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What the CARES Act deadline extension means for public procurement teams

January 14, 2021 | Emily Lambert

Calculator for calculating CARES act funding

On December 27, 2020, the new U.S. $900 billion stimulus bill was signed into law. The package includes stimulus checks for individuals, enhanced federal unemployment benefits, relief for businesses, funds for vaccine distribution, and more. For the public sector, new funding has been introduced to support schools and transportation, and for state and local governments, CARES Act funding has been extended.

For public sector procurement teams, here’s what you need to know.

New aid and extended deadlines

With the new stimulus package, colleges and schools will receive $82 billion, including $22.7 billion earmarked for colleges and universities and $54.3 billion for elementary and secondary education. 

Transportation will receive $45 billion, including $16 billion for another round of airline employee and contractor payroll support; $14 billion for transit; $10 billion for highways; $2 billion for intercity buses; $2 billion for airpots; and $1 billion for Amtrak. 

For reference, Coronavirus-related spending in 2020 totalled $30 billion for K-12 and higher education funding, and $25 billion for Mass Transit funding.

Although no new money was earmarked for state and local governments, the deal would give them an additional year to spend the $139 billion appropriated under the CARES Act.

Requirements for expenditures

With the deadline to use your CARES funding extended beyond the original December 30, 2020 deadline, it’s time to consider how to maximize your unused funds to respond to challenges caused by COVID-19.

The Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) covers some of those more obvious expenses—like establishing temporary public medical facilities or disinfecting public areas—but it also covers some indirect costs related to COVID-19, like expenses to improve telework capabilities for public employees working from home.

As you consider how to leverage your funding, keep in mind these three requirements for CRF eligibility:

  • Necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency. This includes expenses for public safety measures (such as maintaining social distancing), improving remote work infrastructure, and more. The Department of the Treasury includes a nonexhaustive list of eligible expenses in this guide.
  • Costs not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020.
  • Costs incurred during the period between March 1, 2020, and the end of 2021. 

Using CARES to purchase procurement software

Government agencies across the country are using CARES funding to invest in procurement software. The City of San Angelo, Texas, for instance, used CARES to buy online bidding software to maintain social distancing by eliminating the need for in-person proposal submissions, courier deliveries, and physical bid openings. 

Investing your CARES dollars in an online bidding solution (like Bonfire) can serve as a force multiplier, driving greater impact even with limited resources. In emergency situations, these tools can help you get the goods and services your citizens need quickly and compliantly. By streamlining manual tasks, increasing vendor competition, and fostering stakeholder collaboration, digital solutions can help drive best value in your bids and RFx, setting up your agency to thrive during the pandemic and beyond. 

According to Terry White, IT procurement expert covering procurement and disruptive technologies at Omdia, “It has never been more important for government procurement teams to strengthen, stabilize, and regulate the procurement process with digital tools. Work from home, flexible working hours, and the need for rapid and efficient processing and evaluation of bids demands it. If not for the government agency themselves, then for the citizens they serve.” 

To learn more about digitizing your procurement process with CARES, chat with a Bonfire expert today.

About the author

Bonfire Blog Author Emily Lambert

Emily Lambert | Bonfire Interactive

As the Content Marketing Strategist at Bonfire, Emily writes thought leadership for procurement teams in the public sector. Best practices content for procurement professionals doesn’t have to be a chore to get through—which is why Emily strives to strike the balance of writing educational yet engaging content that inspires sourcing experts and equips them to make the best purchasing decisions.