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The IRS has reported a surge in traffic to its site that tracks pandemic stimulus payments. The agency says nearly 10 million taxpayers checked on the status of their stimulus payment on the Get My Payment tool. Nearly two million people sent the IRS direct deposit information to get their payments more quickly. The IRS says the site will send users to an online waiting room if it gets too much traffic, but said the tracker hasn’t crashed or encountered any outages.
Supplemental Security Income participants will automatically receive stimulus checks through direct deposit. The IRS announced the change yesterday. SSI recipients won’t need to do anything to receive stimulus payments. These participants typically don’t file tax returns, meaning they’d have to enter in their direct deposit information to the IRS website, or wait for a paper check in the mail. The IRS expects stimulus payments will go out to SSI recipients early next month.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has stepped efforts to tamp down COVID-19-related fraud. ICE agents say finance crime groups are pivoting to exploit the pandemic going after money flowing from the stimulus bill. Crooks are smuggling and counterfeiting health and medical items and selling them online. ICE says it’s Homeland Security Investigations unit has opened more than 130 investigations. A new initiative called Operation Stolen Promise will bring HSI in partnership with nearly a dozen other federal law enforcement groups to, as ICE puts it, intensify collaboration.
Chief information officers will have to update their agency’s websites with a new software code to make coronavirus information easier to find. The Federal CIO and Federal Chief Technology Officer are asking agency CIOs to use the Schema.org tags on all websites so online search engines can bring back federal coronavirus information. Schema.org, which is a community activity, released new standard tags for webpages containing information about COVID-19 prevention measures, disease spread statistics, quarantine rules and travel guidance, as well as information about getting tested. (White House)
The number of employees with coronavirus is on the rise at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Over 1,600 employees at the Veterans Health Administration have coronavirus. VA medical centers in New Orleans, Bronx, New York, East Orange, New Jersey and Indianapolis have the most employee cases. 14 VA employees have died from complications due to the coronavirus. VA says 11 of those employees didn’t work in direct patient care roles. VA medical facilities are treating more than 4,200 veterans with COVID-19. (Federal News Network)
The Census Bureau will field new challenges with an extended timeline for the 2020 count. Census experts tell the House Oversight and Reform Committee that getting a complete count could become more difficult with enumerators now going door-to-door during hurricane season in some parts of the country. The Trump administration is calling on Congress to push the end of the 2020 census to April 2021. Former Census director John Thompson told lawmakers that for the count to stay on track, the bureau must keep Congress posted on its budget and hiring. (Rep. Jamie Raskin)
Three agencies are facing delays in their network modernization efforts. IT modernization task orders from the departments of Commerce, Veterans Affairs and the Air Force are under protest at the Government Accountability Office. Three vendors under the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions or EIS program have submitted complaints. CenturyLink and Granite Telecommunications are protesting VA’s $127 million award to Mettel. CenturyLink also submitted a complaint about Commerce’s awards to AT&T and Verizon. And Verizon says the Air Force’s use of lowest-price technically acceptable is unlawful. GAO will decide the protests in no more than 100 days after they were filed. (Federal News Network)
The U.S. Agency for International Development launched its first digital strategy, focused on delivering development and humanitarian assistance through digital platforms. USAID’s Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick said the digital strategy will lead to training and reskilling for its workforce, and possibly adding tech proficiency to performance evaluations. The strategy comes a year after USAID released workforce guidance on responsible data usage. (Federal News Network)
The Agriculture and Labor Department’s short-lived plans to close some Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers caused confusion for students and employees. The Government Accountability Office says the announcement suspended student recruitment and enrollment for a month. It also froze hiring and forced CCC employees to briefly start looking for new jobs. Some CCC employees left for other positions. USDA and Labor proposed closing nine CCCs and transferring the management of the remaining centers to an outside contractor last spring. The departments reversed course after pushback from Congress. But GAO says the plans caused damage anyway.
The Pentagon’s inspector general is out with a long-awaited review of DoD’s controversial JEDI Cloud contract. The IG found some ethical lapses by Defense procurement officials, but in the end, decided those missteps didn’t affect the final decision to award the multibillion dollar contract to Microsoft. Investigators also found no clear evidence that the White House tried to interfere in the procurement, but that part of the investigation was stymied by the administration’s decision to invoke “communications privilege,” preventing DoD officials from talking to investigators about their communications with the White House. The IG also found the department violated procurement rules by improperly releasing sensitive information about Microsoft’s bid to Amazon Web Services. (Federal News Network)
A new app is being tested by the Navy Reserve, that will help keep the force informed and quicken bureaucratic personnel tasks. The Reserve Relationship Management tool modernizes administrative processes and customer interaction like IT issues, scheduling and applying for bonuses. Users will now be able to complete those processes on their phone. Usually would have taken logging into a computer system or making an in-person trip to a Navy operational support center. It also logs interactions so sailors have a record of their requests.
German authorities say police have arrested four suspected members of the Islamic State group alleged to be planning an attack on American military facilities. The suspects are all from Tajikistan, and will be charged with membership in a terrorist organization. Prosecutors said the group had already obtained firearms and ammunition to carry out their attacks. (Associated Press)
The Air Force is tapping into its innovation base to help with the COVID-19 response. The Air Force’s commercial facing AFWERX hub is creating a coronavirus national response team to combat the disease. The industry portal is billed as a one-stop shop for companies and academia to share creative ideas with federal agencies to combat COVID-19. Mission focus areas include combating the spread of the virus, the welfare of citizens, ensuring military readiness during the outbreak and mitigating industrial base impacts of coronavirus.