Budget Blog

February 1, 2022 - Washington Report

By Leah Wavrunek posted 02-01-2022 04:24 PM


This Week on the Hill  

The House and Senate are in session this week, as three weeks remain before expiration of the current continuing resolution (CR) on February 18.

The House convenes today and will consider 11 bills under suspension of the rules. For Wednesday and the balance of the week, the House will consider H.R. 4521, the America COMPETES Act of 2022. The Senate convened yesterday and will consider several judicial nominations this week. One hearing of note: Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo testified today before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science regarding implementation of broadband programs in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.


Treasury Hosting Webinar on State Applications for SSBCI

The Treasury Department is hosting a State Applications Discussion on Wednesday, February 2, at 4pm ET for the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) program. The webinar will provide guidance on common challenges states have brought forward and the department will also give states an idea of what to expect over the next several weeks, beyond the February 11 application deadline. The session will provide time for Q&A. Registration is required.


Treasury Updates Reporting FAQs, Guidance for Homeowner Assistance Fund

On Monday the Treasury Department posted updated reporting documents for the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF). Updates were made to the frequently asked questions and guidance on the required interim report.


Treasury Updates ERA Program Reporting Resources

The Treasury Department released new reporting resources and updated resources for the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program. The department issued ERA Reporting Guidance v 3.1 (01/27/22); Scenarios for Reporting an ERA Recipient’s Allocations of ERA Funds to Subrecipients, Contractors and Beneficiaries (01/27/22); and User Guide – Treasury’s Portal for Recipient Reporting, Emergency Rental Assistance Programs v 3.1 (01/28/22).


COVID-19 Relief Implementation

The following guidance and information was recently released to implement provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (Division M of H.R. 133, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021), and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA).

  • Treasury Publishes SLFRF Final Rule in Federal Register: The Treasury Department officially published the final rule for the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds in the Federal Register. The provisions of the final rule are effective April 1, 2022. Other final rule resources can be found here.
  • ACF Posts LIHWAP Profiles and Implementation Plans: The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) announced that the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) Implementation Plans and grant recipient Summary Profiles are publicly available on the LIHWAP website.
  • DOL Releases Grant Opportunity for UI Navigator Program: The Department of Labor released Unemployment Insurance Program Letter No. 11-22 on a grant opportunity for states to participate in the ARPA Unemployment Insurance (UI) Navigator Program. There is up to $15 million available for selected states to participate in the program to help workers learn about, apply for, and if eligible, receive UI benefits and related services and to support state agencies in delivering timely benefits to workers.
  • Education Releases Resource to Support Effective Use of ARP ESSER Funds: The Department of Education released a new resource to help states share their progress deploying the $122 billion American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funds. The tool invites states to describe the strategies they are implementing that could serve as promising practices for other states.
  • FNS Approves P-EBT Programs for School Year 2021-2022: The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) approved additional states to operate a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program during school year 2021-2022: Colorado, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Vermont. To date, a total of 12 states have been approved.
  • Education Releases Information on Using Federal Supports to Address Teacher and Staff Shortages: The Department of Education released two documents that highlight the use of ARPA funds and other federal resources to address teacher shortages and staff shortages.
  • Education Updates ARP Maintenance of Equity Data: The Department of Education continues to post baseline and initial data submission information for the ARPA Maintenance of Equity requirement.
  • Education Updates ARP EANS Award Information: The Department of Education updated its award information for the ARP Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (ARP EANS) program. The website lists date of award, award amount, and a link to the application.
  • FCC Announces Final Group of COVID-19 Telehealth Program Awards: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved an additional 100 applications for funding commitments totaling $47.89 million for its COVID-19 Telehealth Program. This is the FCC’s sixth and final funding announcement of approved Round 2 applications. Total funding for Round 2 was $249.95 million; over the two rounds, the program approved 986 awards to providers in each state, territory and the District of Columbia.
  • FCC Commits Additional $240 Million in Emergency Connectivity Funding: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it is committing $240.9 million in its eighth wave of Emergency Connectivity Fund program support. The funding commitments will support over 600,000 students and provide funding for 693 schools, 55 libraries and 8 consortia; since its June 2021 launch, the program has committed over $4.4 billion supporting all 50 states and territories and the District of Columbia.
  • NEA Announces $57.8 Million for Arts Organizations: The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced it has recommended ARPA awards totaling $57.8 million to 567 arts organizations to help the arts and cultural sector recover from the pandemic.
  • EPA Extends Application Period for Air Quality Monitoring Funds: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) extended the application deadline to March 25 for the Enhanced Air Quality Monitoring for Communities grant program under ARPA. EPA also updated the Questions and Answers for the program.
  • GAO Releases Report on Oversight of Relief Funds and Responses to Public Health Emergencies: The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its ninth report on the COVID-19 pandemic, with updates on topics including pandemic emergency rental assistance, nutrition assistance, and tax relief for businesses. GAO also added the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) leadership of public health emergencies to their High Risk List.
  • ACF Provides Guidance on LIHWAP Federal Financial Report Submissions: The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released information regarding the required submission of the Federal Financial Report (SF-425) for the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP). Grantees must use this form to track and report LIHWAP funds separately from appropriated LIHEAP funds. The notice includes report due dates, with the first due date of February 20, 2022 for the period covering the project start date through September 30, 2021.


Administration Actions Related to COVID-19

  • CMS Sends Letter to Health Care Facilities on Vaccine Requirement: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sent a letter to health care facility administrators regarding implementation of the vaccination rule for health care workers. The letter includes links to guidance and recaps litigation results.
  • EEOC Updates Guidance on COVID-19 and Definition of Disability: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) posted updated guidance about COVID-19 related to the definition of “disability” under the ADA/Rehabilitation Act (Section N). The questions and answers clarify circumstances in which COVID-19 may or may not cause effects sufficient to meet the definition of “actual” or “record of” a disability for various purposes. The section also covers topics including disabilities arising from conditions that were caused by or worsened by COVID-19.
  • FDA Fully Approves Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a second COVID-19 vaccine, known as the Moderna vaccine. The approved vaccine, which has been available under emergency use authorization, will be marketed as Spikevax for the prevention of COVID-19 in individuals 18 years of age and older.
  • Novavax Submits Request to FDA for COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate: Novavax Inc. submitted a request to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use authorization for NVX-CoV2373, its protein-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate for immunization of individuals 18 years of age and older. The request is based on data that includes results of two large clinical trials that demonstrated an overall efficacy of approximately 90 percent and a reassuring safety profile; the trials took place before the omicron variant became dominant.
  • Defense Department Acquiring 104 Million Additional Rapid Antigen Tests: The Department of Defense (DoD) awarded a contract to iHealth Lab Inc. to procure an additional 104.2 million over-the-counter COVID-19 test kits. The action supports the President’s plan to deliver 500 million free at-home tests to households.
  • CDC Updates Guidance for Operating Early Childhood Education/Child Care Programs: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its COVID-19 guidance for Early Childhood Education and Child Care Programs. The update reflects new quarantine and isolation guidance and recommendations, and information on staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines.
  • FEMA Releases Period of Performance Extension Process for Preparedness Grants: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is providing an expedited submission, review and decision process for grant recipient Period of Performance extension requests for certain fiscal year 2019 preparedness grant programs in response to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and associated operational impacts. The process applies to the following grant programs: Homeland Security Grant Program, Nonprofit Security Grant Program, Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program, Port Security Grant Program, Transit Security Grant Program, and Intercity Passenger Rail Program.


IIJA Implementation Resources Released

Federal agencies and stakeholders continue to release implementation resources pertaining to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

  • The administration released a guidebook for state, local, Tribal and territorial governments. The guidebook is intended to be a one-stop shop on the law and contains the most comprehensive information to date on the more than 375 programs included in the law. To help partners better understand how to use the guidebook and hear the latest updates on IIJA implementation, the administration is hosting two webinars:
    • Wednesday, February 2 at 3:00pm ET: Register here
    • Friday, February 4 at 9:00am ET: Register here
  • The Department of Transportation (DOT) published a Notice of Funding Opportunity for $1.5 billion in grant funding through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) discretionary grant program. This is the first discretionary funding program to accept applications as directed by IIJA. Applications are due by April 14.
  • The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced $1.15 billion in funding is available to states from the IIJA to create jobs cleaning up orphaned oil and gas wells across the country. The department released the amount of funding that states are eligible to apply for in Phase One, which includes up to $25 million in initial grant funding and a quarter of the total formula grant money available for the 26 states that submitted a Notice of Intent. DOI will release detailed guidance in the coming weeks for states to apply for the initial grants and formula grant funding. State amounts are included in the press release.
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed new rules that would require broadband providers to display easy-to-understand labels to allow consumers to comparison shop. The IIJA directed the commission to develop requirements for providers to create consumer-friendly labels with information about their broadband services. The FCC must adopt regulations within a year of the IIJA’s passage and conduct multiple public hearing to help inform the labeling requirements.
  • The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released an additional ten fact sheets on programs under the IIJA. The programs address topics including congestion mitigation, highway safety, freight, railway crossings, and more. The main IIJA program page for the FHWA can be found here.
  • The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released an updated issue brief on reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools payments in the IIJA.
  • The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) provided feedback to the Federal Highway Administration on the agency’s request for information on guidance for developing electric vehicle charging infrastructure. A theme of the feedback was the need for flexibility for state departments of transportation.
  • The National Governors Association launched a resource site providing information and tools to assist with implementation of the IIJA.


USDA Announces Partnership to Ease Port Congestion for Agricultural Commodities

On Monday the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced plans to increase capacity at the Port of Oakland and improve service for shippers of U.S. grown agricultural commodities. The department is partnering with the port to set up a new “pop-up” site to make it easier for agricultural companies to fill empty shipping containers with commodities. The site will provide space to prepare empty containers beginning in early March; the new site will also have a dedicated gate with the ability to pre-cool refrigerated shipping containers to receive perishable commodities while avoiding bottlenecks through the main entrance. Using Commodity Credit Corporation funds, USDA will cover 60 percent of the start-up costs and will also help cover additional movement logistics costs at $125 per container.


DOJ Clarifies Use of JAG Funds for Election Worker Security

On Wednesday the Department of Justice (DOJ) Bureau of Justice Assistance sent a letter to State Administering Agency Directors regarding the use of Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) funding to combat threats against election workers. As noted in the letter, the JAG Program is a leading source of federal criminal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions and “the broad criminal justice purposes supported by the JAG Program permit JAG funds to be used to deter, detect, and protect against threats of violence against election workers, administrators, officials, and others associated with the electoral process.” The letter encourages State Administering Agencies to inform stakeholders that JAG funds may be used to prevent and respond to violent threats of this kind.


DOT Releases Plan to Address Traffic Injuries and Deaths

Last week the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a new comprehensive National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS), a roadmap for addressing the national crisis in roadway facilities and serious injuries. The NRSS provides concrete steps that the department will take to address the crisis systemically, as DOT plans a five-pronged model to address safety: safer people, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds, and post-crash care. Key actions include working with state and local road owners to build and maintain safer roadways and investing in road safety through funding in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), including a new $6 billion Safe Streets and Roads for All Program.


Administration Announces Actions to Reduce Methane Emissions

On Monday the administration announced a series of actions across federal agencies in line with the previously released U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan. These actions include release of the funds to clean up orphaned oil and gas wells (see story above), launch of the Methane Reduction Infrastructure Initiative to provide technical assistance to the orphaned well clean-up efforts, new enforcement of the PIPES Act to require pipeline operators to minimize methane leaks, ongoing research efforts and investments to reduce methane emissions from beef and dairy systems, formation of a new working group to coordinate measurement and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and removals, and a national workshop for energy communities on repurposing fossil fuel infrastructure for use in new industries.


Administration Announces Efforts to Protect Water Sector From Cyberattacks

On Thursday the administration announced actions to improve the cybersecurity of the water sector. The White House released a fact sheet that highlights the extension of the Industrial Control Systems Cybersecurity Initiative to the water sector, while the Water Sector Action plan outlines surge actions that will take place over the next 100 days to improve cybersecurity. The action plan was developed in close partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the Water Sector Coordinating Council (WSCC). EPA and CISA will work with water utilities and invite them to participate in a pilot program for ICS monitoring and information sharing, while partners will also collaborate to promote cybersecurity monitoring to the entire sector.


CMS Opens $49.4 Million in Grants to Boost Medicaid, CHIP Enrollment

On Thursday the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced $49.4 million to fund organizations that can connect more eligible children, parents and pregnant individuals to health care coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Awardees - including state and local governments, Tribal organizations, federal health safety net organizations, non-profits, schools and others - will receive up to $1.5 million each for a three-year period to reduce the number of uninsured children. The deadline for applications is March 28.


FCC Announces Over $1.2 Billion for Rural Broadband in 32 States

On Friday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it is ready to authorize more than $1.2 billion through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to fund new broadband deployment in 32 states. In the largest funding round to date, 23 broadband providers will bring broadband service to over 1 million locations. The Commission also announced the creation of the Rural Broadband Accountability Plan to monitor and ensure compliance for universal service high-cost programs including the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. A fact sheet on the plan can be found here.


USDA Announces $72.9 Million in Specialty Crop Block Grant Funding

Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the availability of $72.9 million through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to fund innovative projects designed to support the expanding specialty crop sector and explore new market opportunities. The funds are allocated to U.S. states and territories based on a formula that considers both specialty crop acreage and production value; interested applicants should apply directly through their state departments of agriculture. Applications from states and territories are due by May 3.


HUD Opens Access to More Than $2 Billion in CDBG-DR Funding

On Monday the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) took steps to open access to more than $2 billion in federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds to help communities recover from and improve long-term resilience to disasters. The consolidated notice lays out requirements for the use of the funds and applies to the more than $2 billion in CDBG-DR funds allocated by HUD in November 2021 and funds appropriated in the continuing resolution.


For Your Information

USDA Announces $1 Billion for Rural Communities

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an investment of $1 billion to build and improve critical community facilities in 48 states, Puerto Rico and Guam. Allocated across five programs, the funding will increase access to health care, education and public safety while spurring community development and building sound infrastructure for rural communities.


USDA Announces $10 Million for New Rural Energy Pilot Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a Notice of Funding Opportunity for the fiscal year 2022 Rural Energy Pilot Grants Program. Up to $10 million in competitive grants will be awarded to Rural Energy Community Partnerships (RECP) to further deploy renewable energy to meet the nation’s energy needs and combat climate change. Cost-share grants of up to 80 percent of total eligible project costs, up to $2 million, will be made available. Letters of intent are due by April 19.


CMS Announces 14.5 Million People Signed Up for Health Care Coverage

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced 14.5 million people signed up for 2022 health care coverage through the Marketplaces from November 1, 2021 through January 15, 2022; this includes 5.8 million who have newly gained coverage. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) included provisions that lowered health care costs for most Marketplace consumers and helped increased enrollment. Plan selection data by state can be found here.


ACF Publishes Technical Guide to Aid Child Welfare and Medicaid Data Sharing

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) published the Data Sharing for Child Welfare Agencies and Medicaid Toolkit, which outlines the benefits of data sharing and provides technical assistance without adding new requirements. Effective and timely data sharing helps to ensure this vulnerable population of children and youth receive the health care services and care coordination they need.


FAA and Wireless Companies Reach Agreement on 5G Deployment

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a statement that the FAA, Verizon and AT&T have agreed on steps that will enable more aircraft to safely use key airports while also enabling more towers to deploy 5G service. After the wireless companies provided more precise data, the FAA was able to determine that it is possible to safely and more precisely map the size and shape of the areas around airports where 5G signals are mitigated, enabling the providers to safely turn on more towers. Additional information on 5G and aviation safety can be found here.


FCC Clarifies Access to E-Rate Program for Tribal Libraries

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted an order updating rules in the E-Rate program to clarify that Tribal libraries can access funding to provide affordable internet access in their communities. The order updates the definition of “library” in the E-Rate program rules to make clear that it includes Tribal libraries and paves the way for Tribal libraries to apply for the E-Rate program application filing window that runs January 12 to March 22.


DOL Releases Guidance on American Job Centers, H-2B Visas

The Department of Labor (DOL) released Training and Employment Notice No. 19-21. The notice is meant to ensure State Workforce Agencies are aware that employers seeking to hire foreign workers for temporary employment under a supplemental H-2B visa cap for work commencing in the first half of fiscal year 2022 must contact an American Job Center for assistance in recruiting U.S. workers for their job opportunities.


HHS Releases 2022 Update of Poverty Guidelines

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an update of poverty guidelines to account for last calendar year’s increase in prices as measured by the Consumer Price Index. The poverty guidelines are used as an eligibility criterion by Medicaid and a number of other federal programs.


Forest Service Announces 2022 Grazing Fees

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service announced that western states federal grazing fees will be $1.35 per head month for 2022. The 2022 fee remains unchanged from 2021. The western states fee applies to approximately 6,000 permits administered by the Forest Service in 16 states and the national grasslands in Texas.


Recently Released Reports

Benefits of State and Local Government Employees

MissionSquare Research Institute

Following the Money on Fines and Fees

Urban Institute

State Foresters by the Numbers

National Association of State Foresters



Economic News

Unemployment Claims Reported for Week Ending January 22

The U.S. Department of Labor released unemployment insurance weekly claims data last Thursday that showed for the week ending January 22, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 260,000. This is a decrease of 30,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was revised up by 4,000 from 286,000 to 290,000. The 4-week moving average was 247,000, an increase of 15,000 from the previous week's revised average of 232,000. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.2 percent for the week ending January 15, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 267,573 in the week ending January 22, a decrease of 73,357 (or -21.5 percent) from the previous week.


GDP Increased 6.9 Percent in the Fourth Quarter of 2021

Last week the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis released data on the gross domestic product (GDP) for the fourth quarter of 2021 (advance estimate), showing an increase at an annual rate of 6.9 percent. Real GDP increased 5.7 percent in 2021, in contrast to a decrease of 3.4 percent in 2020. The increase in real GDP in the fourth quarter primarily reflected increases in private inventory investment, exports, personal consumption expenditures, and nonresidential fixed investment that were partly offset by decreases in both federal and state and local government spending. The decrease in state and local government spending reflected decreases in consumption expenditures (led by compensation of state and local government employees, notably education) and in gross investment (led by new educational structures). Real GDP accelerated in the fourth quarter, increasing 6.9 percent after increasing 2.3 percent in the third quarter. The “second” estimate for the fourth quarter, based on more complete data, will be released on February 24.


Federal Reserve Holds Interest Rates Steady for Now

At its January meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee voted 9-0 to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to .25 percent. The committee noted that indicators of economic activity and employment have continued to strengthen while supply and demand imbalances related to the pandemic and reopening of the economy have continued to contribute to elevated levels of inflation and the path of the economy continues to depend on the course of the virus. In support of its goals to achieve maximum employment and inflation at the rate of 2 percent over the longer run, the Committee decided to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 0.25 percent, but the Committee expects it will soon be appropriate to raise the target range. The Committee also decided to continue to reduce the monthly pace of its net asset purchases, bringing them to an end in early March. Beginning in February, the Committee will increase its holdings of Treasury securities by at least $20 billion per month and of agency mortgage‑backed securities by at least $10 billion per month.


State and Local Government Compensation Costs Rose 2.6 Percent During 2021

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released employment cost index data for December 2021, showing compensation costs for civilian workers increased 1.0 percent, seasonally adjusted, for the 3-month period ending in December 2021. Wages and salaries increased 1.1 percent and benefit costs increased 0.9 percent from September 2021. For the 12-month period ending in December, compensation costs for civilian workers increased 4.0 percent; wages and salaries increased 4.5 percent and benefit costs increased 2.8 percent. Compensation costs for state and local government workers increased 2.6 percent for the 12-month period ending in December 2021; wage and salaries increased 2.7 percent and benefit costs increased 2.5 percent.