This Week on the Hill
The House is in recess this week while the Senate is in session. The Senate is considering H.R. 4521, the America COMPETES Act. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a four-day confirmation hearing for the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The White House announced the President will release his fiscal year 2023 budget on Monday, March 28.
FEMA Announces 90/10 Cost Share Adjustments Authorized In Omnibus Spending Bill
On Friday the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator announced that additional disaster funding is available to all states, Tribal nations, and territories with Presidential major disaster and emergency declarations occurring in 2020 and 2021. The recently signed fiscal year 2022 omnibus spending bill, H.R. 2471, grants a minimum 90 percent federal cost share for any emergency or major disaster declaration declared occurring or having an incident period beginning between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021. Specifically, the enacted spending bill authorized an increase to the standard 75 percent federal cost share to at least 90 percent for Public Assistance, the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and specified Individual Assistance programs authorized under emergency and major disaster declarations.
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 Posts Slides and Recording from NEU Reporting Webinar: The Treasury Department posted the presentation slides and recording from the Non-Entitlement Unit of local government (NEU) reporting overview webinar held on March 21.
- FEMA Announces More than $2 Billion Allotted for Funeral Assistance: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced it has provided over $2 billion in COVID-19 funeral assistance to support more than 300,000 applicants. State and territory information is included in the press release. The agency is also launching a new outreach campaign, starting with a targeted paid media campaign directed at localities identified with high rates of COVID-related deaths, low funeral assistance application rates and high Social Vulnerability Index data.
- 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: Massachusetts. To date, a total of 22 states/territories have been approved.
- SBA Announces Principal and Interest Payment Deferral for COVID EIDL Program: The Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) directed the agency to provide additional deferment of principal and interest payments for existing COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program borrowers for a total of 30 months deferment from inception on all approved COVID EIDL loans. This deferment extension is effective for all COVID-EIDL loans approved in calendar years 2020, 2021, and 2022. Interest will continue to accrue on the loans during the deferment.
- HUD Releases Notice on Reallocation Process for Emergency Housing Voucher Awards: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a notice on reallocation of Emergency Housing Voucher (EHV) awards that are voluntarily returned to the agency. ARPA appropriated $5 billion for new incremental EHVs, the renewal of those EHVs, and fees for the cost of administering the EHVs. HUD intends to issue a separate notice that will describe the process HUD will use to revoke and reallocate EHV awards for a Public Housing Agency’s failure to use vouchers promptly.
- FCC Sets Purchase Deadline for Round 2 COVID-19 Telehealth Program: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced July 31, 2022 as the deadline for Round 2 COVID-19 Telehealth Program recipients to purchase eligible devices and implement eligible services.
- FCC Grants Petition to Extend Emergency Connectivity Fund Service Delivery Date: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted, in part, the petition for waiver filed by a group of Emergency Connectivity Fund Program stakeholders by waiving and extending the service delivery date to June 30, 2023 for all applicants who applied for program support for equipment, other non-recurring services, and recurring services during the first and second application filing windows.
Administration Actions Related to COVID-19
- HHS Posts COVID-19 Therapeutics Allocations: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) posted the allocation of COVID-19 therapeutics for the week of March 21. A list by state and territory can be found here.
- HRSA Announces COVID-19 Uninsured Program and Coverage Assistance Fund To Stop Accepting Claims: The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced updates to the COVID-19 Uninsured Program and Coverage Assistance Fund. On March 22, the Uninsured Program will stop accepting claims for testing and treatment due to lack of sufficient funds and on April 5, will stop accepting vaccination claims. Also on April 5, the Coverage Assistance Fund will stop accepting vaccination claims due to a lack of sufficient funds.
- Pfizer Seeks EUA for a Second Booster Dose for People Aged 65 and Older: Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE announced the submission of an application to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use authorization (EUA) of an additional booster dose for adults 65 years of age and older who have received an initial booster of any of the authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccines.
- Moderna Requests EUA for Second Booster Dose for All Adults: Moderna, Inc. announced it has submitted a request to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for an amendment to the emergency use authorization (EUA) to allow for a fourth dose of its COVID-19 vaccine in adults aged 18 years and older who have received an initial booster of any authorized/approved COVID-19 vaccine. The request to include adults over 18 years of age was made to provide flexibility to determine the appropriate use of an additional booster dose, including for those at higher risk of COVID-19.
- FDA Vaccine Advisory Committee to Meet on Potential Additional Booster Doses: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a meeting of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on April 6 to discuss considerations for future COVID-19 vaccine booster doses and current/emerging variants. The meeting is intended to assist the agency in developing a general framework and no vote is planned.
- Administration Names New COVID-19 Response Coordinator: The President announced the new White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, following the departure of the current coordinator, Jeff Zients. Dr. Jha is the dean of Brown University's School of Public Health and a graduate of Columbia University, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard University School of Public Health.
- Administration Launches Clean Air in Buildings Challenge: The administration released a fact sheet announcing the launch of an effort to improve ventilation and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in buildings. The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge calls on all building owners and operators, schools, colleges and universities, and organizations to adopt key strategies to improve indoor air quality in their buildings. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a best practices guide, which notes that ARPA and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funds can be used to supplement investments in ventilation and indoor air quality in public settings.
- HHS OIG Report Examines Use of Telehealth by Medicare Beneficiaries: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report examining the use of telehealth by Medicare beneficiaries during the first year of the pandemic. The report found that telehealth was critical for providing services to Medicare beneficiaries and demonstrates the long-term potential of telehealth to increase access to health care for beneficiaries.
- HHS Releases Fact Sheet on Test to Treat Program: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released additional information on the previously announced Test to Treat program, where people can receive treatments upon testing positive for COVID-19.
- FDA Updates FAQs on At-Home COVID-19 Tests: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated its frequently asked questions on at-home COVID-19 diagnostic tests. New questions address topics including use of expired tests and test safety concerns.
CMS Releases Resources for Resumption of Routine Medicaid/CHIP Operations
On Monday the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released templates and resources for two state reporting requirements that will help CMS and states monitor enrollment and renewal efforts as states resume routine Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Basic Health Program operations following the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). The State Report on Plans for Prioritizing and Distributing Renewals Following the End of the Medicaid Continuous Enrollment Provisions (Renewal Distribution Report) is a form that states will be required to complete and submit to CMS to summarize a state’s plan to distribute renewals and mitigate against inappropriate coverage loss within the state’s 12-month unwinding period. States will be expected to submit this report 45 days before the end of the month in which the PHE ends. The Unwinding Eligibility and Enrollment Data Report Excel workbook and specifications document are tools states can use to support their efforts to report on certain metrics to demonstrate their progress towards restoring timely application processing, initiating and completing renewals of eligibility for all Medicaid and CHIP enrollees, and processing fair hearings. The Kaiser Family Foundation recently released a report containing findings from a 50-state survey on Medicaid and CHIP eligibility and enrollment policies as of January 2022.
Senate Votes to Nullify Transportation Mask Mandate Rule
Last Tuesday the Senate voted 57-40 to nullify a rule requiring masks on public transportation. The Congressional Review Act (CRA) allows a simple majority vote to block administration regulations within a certain period of time following enactment. However, the CRA does not set up a fast track process in the House and it would face a likely veto by the President. The current mask requirement on public transportation is in place until April 18.
IIJA Implementation Resources Released
Federal agencies continue to release implementation resources pertaining to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
- The Department of the Interior (DOI) released draft guidance to states on how to apply for the first $775 million in grant funding available under the IIJA for cleaning up orphaned oil and gas well sites. The draft guidance provides draft instructions to states on how to apply for initial grants of up to $25 million. States will also be eligible for formula and performance grants, with guidance released at a later date. Comments on the draft guidance must be received by March 30.
- The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released computational tables of fiscal year 2022 apportionment and obligation limitation notices. The tables include information on apportionments among states and programs, set-asides, and a summary of apportionments.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released information on the Swift Current program, the first FEMA initiative to be funded through the IIJA. The goal of Swift Current is to obligate flood mitigation dollars for National Flood Insurance Program-insured Severe Repetitive Loss, Repetitive Loss, and substantially damaged properties as quickly and equitably as possible after a disaster event. To launch Swift Current, FEMA identified four states affected by Hurricane Ida that have the highest number of properties and total claims within their respective FEMA Regions: Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The funding notice can be found here.
- The Department of Labor (DOL) will offer online compliance seminars for contracting agencies, contractors, unions, workers, and other stakeholders to provide information on the requirements governing payment of prevailing wages on federally funded construction and service contracts, including Davis-Bacon Act compliance.
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a notice of inquiry asking for comment on how to implement provisions in the IIJA that require FCC to combat digital discrimination, and to promote equal access to broadband across the country. Comments are due by May 16.
FNS Releases Guidance on Extending the WIC Temporary Increase for Fruit and Vegetables
Last week the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released a memo on extending the temporary increase in the Cash-Value Voucher/Benefit for fruit and vegetable purchases in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. The fiscal year 2022 omnibus bill (P.L. 117-103), signed into law on March 15, directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to extend the temporary increase through the end of fiscal year 2022; the increased amount applies to all women and children participants and was previously set to expire on March 31. The bill also provides the funding necessary to accommodate this extended increase in the benefit. The policy memo sets out the applicable parameters for the nationwide extension.
Senate Committee Advances Pandemic Preparedness Bill
Last Tuesday the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 20-2 to advance the Prepare for and Respond to Existing Viruses, Emerging New Threats, and Pandemics Act (PREVENT Pandemics Act). The bill includes steps to improve strategy and coordination among public health preparedness agencies, strengthen supply chain and government stockpiles of medical products, improve our capabilities to detect and monitor emerging infectious disease and other threats, and revitalize the public and community health workforce. A summary of the bill as introduced can be found here while a list of adopted amendments can be found here.
Senate Approves Making Daylight Saving Time Permanent
Last Tuesday the Senate unanimously approved a bipartisan bill, S. 623, that would make Daylight Saving Time permanent across the country. This year, it began on March 13 and will last until November 6. If enacted, the implementation would begin on November 5, 2023. The bill goes to the House, where no timeline has been given for possible consideration.
Committee Holds Hearing on Clean Water State Revolving Fund
On Wednesday the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on oversight of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund formula. The hearing was intended to better understand what changes, if any, should be made to improve the distribution of funds under the program; the formula for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund has been unchanged since its creation in 1987. Some senators have expressed a desire to change the formula so it is based on population growth. Testimony was provided by the Congressional Research Service, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the CEO of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and Director of the Washington State Department of Ecology.
Census Bureau to Release State Undercount/Overcount Data in May
On Thursday the U.S. Census Bureau announced it will release undercount and overcount rates by state and the District of Columbia from the 2020 Census Post-Enumeration Survey (PES) in May 2022, which is earlier than previously announced. Results will not be broken down by demographic characteristics or geographic areas within the state. Given the sample size for the 2020 PES and the assumptions required to make substate estimates, the bureau cannot include county or place estimates in the 2020 PES reports. The remainder of the PES estimates, including results for housing units, and undercount and overcount rates for Puerto Rico, are scheduled for release in the summer.
Administration Announces Resources for HBCUs Experiencing Bomb Threats
On Wednesday the administration announced resources for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that have recently experienced bomb threats. Per the fact sheet, in the last three months, more than one-third of the country’s HBCUs have received bomb threats. Those schools that experienced a bomb threat resulting in a disruption to the campus learning environment are eligible for grant funds under the Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) at the Department of Education; awards typically range from $50,000 to $150,000 per school. The administration also released a compendium of resources that are available across the federal government to help with long-term improvements to campus mental health programs, campus safety, and emergency management planning and response.
EPA Announces 12 New Superfund Sites, Proposes Creation of Additional Five
On Thursday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is adding 12 sites to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) and is proposing to add another five, in the following states: MA, NY, MD, WV, GA, SC, TN, IN, MI, MN, WI, OR, NJ, DE, MS and IA. With this update, the administration is following its commitment to update the NPL twice a year, as opposed to once per year. Before EPA adds a site to the NPL, a site must meet EPA’s requirements and be proposed for addition to the list in the Federal Register, subject to a 60-day public comment period. EPA is also withdrawing a previously proposed site in Indiana based on state cleanup efforts.
Census Releases 2016-2020 American Community Survey Five Year Estimates
Last week the U.S. Census Bureau released new statistics from the 2016-2020 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates. Following pandemic-related data collection disruptions, the Census Bureau revised its methodology to reduce nonresponse bias in data collected in 2020. After evaluating the effectiveness of this methodology, the Census Bureau determined the standard, full suite of 2016–2020 ACS 5-year data are fit for public release, government and business uses. The ACS is the nation’s leading source of large- and small-area socioeconomic and demographic statistics for all levels of geography for every community in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
CMS Publishes Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital Allotments
Last week the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released its final disproportionate share hospitals (DSH) allotments for FY 2018 and FY 2019 and preliminary allotments for FY 2020 and FY 2021. The preliminary allotments for FY 2020 and FY 2021 factor in adjustments made by the American Rescue Plan Act to address the interaction of DSH allotments and a temporary increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage. The notice also includes the final FY 2018-2019 and preliminary FY 2020-2021 state limits on aggregate DSH payments to institutions for mental disease and other mental health facilities.
SAMHSA Launches 988 Website, Bill Proposed to Provide Funding
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) launched a website for the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which will go live on all devices on July 16, 2022. The page contains resources and information designed to help states, territories, Tribes, mental health and substance use disorder professionals, and others looking for information on the background, history, funding opportunities and implementation resources for the lifeline. The site contains frequently asked questions, key messages, a fact sheet, funding information, and a tracker of state 988 legislation. Representative Tony Cardenas (D-CA) introduced a bipartisan bill, the 988 Implementation Act, to provide federal funding and guidance for states to implement their crisis response infrastructure ahead of the July launch of 988.
FHWA Updates Guidance on Emergency Relief Repair Activities Eligible for Full Federal Funding
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently released guidance on defining and managing emergency relief repair activities eligible for 100 percent federal funding. The Emergency Relief (ER) program provides funding for the repair or reconstruction of Federal-aid highways and roads on Federal lands which have suffered serious damage as a result of natural disasters or catastrophic failures from an external cause. This guidance provides clarifying guidance on FHWA flexibility in its response and management of the program, and it revises and replaces an FHWA memo dated April 14, 2021.
For Your Information
HUD Announces $2.6 Billion in Fiscal Year 2021 CoC Competitive Awards
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced over $2.6 billion in fiscal year 2021 Continuum of Care (CoC) Competition Awards for roughly 7,000 local homeless housing and service programs across the country. The awards will provide funding to communities to help individuals and families experiencing homelessness move into permanent housing with access to supportive services, with the overarching goal of long-term stability. A breakdown of awards by state and territory can be found here.
FCC Ready to Authorize Additional $640 Million Through Rural Digital Opportunity Fund
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it is ready to authorize more than $640 million through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to fund new broadband deployments in 26 states, bringing service to nearly 250,000 locations. To date, the program has provided $4.7 billion in funding to nearly 300 carriers for new deployments in 47 states to bring broadband to almost 2.7 million locations.
USDA Accepting Applications for Local Food for Schools Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it is accepting applications for the Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program, which will provide up to $200 million for states to purchase local food for school meal programs. The department will award cooperative agreements to state governments for the purchase of domestic foods from local, regional, small, and underserved farmers and ranchers. Applications are due by June 17.
HHS Announces Nearly $44 Million for Populations At Risk For or Living with HIV/AIDS
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced three funding opportunities to strengthen mental health and substance use services for individuals at risk for or living with HIV/AIDS. Totaling $43.7 million, the grants are being deployed to help underserved communities. The funding targets areas of the country with the greatest disparities in HIV-related health outcomes and aligns with the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
FHWA Announces National Scenic Byways Program Funding
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity that allows states and federally recognized Tribes to apply for $22 million in grants through the National Scenic Byways Program. The program funds improvements, such as byway facilities, safety improvements, and interpretive information, along roads in the United States that merit recognition at the national level for their outstanding scenic, historic, cultural, natural recreational and archeological qualities. Applications are due by May 16.
DOT Announces $10 Million to Help Minority-and Women-Owned Businesses Compete for Highway Contracts
The Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced $10 million in funding from the fiscal year 2021 Disadvantaged Business Enterprise/Supportive Services program to help eligible small businesses compete for federal highway contracts in 45 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The funding is provided for the purpose of administering programs that provide training and assistance to eligible small businesses to improve their ability to compete on federally assisted contracts. A list of awards by state and territory is included in the press release.
DOT Initiates Seventh Round of Every Day Counts Program
The Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) launched a call for ideas under the Every Day Counts (EDC) program. EDC is a state- and local-based model that identifies and rapidly deploys proven, yet underutilized innovations. FHWA plans to focus the seventh cycle of EDC on market-ready, underutilized practices or technologies that support key priorities such as safety, equity, and a sustainable and resilient infrastructure. Responses are due by April 11.
DOE Posts Program Year 2022 State Energy Program Application Materials
The Department of Energy (DOE) released guidance for the Program Year 2022 State Energy Program Formula Grant. The program guidance includes application instructions and administration and legal requirements. Application due dates vary based on the program year ending date.
Education Launches Real Pay for Real Jobs Initiative
The Department of Education released the notice inviting applications for the Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment (SWTCIE) demonstration project, aimed at increasing access for people with disabilities to jobs that pay good wages. Under the project, $167 million is available to State Vocational Rehabilitation agencies and their partners. Applications are due by June 21.
Recently Released Reports
Emergency Relief Funds: Significant Improvements are Needed to Ensure Transparency and Accountability for COVID-19 and Beyond
U.S. Government Accountability Office
2020-21 Comparative Study of Major Public Employee Retirement Systems
Wisconsin Legislative Council
State Arts Agency Revenues, Fiscal Year 2022
National Assembly of State Arts Agencies
Unemployment Claims Reported for Week Ending March 12
The U.S. Department of Labor released unemployment insurance weekly claims data last Thursday that showed for the week ending March 12, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 214,000. This is a decrease of 15,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was revised up by 2,000 from 227,000 to 229,000. The 4-week moving average was 223,000, a decrease of 8,750 from the previous week's revised average of 231,750. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.0 percent for the week ending March 5, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 202,894 in the week ending March 12, a decrease of 16,981 (or -7.7 percent) from the previous week.
Federal Reserve Raises Interest Rates
At its March meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee voted 8-1 to raise the target range for the federal funds rate to .25 to .50 percent and anticipates that ongoing increases in the target range will be appropriate. The committee noted that indicators of economic activity and employment have continued to strengthen while inflation remains elevated, reflecting supply and demand imbalances related to the pandemic, higher energy prices, and broader price pressures. The Committee seeks to achieve maximum employment and inflation at the rate of 2 percent over the longer run. In addition to raising the target range, the Committee expects to begin reducing its holdings of Treasury securities and agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities at a coming meeting.
Unemployment Rates Lower in 19 States in January
New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that many state unemployment rates saw little change in January; unemployment rates were lower in 19 states, higher in 2 states and the District of Columbia, and stable in 29 states. Compared to one year earlier, 49 states and the District of Columbia had jobless rate decreases, while 1 state was little changed. The national jobless rate, 4.0 percent, was little changed over the month but was 2.4 percentage points lower than in January 2021. Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 9 states in January and was essentially unchanged in 41 states and the District of Columbia. Over the year, nonfarm payroll employment increased in 46 states and the District and was essentially unchanged in 4 states.