Budget Blog

March 8, 2022 - Washington Report

By Leah Wavrunek posted 03-08-2022 05:07 PM

  

This Week on the Hill  

The House and Senate are in session this week as the current continuing resolution funding the federal government expires Friday (see story below).

On Thursday the Census Bureau will release the first set of results from the 2020 Post-Enumeration Survey, along with additional results from the 2020 Demographic Analysis estimates. The results help evaluate the quality of the 2020 Census.

 

President Announces Ban on Imports of Russian Oil, Liquefied Natural Gas and Coal

Today the President announced an executive order to ban the import of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas, and coal to the United States. According to the announcement, last year the U.S. imported nearly 700,000 barrels per day of crude oil and refined petroleum products from Russia. The President also announced actions being taken by the administration to mitigate gas price increases.

 

CMS Updates Guidance and Tools for Resumption of Services After the Public Health Emergency

On Thursday the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued updated guidance related to planning for the resumption of normal Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Basic Health Program operations upon conclusion of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE), providing an update to the previous guidance published on August 13, 2021. The guidance describes how states may distribute eligibility and enrollment work when states restore routine operations, mitigate churn for eligible beneficiaries, and smoothly transition individuals between coverage programs, including coverage through the federally-facilitated Marketplace or a state-based marketplace. This guidance reiterates options for states to align work on pending eligibility and enrollment actions after the PHE eventually ends and provides that states must initiate, rather than complete, all pending actions during the 12-month unwinding period. States will have two additional months, 14 months in total, to complete all pending actions initiated during the 12-month unwinding period. Prior guidance suggested all renewals and other actions must be completed within the 12-month unwinding period. In addition, this guidance informs states that they are at risk of inappropriately terminating coverage for eligible individuals if they plan to initiate a high volume of renewals in a given month and that CMS intends to collect information on all states’ plans to adopt strategies that will promote continuity of coverage and guard against inappropriate terminations. CMS’ website on unwinding and returning to regular operations can be found here, which includes resources including guidance, tools and templates, communications tools, and presentations from all-state calls.

 

FEMA Extends 100 Percent Federal Cost Share to July 1

Last Tuesday the administration issued a Memorandum on Maximizing Assistance to Respond to COVID-19 and an advisory related to 100 percent federal cost share for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the memorandum, the President extends the 100 percent federal cost share for Category B COVID-19 emergency protective measures and Governors’ use of the National Guard to July 1, 2022. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advisory notes that the extension will be for an additional three months from April 1 to July 1, 2022 and that this extension allows FEMA to pay 100 percent federal funding for the costs of activities that have previously been determined eligible from the beginning of the pandemic. FEMA will also continue to provide 100 percent of the federal funding for National Guard activities to combat and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Per the advisory, following July 1, the federal cost share will shift to 90 percent, rather than the statutory minimum 75 percent cost share.

 

Treasury Releases SSBCI Interim Rule and Updated Guidance

Last week the Treasury Department updated its implementation resources for the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), which was provided $10 billion under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to fund state, territory, and Tribal government small business credit support and investment programs. The department updated its frequently asked questions, with changes marked with [3/2/2022], and released the socially and disadvantaged individuals (SEDI) incentive funding table; the table columns contain the initial eligible amounts of the SEDI incentive funding that eligible jurisdictions may qualify for and the SEDI objectives. The department also launched a demographic information collection effort to measure equity outcomes for small businesses supported by the SSBCI; the information collected by Treasury will support the program’s commitment to expanding access to capital for businesses owned and controlled by SEDI businesses. The reporting requirements are explained in this interim final rule, issued by the department.

 

Administration Requests $32.5 Billion in Supplemental Funding for Ukraine, Pandemic Aid

Congressional appropriators continue to negotiate a fiscal year 2022 omnibus appropriations bill, as the current continuing resolution funding the federal government expires on Friday. Last week the administration requested an additional $32.5 billion, split between $22.5 billion for COVID-19 response and $10 billion to aid Ukraine. The $22.5 billion requested for pandemic response includes the following: $12.2 billion for medical countermeasures such as procurement of oral antivirals and monoclonal antibodies, resources to secure supply of additional vaccines to protect against variants, and procurement of pediatric vaccines if authorized; $2.0 billion for testing and supplies; $1.5 billion to prepare for future variants; and $4.25 billion for global pandemic assistance. Media reports indicate the text of the package is expected to be released today with a vote in the House on Wednesday, as amounts of supplemental aid have reportedly shifted to approximately $14 billion for Ukraine and $15 billion for COVID-19 response.

 

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).

  • FTA Announces $2.2 Billion for Public Transportation Agencies: The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced it will award $2.2 billion in ARPA funds to 35 recipients in 18 states. The ARPA Additional Assistance funding is being provided to transit agencies that demonstrated a need for additional financial support to cover expenses related to day-to-day operations, cleaning and sanitization, combating the spread of pathogens on transit systems, and retaining employees.
  • FCC Commits Nearly $64 Million in Emergency Connectivity Funding: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it is committing $63.6 million in the 11th wave of Emergency Connectivity Fund program support. The latest round of funding is supporting schools and libraries across the country, including providing connected devices and broadband connections in central Maine, Puerto Rico, Alaska, California, and South Carolina.
  • DOL Announces Initial $20 Million to Promote Equitable Access to UI Systems: The Department of Labor (DOL) announced the initial award of more than $20 million in ARPA grant funding to help promote equitable access to system unemployment insurance systems in Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia. On August 17, the department issued guidance to inform states of $260 million available in grants.
  • DOL Announces $3.3 Million for Workplace Safety Grants: The Department of Labor announced the availability of $3.3 million in ARPA funds for Susan Harwood Workplace Safety and Health Training on Infectious Diseases, including COVID-19 grants. Applications are due by May 6.
  • HUD Awards $2.5 Million to Combat Housing Discrimination: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the provision of $2.5 million in ARPA funding to help 11 HUD Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) agencies combat housing discrimination related to the pandemic. FHIP agencies will use the funding to conduct housing education and outreach activities and to address fair housing inquiries, complaints, and investigations. Another $3.3 million will be made available to eligible applicants that did not receive funding in the first and second allocation rounds.
  • FNS Approves P-EBT Programs for School Year 2021-2022: The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) approved an additional state to operate a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program during school year 2021-2022: Utah. To date, a total of 18 states have been approved.
  • President Announces Actions to Combat Fraud and Identity Theft in Pandemic Relief Programs: The President released a fact sheet highlighting new steps to combat criminal fraud and identity theft in pandemic relief programs. The new steps include an appointment of a Chief Prosecutor at the Department of Justice to focus on the most egregious forms of pandemic fraud, calling on Congress to provide additional resources and enhanced penalties for egregious pandemic fraud in programs like unemployment insurance, and announcing an upcoming executive order to prevent and detect identity theft involving public benefits.
  • House Oversight Committee Holds Hearing on Impact of SLFRF Program: The House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing examining the impact of ARPA’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. The hearing featured testimony from Governor Pritzker of Illinois, the President of the National Congress of American Indians, a mayor, county judge-executive, and others. A recording of the hearing and links to all written testimony can be found here.
  • Education Posts ARP Program Technical Assistance Resources: The Department of Education posted implementation resources for American Rescue Plan programs. These include a webinar recording, slides, and transcript for the Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (ARP-EANS) program and slides on monitoring and use of funds for the Homeless Children and Youth (ARP-HCY) program.
  • ACF to Host LIHWAP Data Dashboard Preview Office Hours: The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) sent a Dear Colleague letter to Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) grant recipients, notifying them of upcoming opportunities to receive training and technical assistance regarding the LIHWAP Data Dashboard. ACF will hold two office hours during the week of March 14 to introduce and review the upcoming Data Dashboard.
  • White House Publishes State and Territory Fact Sheets on Higher Education Funding: The White House released fact sheets by state and territory detailing ARPA funding under the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) and amounts invested in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
  • Treasury Posts Webinar Recording on HAF Interim Reports: The Treasury Department posted a recording of the webinar held on March 1 regarding interim reports for the Homeowner Assistance Fund.

 

Administration Actions Related to COVID-19

  • President Unveils New National COVID-19 Plan: The President unveiled the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, which lays out a roadmap to help fight COVID-19 in the future. The plan focuses on four key goals: protect against and treat COVID-19; prepare for new variants; prevent economic and educational shutdowns; and continue to vaccinate the world. Provisions in the plan include a Test to Treat Initiative; giving schools and businesses guidance, tests and supplies to stay open; working with Congress to provide paid sick leave to workers who need to miss work due to COVID-19; and increasing efforts to get shots in arms around the world.
  • CRS Updates Report on Federal Student Loan Debt Relief in Context of COVID-19: The Congressional Research Service (CRS) updated its report on federal student loan debt relief during the pandemic. The report looks at loan terms and conditions, flexibilities, and administrative/congressional actions taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • CDC Updates Community Levels: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its COVID-19 Community Levels. According to the update, as of March 3, more than 90 percent of the U.S. population is in a location with low or medium Community Level. Going forward, this data will be updated on Thursdays.

 

Senate Votes to Nullify Vaccine Requirement for Health Care Workers, President Issues Veto Threat

On Wednesday the Senate voted 49-44 to nullify the administration’s vaccine requirement for health care workers at providers that participate in Medicare and Medicaid. The Congressional Review Act (CRA) allows a simple majority vote to block administration regulations within a certain period of time following enactment; due to several absences by Democratic senators, the vote passed. However, the CRA does not set up a fast track process in the House and the administration released a Statement of Administration Policy indicating the President would veto the measure if it reached his desk.

 

IIJA Implementation Resources Released

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

  • The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the availability of approximately $1.47 billion in competitive grants to help modernize bus fleets and facilities and help support good-paying jobs and help reduce carbon emissions. The funding is available through the Low or No Emission Grant Program ($1.1 billion in fiscal year 2022) and Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program ($372 million in fiscal year 2022). Applications for both programs are due by May 31.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the investment of more than $166.5 million in 108 projects as part of implementing the IIJA. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working with communities in 23 states to invest in new dam and flood prevention projects and in repairs on existing watershed infrastructure. Through this first round of IIJA-funded projects, NRCS prioritized projects in communities heavily impacted by drought and other natural disasters, as well as historically underserved and limited resource communities.
  • The Maritime Administration (MARAD) announced the availability of $24.3 million for the America’s Marine Highway program, which represents the largest single appropriation of funding ever provided to the program. To be eligible for a grant award, a project must have previously been designated as a Marine Highway Project designated by the Secretary of Transportation. Applications are due by April 29.
  • Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg testified in front of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the department’s implementation of the IIJA. His testimony addressed concerns regarding prioritization of the funds and stated that “we recognize and value the role of the states in deciding how to prioritize the use of formula dollars, as laid out in the law.”
  • The Joint Office of Energy and Transportation released a recommended template for developing state plans under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program and announced a meet-and-greet (information under Events) for state departments of transportation (or their representatives) with their Technical Assistance Team. The meet-and-greet will discuss the EV guidance and plan template for states, resources from the Joint Office, and ways for states to get assistance. Two opportunities are scheduled: March 8 at 1pm ET and March 10 at 11am ET. The office also posted the recording of a webinar held February 24 as an introduction and overview of its goals and capabilities.
  • The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released fiscal year 2022 supplementary tables of apportionments pursuant to the IIJA. The tables show funding breakdowns, including set-asides, suballocations, and limiting amounts by program.
  • The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) submitted a report to Congress detailing the agency’s commitment to advance widespread implementation of the Complete Streets design model to help improve safety and accessibility for all users. The IIJA includes a requirement that states and metropolitan planning organizations use at least 2.5 percent of their planning funding on activities related to Complete Streets or travel on foot, by bike, in a vehicle or using public transit.
  • The Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Labor (DOL) announced a partnership with the signing of a memorandum of understanding to promote the creation of good infrastructure and transportation jobs with a focus on equitable workforce development using funding from the IIJA.

 

DUNS Number to End April 4 as Official Entity Identifier

On April 4, 2022, the federal government is moving away from the DUNS Number as its official entity identifier and toward the new Unique Entity ID (SAM), which will be generated in SAM.gov. Per the Integrated Award Environment (IAE), in preparation for this transition, both prime and sub-awardees should take action now to ensure they are able to report accurately in in the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act Subaward Reporting System (FSRS). Prime awardees should communicate with all of their sub-awardees and ask each one for their Unique Entity ID (SAM) prior to April 4, 2022; information on finding the Unique Entity ID (SAM) can be found here. Prior to April 4, 2022, the authoritative unique entity identifier to use for subaward reporting is the DUNS Number. On and after April 4, 2022, the authoritative unique entity identifier for subaward reporting will be the Unique Entity ID (SAM).

 

EPA Proposes Rule to Reduce Emissions from Heavy-Duty Vehicles

On Monday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposed rule to promote clean air and reduce pollution from heavy-duty vehicles and engines starting in model year 2027. The proposed standards would reduce emissions of smog- and soot-forming nitrogen oxides (NOx) from heavy-duty gasoline and diesel engines and set updated greenhouse gas (GHG) standards for certain commercial vehicle categories. The action is the first step in EPA’s “Clean Trucks Plan” – a series of clean air and climate regulations that the agency will develop over the next three years to reduce pollution from trucks and buses and to advance the transition to a zero-emissions transportation future. Additional information, including a rule summary and fact sheets, can be found here.

 

ACF Sends Information to Territories on the Consolidated Block Grant

On Wednesday the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) sent a Dear Colleague letter to Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) territory consolidated recipients. The purpose of the letter is to provide background information on the legislative and procedural formation of the Consolidated Block Grant (CBG), share an update on Notice of Award for the first and second quarter allocations in federal fiscal year 2022, and alert CBG territories to an upcoming webinar. Under current law, the territories may consolidate up to 22 grant programs to form the CBG. ACF implemented adjustments in fiscal year 2022 to existing policies to more clearly outline CBG governing policies, laws and regulations. A webinar scheduled for March 10 at 1:30pm ET will provide further context regarding the CBG streamlining effort and answer questions. Invitations were expected to be sent to consolidated territories by March 4.

 

White House Announces Actions and Investments to Address Multiple Issues

Last week, following the President’s State of the Union address, the White House released a series of fact sheets on actions the administration is taking, or planning to take, to address several issues. These fact sheets address the national mental health crisis, supporting veterans experiencing financial hardship and addressing military environmental exposures, creating opportunity and building wealth in rural America, making communities safer by reducing gun crime, and addressing addiction and the overdose epidemic.

 

Treasury Hosts Virtual Roundtable on State and Local Efforts to Address Climate Change

On Thursday the Treasury Department convened a virtual roundtable, “The Climate Transition: Federal Policy and State and Local Government Best Practices.” This fact sheet outlines work the department is undertaking to support state and local governments, including funding, disseminating analysis and recommendations, monitoring climate-related issues in municipal markets, and promoting resilience to extreme weather events. A recording of remarks from Treasury officials can be found here.

 

ACF Releases Guidance, Allocations for Child Welfare Programs

Last week the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released a Program Instruction that provides guidance to states, territories and insular areas on actions they are required to take to receive their allotments for federal fiscal year 2023 (subject to the availability of appropriations). The Program Instruction applies to multiple program areas including child welfare services, caseworker visit formula grants, kinship navigator funds, foster care program education and training voucher grants, and Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) state grants.

 

For Your Information

Interior Announces Funds Available for Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation

The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced more than $144 million is available to states and Tribes for abandoned mine land (AML) reclamation efforts in fiscal year 2022; this is in addition to the $725 million fiscal year 2022 investment from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The press release includes a list of eligible states and Tribes and the amounts allocated.

 

DOL Announces $55 Million to Provide Pre-Release Training, Employment Services

The Department of Labor (DOL) announced the availability of $55 million in Pathway Home 3 Grants that seek to reduce barriers to employment by providing training and employment services to incarcerated individuals before their release from state correctional facilities or county/local jails. Organizations seeking grants must partner with a state correctional facility or a local or county jail. Applications are due by April 19.

 

DOL Announces $45 Million Available to Expand Access to Training

The Department of Labor (DOL) announced a $45 million funding availability to help people in marginalized and underrepresented populations overcome barriers to access career and technical education programs. The Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grants will allow public and state institutions of higher education and community colleges improve their ability to address equity gaps and meet the skill development needs of employers and workers. Applications are due by June 2.

 

EPA Awards $17 Million to Fund Clean School Buses

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the winners for two school bus rebate opportunities: the 2021 American Rescue Plan (ARP) Electric School Bus Rebates and the 2021 Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebates. The $7 million in ARP funding is directed toward school districts in underserved communities to replace old diesel buses with new, zero-emission electric models, and the $10 million in DERA rebates will assist with 444 school bus replacements across the country. A list of awardees is included in the announcement.

 

Recently Released Reports

Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services: People Served and Spending During COVID-19

Kaiser Family Foundation

Will Unretirement Help Solve the Labor Shortage?

Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

Federal Menthol Cigarette Ban May Cost Governments $6.6 Billion

Tax Foundation

 

Economic News

Unemployment Claims Reported for Week Ending February 26

The U.S. Department of Labor released unemployment insurance weekly claims data last Thursday that showed for the week ending February 26, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 215,000. This is a decrease of 18,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was revised up by 1,000 from 232,000 to 233,000. The 4-week moving average was 230,500, a decrease of 6,000 from the previous week's revised average of 236,500. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.1 percent for the week ending February 19, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 194,693 in the week ending February 26, a decrease of 21,285 (or -9.9 percent) from the previous week.

 

Economy Adds 678,000 Jobs in February

New data released last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 678,000 in February and the unemployment rate edged down to 3.8 percent. The data also shows that in February there were 6.3 million unemployed persons, down slightly from 6.5 million in January. In February 2020, the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent and the number of unemployed persons was 5.7 million. The number of long-term unemployed (jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 1.7 million, accounting for 26.7 percent of the total unemployed. The labor force participation rate changed little over the month to 62.3 percent. Among those not in the labor force in February, 1.2 million persons were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic, down from 1.8 million in the prior month. In February, notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality (179,000), professional and business services (95,000), health care (64,000), construction (60,000), and transportation and warehousing (48,000). Employment showed little or no change in information and government. State government jobs increased by 3,000, with a decrease in state government excluding education (-2,700) offsetting some increases in state government education (4,900). The change in total nonfarm payroll employment was revised up for December (+78,000) and January (+14,000).

 

BLS Releases 2021 Annual Averages for Regional and State Unemployment

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released data last week showing that annual average unemployment rates in 2021 decreased in 49 states and the District of Columbia, while the rate was little changed in 1 state. Employment-population ratios increased in 38 states and the District, decreased in 1 state, and were little changed in 11 states. The U.S. jobless rate declined by 2.8 percentage points from the prior year to 5.3 percent, while the national employment-population ratio rose by 1.6 points to 58.4 percent.