The ‘cool’ thing about relief funding, according to New Hampshire CIO Denis Goulet

Sifting through reams of rules and regulations about how to make good of record amounts of federal investment is probably one of the more boring parts of a chief information officer’s job. But figuring out how to use money from last year’s American Rescue Plan was a winning experience for New Hampshire CIO Denis Goulet.

“One of the cool things — aside from having more money than you otherwise would’ve had — is it allows IT to be put in a more leadership position as it relates to citizen services,” Goulet told StateScoop during an interview last month at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers midyear conference in National Harbor, Maryland.

Goulet, who was NASCIO’s president at the time the Biden administration’s signature COVID-19 relief package was enacted, called the Rescue Plan — particularly the $350 billion it allotted to state and local governments — a “huge opportunity.”

In the year-plus since the law, Goulet said he’s been able to be more proactive in how the New Hampshire Department of Information Technology serves the other agencies it supports.

“We can go to our agency customers and say ‘I have an idea based on your strategic plan,'” Denis Goulet told StateScoop. “That’s been a big priority for me.”

The dynamic has helped shore up New Hampshire’s core IT infrastructure, Goulet said, especially as the state government got more comfortable with people working remotely.

“I was shocked when I started asking for money for unexciting thing like networking and data storage, things that normally wouldn’t be cool, I didn’t have much trouble justifying in light of that new understanding,” he said.

Still, collaboration between IT and other bureaus takes some finessing, especially with New Hampshire’s libertarian ethos, but Goulet says he’s still very much into it.

“It’s a lot of hard work and socialization,” he said. “Our motto is ‘Live Free or Die,’ so everyone wants to be independent. I’ve built community around basic ideas. I love doing that work.”

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