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State and Local Cybersecurity Improvement Act Reintroduced

Representatives on the House Homeland Security Committee reintroduced legislation May 12 that would create a $500 million-per-year Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant program to help incentivize state and local governments (SLGs) to improve cybersecurity funding.

This version of the State and Local Cybersecurity Improvement Act, sponsored by Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Innovation subcommittee, appropriates $100 million more per year than a version of the bill that passed the House last year.

“In the decade since I first chaired the cybersecurity subcommittee, the number of cases and the financial impact of ransomware have skyrocketed. These attacks are more than a mere inconvenience – they are a national security threat,” Clarke said in a May 12 release.

In addition to creating the grant program, which would run from Fiscal Years 2022-26, the bill would also require DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to create a plan to improve cybersecurity for SLGs, Territorial, and Tribal governments. The bill would also establish a State and Local Cybersecurity Resilience Committee that would let SLGs, Territorial, and Tribal governments give CISA feedback on their cybersecurity needs.

In order to access the grant money, SLGs, Territorial, and Tribal governments would have to develop cybersecurity plans that will guide how they use that grant money. The goal of the bill is to help SLGs, Territorial, and Tribal governments better protect themselves from cyberattacks, like ransomware, where SLGs have increasingly been targeted.

“The harms communities face from ransomware attacks are frequently not just financial, they have led to canceled school days, delayed medical procedures, and disruptions to emergency response services. To be clear, this is a national security threat,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., a co-sponsor of the bill and chair of the Homeland Security Committee, said in the same release.

The bill is cosponsored by Reps. Thompson, Andrew Garabino, R-N.Y., John Katko, R-N.Y., Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., Michael McCaul, R-Tex., and Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md. There is no official score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on the current version of the bill, but the version that passed the House last year had a CBO estimated price tag of $2.89 billion over six years.

“It is essential that we pass Chairwoman Clarke’s State and Local Cybersecurity Improvement Act to ensure state, local, Tribal, and Territorial governments get the assistance they need to defend their networks, Thompson continued.

So far, the bill has been referred to the House Homeland Security Committee.

Lamar Johnson
About Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is MeriTalk SLG's Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.