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Legislation will allow certified, non-profit refurbishers to obtain, refurbish and distribute surplus government computers directly to veterans and others in need. | Dmitry-A/Shutterstock

A new law allows the federal government to provide surplus, repairable used computers directly to nonprofit refurbishers, who will then supply them to people in need.

Nestled in the spending bill 2023 sprawling Passed by Congress and signed by President Biden in December was a provision updating how the federal government is allowed to dispose of its used computers.

Previously, the law allowed federal agencies to provide surplus goods — including computer equipment — to states, which can then provide them to local governments, businesses or nonprofit groups. But some equipment must first be repaired and refurbished, and the federal government had no authority to supply electronics directly to third-party electronics refurbishers.

The language of the bill backed by U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., provides that authority. The language was previously included in a bill called the “Computers for Veterans and Students Act of 2022.”

According to a Press release from Spanberger’s office, the language “will allow certified nonprofit refurbishers to obtain, refurbish, and distribute surplus government computers directly to veterans and others in need of a device.” Additionally, the new law requires that each nonprofit computer refurbisher receiving computers provide training programs in the use of this technology.

According to the wording of the bill, surplus computer and technology equipment can only be turned over to refurbishers if the federal agency determines that the equipment is repairable and that NIST’s data sanitization guidelines are met. Refurbishers, on the other hand, are required to make necessary repairs to devices and distribute them free of charge (excluding shipping and handling), and they must provide computer training programs to recipients.

Refurbishers must also “use recyclers where possible in the event that surplus computer or technology equipment transferred under this section cannot be repaired or reused.”

The wording of the bill allows the General Services Administration (GSA) to make regulations to implement the donation program. These regulations will include eligibility and certification requirements nonprofit renovators must meet, including their review for national security threats (the GSA will be required to disclose in a report to Congress all renovators with foreign interests who have received federal equipment, as well as ).

The GSA will also draft regulations “determining appropriate recyclers to dispose of surplus computer or technology equipment if it cannot be repaired or refurbished under this section.”

In a report to Congress, the GSA will provide a tally of computers ultimately provided by their refurbishment partners to educational institutions, people with disabilities, low-income people, students, needy seniors, or alumni. fighters.

The goal is to help bridge the digital divide, with Spanberger’s office noting that the pandemic has altered job application processes, education opportunities and online hiring processes, leaving households low income, homeless veterans and seniors without computers.

“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,” Spanberger said in a press release.

The wording of the bill has been supported by a number of electronics recycling players, including Tech for Troops, Human-IT, Digitunity and others, including the dozens of members of the Alliance for the Renovation and Reuse of Technologies (AFTRR).

In a statement to E-Scrap News, the GSA said it was “in the early planning stages of implementing the law” and will consult with stakeholders as it begins. to design the program, called the Computers for Veterans and Students (COVS) program. , and establish implementing regulations.

“We look forward to implementing this new program to help bridge the digital divide,” GSA wrote.

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