Budget Blog

March 1, 2022 - Washington Report

By Leah Wavrunek posted 03-01-2022 05:11 PM

  

This Week on the Hill  

The House and Senate are in session this week and the President is scheduled to deliver his State of the Union speech later tonight. The House is scheduled to consider nine bills this week, while the Senate continues work on a bill (H.R. 3076) reforming the U.S. Postal Service. Two hearings of note: the House Oversight and Reform Committee held a hearing this morning examining the impact of the American Rescue Plan’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which could impact the extent of the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

 

Treasury Updates SLFRF Compliance and Reporting Guidance

On Monday the Treasury Department updated its Compliance and Reporting Guidance for Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF). The guidance reflects the final rule (see the Revision Log on pg. 43) and provides additional detail and clarification for each recipient’s compliance and reporting responsibilities under the program. The guidance also notes that it “should be read in concert with the Award Terms and Conditions, the authorizing statute, the final rule, and other regulatory and statutory requirements.” Other reporting and compliance information can be found here.

 

Treasury Updates Homeowner Assistance Fund Guidance

Last week the Treasury Department released updated guidance for the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF). Authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the program provides up to $9.961 billion for states, D.C., U.S. territories, Tribes or Tribal entities, and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to provide relief for vulnerable homeowners. The updated guidance provides additional information on the use of program income, eligible housing counseling services, administrative expenses, eligible uses of funds, and approaches for household income verification.

 

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).

  • HHS Distributes $560 Million in Provider Relief Funds: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it is making more than $560 million in Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Phase 4 General Distribution payments to more than 4,100 providers across the country. Phase 4 payments have an increased focus on equity, including reimbursing a higher percentage of losses for smaller providers and incorporating bonus payments for providers who serve Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Medicare beneficiaries. A state and territory breakdown can be found here.
  • NTIA Awards $277 Million to Expand Broadband Infrastructure: The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced it has awarded 13 grants as part of the Broadband Infrastructure Program, with funding authorized by the December relief bill. The grants were awarded in 12 states and one territory: Guam, GA, KY, LA, ME, MS, MO, NV, NC, PA, TX, WA, and WV.
  • USDA Announces $130 Million for Local Agriculture Market Program: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced supplemental ARPA funding for the Local Agriculture Market Program. The program will receive a total of $130 million to promote competition and create more and better markets for local and regional food producers. The funding is divided into $65 million each for fiscal years 2022 and 2023.
  • FCC Commits $86 Million for Emergency Connectivity Fund Program: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it is committing over $86 million in the 10th wave of Emergency Connectivity Fund program support. This latest round of funding will support over 240,000 students and provide funding for over 350 schools, 29 libraries and 8 consortia.
  • Treasury Updates Emergency Rental Assistance Program Data: The Treasury Department released demographic data for the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program, showing that over 80 percent of ERA assistance was delivered to very low-income households in 2021. The data also shows that Treasury has reallocated the initial tranche of ERA funding to grantees that are serving a higher share of extremely low-income households and more diverse communities than average. In 2021, ERA grantees made 3.8 million payments to eligible households and spent or obligated more than $25 billion across ERA1 and ERA2.
  • 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: Nebraska, Texas and West Virginia. To date, a total of 17 states have been approved.
  • Education Releases Highlights on Using ARP-ESSER Funds for CTE: The Department of Education released highlights of approved American Rescue Plan Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP-ESSER) state plan investments related to Career and Technical Education (CTE). The document includes examples of how states indicated that they planned to use funds available on programs and activities related to CTE as part of their work to help students recover from the impacts of the pandemic.
  • Education Updates Information on State EANS Awards: The Department of Education updated its information on state awards under the American Rescue Plan Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (ARP-EANS) program. The data show awards made to states through February, with awards posted for all but four states.
  • ACF Updates Information on LIHWAP Reporting: The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) sent a Dear Colleague letter to Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) grant recipients, outlining draft changes to LIHWAP data collection and reporting. Proposed changes result from comments received during the 60-day federal registrar notice period; an appendix with all public comments received is also included.
  • EDA Provides Update on Good Jobs Challenge Applicants: The Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced that it has received 509 applications for the ARPA Good Jobs Challenge program. EDA received applications from partnerships in all states, territories and the District of Columbia. The $500 million Good Jobs Challenge is designed to help get Americans back to work and will build and strengthen workforce systems and industry partnerships. Per the press release, EDA anticipates making approximately 25 to 50 awards.
  • IRS Revises Guidance for Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) revised its frequently asked questions for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). The update adds two questions about inclusions in gross income and reporting for higher education institutions.

 

Administration Actions Related to COVID-19

  • CDC Updates Information, Provides COVID-19 Community Level Tracking: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new framework for monitoring levels of COVID-19 in the community and recommended responses based on the levels. The new framework looks at Community Levels, which factors in case numbers, hospital admissions and number of inpatient beds, and features a mapping tool by county. The framework also lays out recommended individual and household-level prevention behaviors, plus community-level prevention strategies, based on the COVID-19 community level. The guidance notes that at all levels, people can wear a mask based on personal preference, informed by personal level of risk, and people with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask.
  • Education Secretary Sends Letter on Updated CDC Guidance: The Secretary of Education sent a letter to school and early childhood communities highlighting the new CDC community level framework. The letter notes that “as part of this new framework, masking guidelines for school and early care settings now follow the same guidelines for the community in which they are located. This is a change from previous CDC guidance, where universal masking was recommended for all K-12, early care, and education settings.” Based on the latest data, CDC now recommends universal masking for schools and early care/education centers, as well as school buses and vans, located in areas where the COVID-19 community level is high.
  • CDC Updates Guidance on Spacing of mRNA Vaccine Doses: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their interim clinical considerations for COVID-19 vaccines. The update added considerations for an 8-week interval between the first and second doses of a primary mRNA vaccine schedule. The guidance notes that “an 8-week interval may be optimal for some people ages 12 years and older, especially for males ages 12 to 39 years.”
  • Administration Releases Fact Sheet on Addressing Needs of People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: The administration released a fact sheet on new actions to ensure that disabled individuals have equitable access to COVID-19 testing, masks, and other critical mitigation strategies. This includes school strategies and guidance, expanding the Disability Information and Access Line, launching new testing guidance in American Sign Language, improving at-home test accessibility, and calling on states to directly distribute high-quality masks through community-based organizations serving individuals with disabilities.
  • FNS Clarifies Guidance Regarding Waivers for WIC Due to Supply Chain Impacts and Infant Formula Recalls: The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released three updated policy memos regarding Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) waivers. These policy memos address vendor exchanges, maximum monthly allowance, and medical documentation.
  • FMCSA Extends Modified Emergency Declaration: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) extended its modified emergency declaration for the fifty states and District of Columbia in response to COVID-19. The extension is effective March 1 and shall remain in effect until May 31, 2022 unless modified or terminated sooner by FMCSA.

 

State and Local Organizations Urge Inclusion of SLFRF Flexibility Bill in FY2022 Appropriations Bill

On Thursday several organizations representing state and local governments, including the National Governors Association, sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging inclusion of the bipartisan State, Local, Tribal and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure, and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act (S. 3011) in the fiscal year 2022 omnibus appropriations package. The bill, which passed the Senate in October, would provide additional flexibility under the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (CSLFRF), authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Details on the fiscal year 2022 omnibus appropriations package are expected to be released soon, as the current continuing resolution funding the federal government expires on March 11.

 

IIJA Implementation Resources Released

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

  • The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced that $1.7 billion in IIJA funds would be used to fulfill settlements of Indian water rights claims, with the funds for this year allocated to enacted settlements that have outstanding federal payments necessary to complete their terms.
  • The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced more than $1.14 billion to repair and rebuild roads and bridges in Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands is available under the IIJA. The total amount being made available in fiscal year 2022 is $219 million. A fact sheet on the funding can be found here.
  • The Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) announced nearly $450 million in newly available grant funding for port-related projects through the Port Infrastructure Development Program. The funding is nearly double last year’s investment for states and port authorities, and the funds can help ports expand capacity and improve the movement of goods through supply chains. The department will host a series of webinars explaining the grant application process. Applications are due May 16.
  • The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the National Association of State Energy Officials, U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Department of Energy to coordinate nationwide investment in electric vehicle charging station infrastructure.
  • The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a brief on airport funding in the IIJA. The brief notes that the bill includes $25 billion over a five-year period for airport and air traffic control projects.
  • The White House released a fact sheet highlighting actions taken 100 days into implementation of the IIJA. The fact sheet includes a listing of implementation resources, like the IIJA guidebook, as well as funding announcements made to date.

 

Administration Announces Actions to Improve Safety and Care in Nursing Homes

On Monday the White House released a fact sheet on reforms to improve the safety and quality of nursing home care. The reforms are intended to ensure three priorities: every nursing home provides a sufficient number of staff who are adequately trained to provide high-quality care; poorly performing nursing homes are held accountable for improper and unsafe care and immediately improve their services; and the public has better information about nursing home conditions so they can find the best available options. Actions outlined in the fact sheet include studying and proposing minimum standards for staffing adequacy, exploring ways to promote single-occupancy rooms, proposing payment changes based on staffing adequacy, reducing unnecessary medications and treatments, enhancing accountability and oversight, and adequately funding inspection activities while ensuring pandemic and emergency preparedness in nursing homes.

 

Congress Approves Bill on Secure Rural Schools Program

On Monday the House approved by voice vote a bill (S. 3706) that extends through fiscal year 2021 the inapplicability of the requirement for counties to elect to receive certain payments under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. That act provides compensation to counties for the presence of untaxable federal land within their borders. The bill passed the Senate on February 17.

 

FCC Announces Inaugural Broadband Data Collection Filing Dates

Last week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the date the Broadband Data Collection (BDC) will begin to accept broadband availability data filed pursuant to the Commission’s new BDC rules and procedures, as required by the DATA Act. Specifically, all facilities-based providers of fixed and mobile broadband Internet access service can begin to submit broadband availability data under the new rules and procedures for the BDC beginning on June 30, 2022. Filers must submit data depicting deployment as of June 30, 2022 and must submit the data by September 1, 2022.

 

FEMA Issues New BRIC Policy

On Friday the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) published a notice in the Federal Register issuing the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Policy. This policy describes a new hazard mitigation grant program to assist states, territories, Tribes, and local governments with mitigating the impacts of natural hazards. The new program is funded by a FEMA six percent set aside of estimated disaster expenses for each major disaster, supersedes the Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant program, and promotes a national culture of preparedness. The policy is effective April 26, 2022.

 

Nationwide Opioid Settlement of $26 Billion Finalized

Last week three drug distributors and the drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson finalized a $26 billion agreement to assist states and communities affected by the opioid epidemic. Per the announcement, 46 of 49 eligible states, plus D.C. and all eligible territories, have agreed to join the settlement and as of February 25, more than 90 percent of eligible political subdivisions that have brought opioid-related suits against the companies have agreed to participate in the settlement or have had their claims addressed by state legislation. The first payments are expected to be received by participating states and subdivisions in April 2022. Information on the final settlement from the National Association of Attorneys General, including a summary of the agreements and FAQ document, can be found here.

 

USDA Announces $215 Million to Enhance the American Food Supply Chain

On Thursday the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the availability of up to $215 million in grants and other support to expand meat and poultry processing options, strengthen the food supply chain, and create jobs and economic opportunities in rural areas. The funding includes $150 million in grants to fund startup and expansion activities in the meat and poultry processing sector (with applications due by April 11), $40 million for workforce development and training, and $25 million for technical assistance.

 

DOL Announces $113 Million for New Apprenticeship Grant Program

On Wednesday the Department of Labor (DOL) announced a grant program to strengthen, modernize, expand and diversify its Registered Apprenticeship Program. The “Apprenticeship Building America” program will make $113 million in grant funding available, including up to $50 million to support equity partnerships and pre-apprenticeship activities to increase enrollment in Registered Apprenticeship Programs. Eligible applicants include state governments, Tribal governments, nonprofits, labor organizations, public and state institutions of higher education, and county governments. Applications are due by April 25.

 

FTA Announces $8.75 Million for Tribal Transit Projects

Last Tuesday the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the availability of $8.75 million in fiscal year 2022 competitive grant funding to support transit services for Tribal communities and Alaska Native villages in rural areas. The Tribal Transit Program supports public transportation for federally-recognized American Indian Tribes and Alaska Native villages, groups or communities. Applications are due by May 25.

 

For Your Information

CMS Releases Bulletin with 2022 Federal Poverty Level Standards

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the 2022 Federal Poverty Level Standards for 2022. By law, these updates are applied to eligibility criteria for programs such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The 2022 guidelines reflect the 4.7 percent price increase between calendar years 2020 and 2021. The informational bulletin also includes the 2022 Dual Eligible Standards chart that displays the new standards for the Medicare Savings Program categories.

 

Education Releases Digest of Education Statistics

The Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released the Digest of Education Statistics: 2020. The publication contains information on a variety of subjects in the field of education statistics, including the number of schools and colleges, teachers, enrollments, and graduates, in addition to data on educational attainment, finances, federal funds for education, libraries, and international comparisons.

 

FNS Publishes Updated Income Eligibility Guidelines

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released the annual adjustments to the Income Eligibility Guidelines to be used in determining eligibility for free and reduced price meals and free milk for the period from July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023. The guidelines are revised annually to account for changes in the Consumer Price Index.

 

GAO Report Provides Update on FirstNet, Examines Potential Reauthorization

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report examining the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), which was established by statute and charged with establishing a nationwide broadband network for use by public safety entities. The authority for FirstNet sunsets in 2027 and GAO’s report looks at statutory requirements and contract responsibilities as well as options to oversee and manage the network when the authority sunsets.

 

Recently Released Reports

National Guard and Military Response to Omicron and COVID-19

Congressional Research Service

State and Local Government Spending on Public Employee Retirement Systems

National Association of State Retirement Administrators

State and Local Sales Tax Rates, 2022

Tax Foundation

 

Economic News

Unemployment Claims Reported for Week Ending February 19

The U.S. Department of Labor released unemployment insurance weekly claims data last Thursday that showed for the week ending February 19, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 232,000. This is a decrease of 17,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was revised up by 1,000 from 248,000 to 249,000. The 4-week moving average was 236,250, a decrease of 7,250 from the previous week's revised average of 243,500. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.1 percent for the week ending February 12, unchanged from the previous week’s revised rate, which was revised down by 0.1 from 1.2 to 1.1 percent. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 214,873 in the week ending February 19, a decrease of 24,824 (or -10.4 percent) from the previous week.

 

GDP Increase for the Fourth Quarter of 2021 Increases Slightly on Second Estimate

The U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis released the “second” estimate for real gross domestic product (GDP) in the fourth quarter of 2021, showing that GDP increased at an annual rate of 7.0 percent. The second estimate is based on more complete source data than were available for the “advance” estimate issued in January, which showed an increase of real GDP of 6.9 percent. According to the release, the updated estimates primarily reflected upward revisions to nonresidential fixed investment, state and local government spending, and residential fixed investment that were partly offset by downward revisions to personal consumption expenditures (PCE) and exports. In the third quarter, real GDP increased 2.3 percent.

 

Personal Income Rises Slightly in January

Personal income increased $9.0 billion (less than 0.1 percent) in January, according to estimates recently released by the Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis. Personal income is defined as the income received by, or on behalf of, all persons from all sources. Disposable personal income increased $19.8 billion (0.1 percent) and personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased $337.2 billion (2.1 percent). The increase in personal income in January primarily reflected an increase in compensation that was partly offset by a decrease in government social benefits. Personal outlays increased $342.2 billion in January, while personal saving was $1.17 trillion and the personal saving rate (personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal income) was 6.4 percent. The PCE price index for January increased 6.1 percent from one year ago, reflecting increases in both goods and services.