CULPEPER STAR-EXPONENT, RICHARD HORNER
A bill that will allow federal surplus and repairable computers to be refurbished by third party non-profits before going to people in need has been signed into law.
President Joseph Biden recently signed a bill, presented by Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), that will provide veterans, students and others in need access to refurbished laptop and desktop computers.
Spanberger’s bill, known as the Computers for Veterans and Students Act, sought to plug a gap that prevented the refurbishment of surplus and repairable computers donated by the federal government. This bill was part of the end of the year funding deal signed by the President and was first introduced by the congresswoman in July 2020.
The bill was co-sponsored by Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.).
The gap was in the Federal Surplus Personal Property program which was created by Congress in 1949 through the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act. The program allowed for the transfer of nonessential federal property to authorized state agencies for surplus property, which would then transfer the property to local governments, businesses, nonprofits and other eligible recipients.
However, not all of the equipment and other technological equipment is immediately usable. Also, prior to the bill, the federal government didn’t have the authority to transfer the equipment to third party computer refurbishers before going to the intended recipients.
As a result of the bill, the federal government will now be able to allow certified, non-profit computer refurbishing companies to obtain computers in order to repair them before sending them to recipients. The new law also requires nonprofit refurbishers to provide computer training.
“Especially during the pandemic, Virginians saw more job applications, educational opportunities and hiring processes move online. However, many low-income households, homeless veterans and seniors don’t have reliable access to a laptop or desktop computer. We need to close this device divide — because it’s an issue of opportunity,” stated Spanberger. “After several years of pushing this legislation forward, I am proud to see it cross the finish line and be signed into law by the President. The Computers for Veterans and Students Act will cut red tape, reduce government waste and provide surplus computers — which otherwise would be tossed in the trash or forgotten in a faraway storage unit — to veterans, seniors and students who can put them to good use. I want to thank my colleagues Congressman Wittman and Congresswoman Luria for backing this legislation, and I look forward to watching the exciting progress ahead in the Virginia communities that stand to benefit.”
The congresswoman’s bill was backed by several nonprofits that help veterans and students receive refurbished computers.
“Veterans gave so much to this country and thankfully Tech For Troops can now give more to our Veterans and their families in need,” stated Mark Casper, CEO of Tech For Troops. “With this legislation, nonprofits across the nation will be able to support so many more families. Thank you to Rep. Spanberger for championing this across the finish line.”
The Virginia-based Tech For Troops recycled and refurbished more than 112,000 pounds of equipment in 2021 according to a recent report by S&P Global. Tech For Troops is a veteran-staffed and veteran-run organization and is a member of the Alliance for Technology Refurbishing and Reuse. AFTRR is composed of more than 90 non-profit computer refurbishers.
Many other organizations commented about the bill’s passage as part of a press release made by Spanberger’s office.
“The COVS Act is an important step toward digital equity,” stated Shawn Daugherty, Senior Government Relations Manager, Human-I-T. “Too many American households lack access to the internet, and the tools and skills necessary to be successful online. This legislation will help provide equitable access to opportunity by ensuring that used, but still usable, government equipment is made available to those most in need. We thank Rep. Spanberger for her continued leadership on this critical issue.”
“I am pleased our 50 states and 6 territories were supportive of Rep. Spanberger’s (D-VA) legislation by all of us working with the GSA, the Congress and the Oversight and Reform Committee to make this happen,” stated Sam Sibert, President, National Association of State Agencies for Surplus Property (NASASP). “We participated in the bill’s progress and showed how bipartisanship can work in Washington, DC.”
“Historic funding has helped narrow the digital divide and legislation like the COVS Act enhance efforts to get devices into the hands of those who need them the most,” stated Amina Fazlullah, Senior Director of Equity Policy, Common Sense Media. “While we continue to fight for fast and affordable internet service, the COVS Act will help ensure that more families across the U.S. have access to a device that will get them online.”
“Across the country, millions of Americans can’t get online because they don’t have a computer,” stated Jenna Leventoff, Senior Policy Counsel, Public Knowledge. “Veterans, students, low-income individuals, older adults and those with disabilities are particularly impacted by the device divide. The COVS Act is a commonsense piece of legislation that will keep computers out of landfills and put them into the hands of those who need them. We thank Rep. Spanberger and Sen. Hassan for their tireless work to ensure that the inability to afford a computer does not prevent consumers from getting online.”
“Everyone who needs a computer should have one, and no one should be left behind,” stated Scot Henley, Executive Director, Digitunity. “Device ownership is the foundation of digital equity, and the passage of the COVS Act allows federal surplus technology to be utilized to help students, veterans, older adults, and those with disabilities thrive in the modern economy. It’s a logical solution and a great step towards closing the digital divide.”
“For too long, retired and surplus federal IT equipment has been a neglected national resource,” stated Michael Abensour, Chief Impact Officer, Compudopt. “Thanks to the passage of the COVS Act, nonprofit computer refurbishers across the country will be able to give tens of thousands of these computers a second life in order to help struggling communities and families bridge the digital divide.”