Mid-Breton Sediment Diversion, $18 million from the 2010 BP disaster and oil spill-related fine revenue. This project in Plaquemines Parish will eventually cost $800 million, with construction expected to begin in 2023.

– Rosethorne and Jean Lafitte Tidal Basin levees, $4 million in fiscal year 2020, with another $7 million to be spent in fiscal year 2021. The project will build about 8,000 feet of levees in the Jean Lafitte area that will be about 8 feet above sea level, high enough to reduce existing flooding threats from high tides.

– Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection, $38.4 million. Includes money the state might need to spend as part of its share of land costs or mitigation costs for the New Orleans area levee system, the Southeast Louisiana flood protection projects in New Orleans and Jefferson parishes; and for the state’s land costs for federally-built levee improvements in Plaquemines Parish.

– Queen Bess Island Restoration, $10 million. The state expects to receive the money from the BP oil spill natural resource damage program.

– Grand Isle Beach Stabilization, $10.4 million. To be paid for with offshore oil money.

– Golden Triangle Marsh Creation, $21.4 million. State officials expect this project to be funded with natural resource damage restoration money from the BP oil spill.

– Terrebonne Basin barrier island and beach nourishment, $104.7 million. State officials expect this project to be funded with natural resource damage restoration money from the BP oil spill.

UTSA making plans for National Security Collaboration Center

The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) is planning for a new National Security Collaboration Center. This stand-alone facility would provide a growing need for students looking to study in cybersecurity. The university currently has about 2,500 students in this type of program. The project’s goal is to contribute to the country’s national security.

 

Opportunities are still available for businesses that would like to connect with the collaboration center. This cybersecurity program is designed to give students a strong pipeline into defense contracting or the federal government. The U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the National Security Agency in Texas already have a presence at UTSA. Under the plan, those existing offices will be brought together and a secure facility for classified research will be built out. The university also plans to have an “innovation factory” for cybersecurity technology startups.

Other government entities that have been invited to participate in the new center include the 24th Air Force Cyber Command, 25th Air Force, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. A timeline for construction has not been released.

 

Louisiana projects $60M to replace voting machines

Louisiana– Louisiana issued a request for proposal for contractors to supply new voting machines. The state is receiving $6 million in federal grant money to help complete the project. The project is estimated to cost anywhere from $40 million to $60 million. There is a need to allocate additional funding for this project in next year’s budget. The request for proposals is wide open but likely will not consider anything that has a Wi-Fi or other internet connection. With past elections being vulnerable to hackers, Louisiana believes the safest voting booths are those that have limited connectivity and point of entrance.

 

Features of the new machines should include a touch-screen-style system to be placed on stands or tables. Those style machines will be easier to store and will provide a voter-verified paper receipt for any post-election recounts to make it easier for auditing. The hope is to have the voting machine contract awarded by June 30 and all the equipment replaced, through a phased-in process, by 2020. This project is very timely as the antiquated machines used for early voting are currently running very low on spare parts to keep them operational.