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In this week’s Friday Five, Maximus is reading about the results of government IT modernization efforts, the economic impact of ending supplemental unemployment benefits, and how expansion of government benefit programs could keep millions above the poverty line.

1. IRS gets high marks for fraud and identity theft initiatives

A recent audit found that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has improved its efforts to identify and prevent tax refund fraud and identity theft. According to FCW, the agency prevented more than $3.6 billion of fraudulent returns in 2019. The success is credited to a new software system and database used for cross-referencing information, a team dedicated to analyzing returns flagged as suspicious, and public-private partnerships that share information on threats and best practices.

2. Connolly: Government IT is make or break for pandemic response

COVID-19 has revealed weaknesses in legacy government IT systems. This MeriTalk article reports statements made by Rep. Gerry Connolly at a hearing on continuing IT modernization. According to Connolly, modernization must be a financially supported priority, especially during a time when many agencies struggle to keep up with demand as the pandemic continues. 

3. Preliminary FITARA scores look good, lawmaker says 

Federal agencies have made progress on information technology modernizations efforts, as measured by the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA). According to NextGov, no agencies are expected to receive D or F grades on the FITARA scorecard this year. Despite the improvement, many point out that FITARA updates have not kept pace with industry advancements and must transition with the times.

4. The end of $600 unemployment benefits will hit millions of households and the economy 

Millions of Americans who have been receiving an extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits will have their incomes cut, if those benefits expire this week. According to NPR, eliminating the supplemental benefits would reduce spending power by nearly $19 billion weekly, cause a wave of defaults, and negatively affect grocers, landlords, and the broader economy. As the expiration on benefits looms, Congress continues to debate options.

5. 2020 poverty projections: Initial US policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic effects is projected to blunt the rise in annual poverty

The Urban Institute has used a microsimulation model to estimate poverty rates for 2020. Their analysis found that without the COVID response currently in place, poverty rates for 2020 would be 12.4%. However, the current government response, which has included stimulus checks and expansions to both unemployment and SNAP benefits, is anticipated to lower the poverty rate to 9.2%. The analysis finds that the policies are projected to keep more than 10 million individuals above the poverty line.