US Government Shutdown: An Infographic

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A fight over the funding for the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, has resulted in a government shutdown that started last night. The registration for what is intended to be universal health care for American citizens begins Oct. 1, and House Republicans have currently stopped congressional activities in an attempt to force Democrats to compromise on the funding for the bill. The shutdown marks the first of its kind in 17 years, with almost 800,000 government employees on unpaid leave. Why did this happen?

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U.S. catching up on overdue bridge construction, repairs

Article | July 29, 2020

Bridges, a critical part of America’s infrastructure, need immediate attention. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2019 National Bridge Inventory database shows that 81,000 bridges should be replaced and more than 46,000 are structurally deficient. In spite of the data, millions of motorists cross these structurally deficient bridges every day. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association estimates that the cost to repair the country’s bridges is approximately $164 billion. If that statistic appears startling, consider this - at the current pace of repair, construction could easily take more than a half-century. Rhode Island currently has the highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges in the nation. Other bridges in disrepair include New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge, Washington, D.C.’s Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, and the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge that crosses San Francisco Bay. Time and the environment will continue to play a huge role in the deterioration of America’s bridges. Repair and reconstruction needs will only become greater. Hundreds of immediate projects are available for construction and engineering firms that perform bridge work. Illinois The Illinois Department of Transportation approved a $21.3 billion highway program this month to improve 8 million square feet of bridges and more than 3,300 miles of roads over the next six years. Of this amount, $3.15 billion has been allocated for the current fiscal year. An Interstate 80 project, with a cost projection of $1.1 billion to replace two bridges, will have funding disbursements that span from 2021 to 2026. In 2021, $74.5 million is allocated for replacements, superstructures, widening, reconstruction, new construction engineering, and utility adjustments. Many additional projects are outlined in the state’s transportation plan. North Carolina Beaufort County will receive $120 million from the state to fund what is referred to as the U.S. 278 corridor project. This project will overhaul the only connection between Hilton Head Island and the mainland. Cost projections exceed $272 million. Components of the project include widening the entire corridor to six lanes, adding right-turn only exits off U.S. 278, and building an underpass on Pinckney Island. Another part of the project involves the construction of a multi-use pathway over the bridge. Maryland Prince George’s County has released its 2021-2026 Proposed Capital Improvement Program and Budget for the Department of Public Works and Transportation. One project is the replacement of a 30-foot concrete bridge in Clinton over Piscataway Creek at a cost of $5.7 million. Design of the bridge is scheduled for 2021, and construction will begin in 2022. The Livingston Road Bridge, another structure that crosses the Piscataway Creek, will be replaced at a cost of $8.4 million. A total of $29.6 million will be dispersed from 2021-2026 to fund the replacements or rehabilitation of county bridges in the state. Maine This state currently has 314 bridges in poor condition, the seventh-highest percentage in the country. Bridges in Maine are inspected every two years and receive posted warnings or become closed when there is danger to the public. Many of the state’s bridges are more than 90 years old. Approximately $38.1 million in federal funding has been secured, and seven bridges have been selected for repair as part of the National Highway Freight System program. The Maine Department of Transportation will contribute another $14 million and construction is expected to begin 2022. The bridges include Interstate 95 over Webb Road in Waterville, I-95 over Broadway in Bangor, Main Street Bridge in Solon, Red Bridge in Rumford, and the double bridge on Stillwater Avenue in Old Town. Arkansas The Fort Smith Board of Directors, Arkansas & Missouri Railroad, and the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District agreed July 21 to facilitate a $15 million project to repair a railroad line. The district will manage the procurement of engineering services, as well as procurement and supervision of the construction contract for the renovation of the Arkansas River railroad lift bridge and wooden trestles from Fort Smith to Missouri. The district also will manage other procurement responsibilities for two railroad bridges in Crawford County. Louisiana Funding has been approved through an agreement with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LDOTD) for the replacement of the Cheniere spillway and bridge. In 2019, the LDOTD announced it would contribute $4 million to replace the bridge and substitute a fix-crested weir for the parish-owned spillway. A weir is a low dam built across a river to raise the level of water upstream or regulate its flow. The bridge and spillway were damaged by floods and the LDOTD agreed to fund the repair. Procurements for the project will begin soon as construction is also slated for 2020. In the city of Baton Rouge, planning will begin soon on a new Mississippi River bridge after LDOTD finalized an agreement July 7 with an engineering firm on a $5 million planning and advisory contract. The contractor will be responsible for developing a purpose and need statement, producing a navigational analysis, and analyzing various traffic models for this more than $1 billion project. The state has a backlog of road and bridge projects that totals more than $14 billion. The Capital Area Road and Bridge District will consider alternative funding methods for the new bridge, including tolls, public-private partnerships, and state funds. The project is moving rather rapidly. There will be no shortage of opportunities for companies interested in bridge construction and repairs throughout the country. Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc., a business development company specializing in government contracting and procurement consulting throughout the U.S. Her recently released book, Inside the Infrastructure Revolution: A Roadmap for Building America, is a handbook for contractors, investors and the public at large seeking to explore how public-private partnerships or joint ventures can help finance their infrastructure projects.

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Public continues to support funding for school expansions, upgrades

Article | July 10, 2020

There is great angst related to every aspect of reopening of schools in the U.S. What to do? How to do it? When to do it? The questions are numerous, and there is little certainty about anything. However, one thing is not in question – schools and our education system are critically important to our lives, our future, and our economic destiny. American taxpayers have shown no indication that neglecting schools is an option they want to consider. Citizens everywhere appear to be committed to the premise that America must provide modern educational facilities, leading edge technology, and outstanding teachers. To substantiate that point, one only has to take a quick look at what is happening throughout the country. Educational leaders are announcing plans for expanding, rebuilding, and enhancing campuses for tomorrow’s students. And, taxpayers are solidifying their support by approving the required funding. Here are but a few examples. Oregon The West Linn-Wilsonville School District will rely on $206.9 million in funding that was approved by voters to make major expansions. The funding includes $39 million for a new primary school, $18 million for technology upgrades, $25 million for expansion of the Wilsonville High School auditorium, and $15.25 million to secure school entrances, purchase lockdown hardware, and install shelter-in-place curtains. The funding also will cover costs for additional parking and a project to significantly increase the seating capacity of the high school football stadium. Texas In June 2020, the Cleveland ISD approved the first of many projects as part of a $198 million bond package that was approved by voters. Some projects have begun and other planned projects will include the renovation of Northside Elementary and the construction of a sixth elementary school and a new junior high school facility. Additionally, the funding will be used for the addition of a teacher learning center and administrative office as well as for upgrades to the softball and baseball fields at Cleveland High School. Continued growth in this part of the state has required the district to find temporary solutions such as costs of $3 million for portable buildings for classrooms while construction is underway. New Jersey Taxpayers approved a $37.6 million bond election for the Deptford Township School District. It includes replacement of some mercury-infested floors at a number of schools and construction of 16 additional classrooms at the district’s middle school. The funding also will be available for construction of two new science labs, an auxiliary gym, a cafeteria, a new main office, and a new central district office. In Woodbury Heights, voters approved a $2 million bond proposal for construction and renovation projects. The school needs a new main office and a security vestibule. Officials also want to convert some classrooms into a larger area that can be used for group instruction. Nebraska Bennington Public Schools will get a fifth elementary school and second middle school with a $72 million bond issue that was approved in March. The plan was to solicit proposals as quickly as possible with a goal of having construction completed by August 2021. The plan calls for the new middle school to open in 2022. The district also plans for other improvements district-wide, including to the high school softball and football stadiums, and middle school track. Bond money will be used to purchase land for a second high school. California The Oakland Unified School Board voted to place a $735 million construction bond measure on the November ballot to upgrade aging facilities. If approved by voters, the district will upgrade and expand seven schools and construct a new $50 million administrative building. Additional funding will go toward new kitchens at three schools and a cafeteria at one campus. The board also agreed that about $200 million could be used to fund districtwide safety repairs and possible improvements based on COVID-19 requirements at dozens of schools. Another $10 million is allocated for school expansions or other new projects. The cost estimates used by the board were based on the district’s Facilities Master Plan. Michigan The Clio Area School District has announced different plans because the district will downsize. However, voters approved a $40.6 million bond in May. With that funding, the district will begin to consolidate Garner Elementary School, Carter Middle School, Clio High School, and the transportation building. The remaining schools will receive extensive renovations and improvements including ceiling and flooring replacements, air-conditioning, new security systems, and updated technology. The Kenowa Hills School District also received voter approval in May for a $67 million bond proposal. The funding will be used to target multiple areas including, modernizing classrooms, replacing technology, expanding the Early Childhood Center, upgrading facilities and infrastructure, enhancing security, and creating a new STEM lab (science, technology, engineering, and math). In spite of uncertain times, schools are held in high regard and citizens and taxpayers continue to show their support for preserving public assets, enhancing safety, and providing the technology required for quality instruction. Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc., a business development company specializing in government contracting and procurement consulting throughout the U.S. Her recently released book, Inside the Infrastructure Revolution: A Roadmap for Building America, is a handbook for contractors, investors and the public at large seeking to explore how public-private partnerships or joint ventures can help finance their infrastructure projects.

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FTC Issues Guidance on Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) with Regard to FCRA

Article | April 16, 2020

On April 8, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – a United States government agency that is the nation’s primary privacy and data security enforcer – issued guidance to businesses on the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for machine learning technology and automated decision making with regard to federal laws that included the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) that regulates background checks for employment purposes.

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Creating Public Value using the AI-Driven Internet of Things

Article | May 26, 2021

Government agencies seek to deliver quality services in increasingly dynamic and complex environments. However, outdated infrastructures—and a shortage of sys­tems that collect and use massive real-time data—make it challenging for the agencies to fulfill their missions. Governments have a tremendous opportunity to transform public services using the “Internet of Things” (IoT) to provide situation-specific and real-time data, which can improve decision-making and optimize operational effectiveness.

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Spotlight

Ofsted

Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. We report directly to Parliament and we are independent and impartial. We inspect and regulate services which care for children and young people, and those providing education and skills for learners of all ages.

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