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Government, nonprofits to partner to put surplus computers in hands of veterans

Crystal Graham
military veteran
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President Joe Biden last week signed into law a bipartisan bill to provide federal surplus and repairable computers to non-profit computer refurbishers who will then repair and distribute these computers to veterans, students and others in need.

In 1949, Congress created the Federal Surplus Personal Property Program through the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act. This program transfers nonessential federal property from the federal government to authorized state agencies for surplus property, who then serve local units of government, businesses, nonprofits and other eligible recipients. However, not all of this property – including computers and other technology equipment – is immediately usable, and the federal government does not currently have the authority to transfer this repairable equipment to third-party computer refurbishers. This restriction has resulted in waste and inefficiency.

To fix this issue, the Computers for Veterans and Students Act, signed into law as part of the end-of-year funding deal, will allow certified, nonprofit refurbishing companies to directly obtain, refurbish and distribute surplus government computers to veterans and others in need of a device.

Additionally, the new law requires each nonprofit computer refurbisher receiving computers to provide training programs in the use of this technology.

U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) first introduced the Act in July 2020, and she reintroduced the bill in May 2021. The legislation is co-led by U.S. Representatives Rob Wittman (R-VA-01) and Elaine Luria (D-VA-02).

“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,” said 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 legislation is also backed by several nonprofit organizations that help veterans and students receive these refurbished computers including Tech for Troops, a Virginia-based, veteran-staffed and veteran-operated organization.

“Veterans gave so much to this country and thankfully Tech For Troops can now give more to our veterans and their families in need,” said Mark Casper, CEO, Tech For Troops. “With this legislation, nonprofits across the nation will be able to support so many more families.”

According to a recent report from S&P Global, Tech for Troops recycled and refurbished more than 112,000 pounds of equipment in 2021 alone.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.