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In this week’s Friday Five, Maximus is reading about telehealth expansion, COVID-19 vaccine distribution, unprecedented food bank demand, expiring unemployment benefits, and the continuation of the Centers of Excellence program.

1. Bipartisan cadre of lawmakers call for permanent telehealth expansion

Nearly 50 lawmakers urged leaders of the House and Senate to permanently expand telehealth as part of year-end legislation, according to NextGov. The group argues that immediate action is needed so organizations can make investments to improve the user experience and expand access of telehealth services. Reduced restrictions on telehealth use and reimbursement currently in place are tied to the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration and renewed in 3-month increments.

2. 5 questions and answers on COVID-19 vaccines 

The first COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be approved for use in the United States as early as December 17. The Hill breaks down five common questions, including how many people can expect to be vaccinated by end of year, who gets priority for vaccination, how the vaccines work, and how much vaccination will cost individuals.

3. Millions of hungry Americans turn to food banks for the first time

As millions of Americans experience job or income loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic, food banks are experiencing unprecedented demand. The Associated Press reports one national anti-hunger organization has seen a 60% increase in food bank users, many of whom have never used a food bank before. Food insecurity is anticipated to rise as job losses continue and unemployment benefits expire.

4. These COVID-19 relief benefits cut out Dec. 31 without another stimulus bill

Benefit programs authorized by the CARES Act will expire on December 31 unless Congress intervenes with the passage of new stimulus legislation. According to CNET, benefits include 13 weeks of extended unemployment benefits, including coverage for freelancers and self-employed, and eviction protection for renters, among others. Lawmakers have yet to come to an agreement on pandemic relief.

5. New law enshrines modernization Centers of Excellence effort

President Trump signed a bipartisan bill ensuring continued government support of 10 existing Centers of Excellence, as well as any new designated Centers, for the next seven years. The Centers of Excellence is a technology improvement program for federal agencies housed in the General Services Administration. FCW reports the new law also requires federal agencies to cooperate on IT modernization efforts as well as the planning for and adoption of new technologies.