This Week on the Hill
The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will consider multiple bills, including H.R. 2954, the Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2022 and H.R. 3617, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. The Senate continues consideration of administration nominations. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court on April 4.
State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Final Rule Effective April 1
On April 1, the final rule for the Treasury Department’s Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (CSLFRF) will take effect. The final rule was released on January 6, along with an Overview of the Final Rule, which provides a summary of major rule provisions to assist recipients and stakeholders. Recipients could choose to take advantage of the final rule’s flexibilities and simplifications prior to the April 1 effective date; a statement regarding compliance with the interim final rule and final rule can be found here. Treasury also released a webinar and slide presentation on the final rule.
FDA Authorizes Second Booster Dose for Older and Immunocompromised Individuals
Today the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized a second booster dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for older people and certain immunocompromised individuals. The FDA previously authorized a single booster dose for certain immunocompromised individuals following completion of a three-dose primary vaccination series. Today’s action applies only to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines and the authorization of a single booster dose for other age groups with these vaccines remains unchanged.
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 Additional $413 Million in Provider Relief Fund Payments: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced more than $413 million in a fourth round of Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Phase 4 payments, totaling nearly $12 billion that has been distributed to more than 82,000 providers to date. Phase 4 payments reimburse smaller providers for a higher percentage of losses and include 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.
- VA Awarding $64.7 Million to Improve Transitional Housing Facilities: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is awarding 36 capital grants totaling $64.7 million to community organizations under its Grant and Per Diem program to improve the quality of housing options for veterans experiencing homelessness. Using funds authorized by ARPA, the new awards will allow grantee organizations to construct new buildings and renovate existing transitional housing facilities that provide more than 900 beds nationwide for homeless veterans.
- Education Secretary Urges Use of ARPA Funds to Address Teacher Shortages: The Secretary of Education issued a nationwide call to action for states, higher education leaders, and schools to use federal resources and work together to address the teacher shortage and aid student recovery. The Secretary “calls on leaders to use ARPA funds to address this shortage and increase the number of teacher candidates prepared to enter into the teaching profession.” The department also released a fact sheet providing examples of how states, districts, and schools are using federal COVID funds to strengthen the teacher pipeline and accelerate student recovery. The Secretary specifically calls on states to do the following: establish teaching as a Registered Apprenticeship; invest in evidence-based teacher residency programs; establish or expand loan forgiveness or service scholarship programs; and increase teacher compensation.
- FNS Approves P-EBT Programs for School Year 2021-2022: The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) approved additional states/territories to operate a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program during school year 2021-2022: American Samoa and Kentucky. To date, a total of 23 states/territories have been approved.
- Treasury Updates ERA Resources for Online Applications: The Treasury Department updated its guidelines for online applications for the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program. The guidelines now include a section on protecting applicant data through data privacy and security measures, including limiting the collection of social security numbers.
- HUD Releases Fact Sheet on HOME-ARP Allocation Plan: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a fact sheet on the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME-ARP) allocation plan checklist. The fact sheet provides instruction and guidance for a HOME-ARP allocation plan, which is a substantial amendment to the participating jurisdiction’s fiscal year 2021 annual action plan. The HOME-ARP program page can be found here.
- FCC Announces New Emergency Connectivity Fund Application Window: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it is opening a third application filing window to award at least $1 billion in Emergency Connectivity Fund support. The third application filing window will open on April 28 and close on May 13. Given past demand, the FCC indicates the third application filing window will likely be the last opportunity for schools and libraries to request funding before the remaining funds are exhausted.
Administration Actions Related to COVID-19
- Education and HHS Announce Joint Effort to Expand School-Based Health Services: The Departments of Education and Health and Human Services (HHS) launched a joint-department effort to expand school-based health services. The departments sent a letter to governors about upcoming technical assistance, resources and support, including use of ARPA funds to build a health care infrastructure, plus a list of resources for school-based health services.
- Moderna Announces Plans to Seek Approval for Vaccine for Younger Kids: Moderna, Inc. announced positive interim data from the Phase 2/3 study of its COVID-19 vaccine in children 6 months to under 2 years and 2 years to under 6 years of age. Based on these data, Moderna will submit a request for authorization of a two-dose primary series of vaccine for children 6 months to under 6 years of age to the Food and Drug Administration and other global regulators in the coming weeks.
- Education Sends Letter on In-Person Schooling for Students with Disabilities: The Secretary of Education sent a letter to educators and parents with updates and resources to ensure students can safely learn in person, addressing the needs of students of disabilities as the country moves into a new phase of pandemic response.
- CDC Releases COVID-19 Quarantine and Isolation Calculator: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new Quarantine and Isolation Calculator, a tool to help determine how long a person needs to isolate, quarantine, or take other steps to prevent spreading COVID-19. The calculator does not apply to certain groups and high-risk settings.
- FDA Updates EUA for Monoclonal Antibody Treatment Sotrovimab: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated its emergency use authorization (EUA) for sotrovimab, a monoclonal antibody therapy. FDA announced that sotrovimab is no longer authorized for use at this time in the following states and territories: CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT, NJ, NY, PR, and USVI. This is due to new data showing that the therapy is unlikely to be effective against the BA.2 sub-variant. Several other therapies are expected to be effective against the sub-variant.
- NEA Data Shows Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Arts and Culture Sector: The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), along with the Bureau of Economic Analysis, released new data on the impact on the arts and cultural sector by COVID-19. The information includes national-level data and state-level data, including state fact sheets and an interactive dashboard by state.
President Releases Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request
On Monday the President released a $5.8 trillion budget request for fiscal year 2023, which includes approximately $1.58 trillion in discretionary funds. The discretionary funds are divided between defense funding of $813 billion and non-defense funding of $769 billion. The budget includes targeted tax increases and is estimated to reduce deficits by $1 trillion over a decade. Federal Funds Information for States’ Jim Martin table highlights changes in funding for major programs under the budget request. Separately, the House Appropriations Committee has begun its process inviting members to submit Community Project Funding requests for fiscal year 2023 appropriations bills; members may submit up to 15 requests (up from 10 requests in fiscal year 2022).
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 Transportation (DOT) announced $2.9 billion of funding is available for major infrastructure projects through a combined Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) under the IIJA. The intent of combining three major discretionary grant programs into one Multimodal Projects Discretionary Grant opportunity is to reduce the burden for state and local applicants and increase the pipeline of “shovel-worthy” projects. The covered programs include: the National Infrastructure Project Assistance (MEGA) program, created in the IIJA to fund major projects that are too large or complex for traditional funding programs; the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program, an existing program that will see a more than 50 percent increase in this year’s funding due to the IIJA; and the Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program (RURAL), created in the IIJA. The deadline for applications is May 23; additional resources, including frequently asked questions, can be found here.
- The Bureau of Reclamation announced a funding opportunity for WaterSMART: Drought Resiliency Projects. The program provides federal cost-share funds for entities to take a proactive approach to drought through building projects that increase water supply reliability and improve water management. The bureau is making $160 million available, and applications are due by June 15.
- The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) announced the creation of a free repository of information on electric vehicles (EV) available to state agencies. State agencies must create a free account in order to use the clearinghouse, which contains a variety of documents such as sample requests for proposals, sample contracts, EV infrastructure siting and assessment tools, and other resources.
DOT Announces $4.45 Billion Recommended for New Rail and Bus Projects
On Monday the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced it is recommending $4.45 billion both to advance seven new rail and bus rapid transit (BRT) projects for first-time funding and to continue funding for eight projects with existing construction grants in fiscal year 2023. These projects competed for funding through the Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program and Expedited Project Delivery (EPD) Pilot Program. The President released his fiscal year 2023 budget request yesterday, which includes $26.8 billion in discretionary budget authority, an increase of $1.5 billion or six percent over the 2021 enacted level, for the department. The department’s FY2023 Annual Report on Funding Recommendations also identifies projects that will receive funding through the CIG and EPD programs for fiscal years 2022 and 2023 under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and Consolidated Appropriations Act.
DOL Issues Guidance on Designating American Job Centers as Voter Registration Agencies
On Friday the Department of Labor (DOL) issued guidance to all states and territories encouraging them to designate more than 2,300 locally operated American Job Centers as voter registration agencies under the National Voter Registration Act. The guidance also affirms that many partners that operate programs and services with American Job Centers can engage in voter registration efforts with their participants, such as hosting nonpartisan organizations onsite to conduct voter outreach activities. Further, the guidance affirms that American Job Centers, their websites and their partners’ websites can provide basic voting information, whether or not they are voter registration agencies.
Census Bureau Releases Final Definition of Urban Area
Last week the U.S. Census Bureau published a notice of final program criteria in the Federal Register, providing its final criteria for defining urban areas based on the results of the 2020 Decennial Census. The Census Bureau recognizes that some federal and state agencies use the Census Bureau's urban-rural classification for allocating program funds, setting program standards, and implementing aspects of their programs. The final definition includes a table comparing proposed 2020 criteria (published on February 19, 2021) to the final criteria.
HUD Announces Nearly $3 Billion in CDBG-Disaster Funding
Last week the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the allocation of nearly $3 billion in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds to help communities recovery from disaster and build inclusive resilience to climate change. The department is allocating $2.2 billion to 10 local governments and 13 state governments for 16 major disasters in 2021, plus an additional $722.7 million to five of the previously announced 2020 disaster recovery grants to reflect a higher level of need than previously calculated. A list of recipients is included in the press release.
HHS Announces Increased Funding for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics
On Thursday the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), announced two Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) funding opportunities to expand and increase access to evidence-based mental health and substance use services. An estimated $312 million will be available over four years through two grant programs: Planning, Development and Implementation grants and Improvement and Advancement grants. CCBHCs must meet federal standards for the range of services that they provide, and they are required to get people into care quickly; this model also requires crisis services that are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Applications for both programs are due by May 17.
USDA Announces Additional Resources for Meat and Poultry Processing Capacity
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the launch of the Meat and Poultry Processing Capacity Technical Assistance Program (MPPTA) to provide technical assistance to meat and poultry grant applicants and grant-funded projects. Processors and applicants involved with the Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant (MPIRG) program and the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (MPPEP) can access this technical assistance. USDA also announced it is now accepting applications for $23.6 million in competitive grant funding available through the MPIRG program; applications are due by May 24.
Senate Committee Advances Bill to Regulate Phone Rates for Inmates
Last week the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee voted by voice vote to advance the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act (S. 1541). Introduced by Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Rob Portman (R-OH), the bill would amend current law to clarify that the Federal Communications Commission is authorized to regulate intrastate phone rates and charges in correctional facilities to ensure they are “just and reasonable” and amend the definition of advanced communications services to make sure the updated statute is technology-neutral. Additional information on the bill, which can now be considered by the full Senate, can be found here.
For Your Information
DOJ Publishes Guidance on Web Accessibility and the Americans with Disabilities Act
The Department of Justice (DOJ) published guidance on web accessibility and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It explains how state and local governments (entities covered by ADA Title II) and businesses open to the public (entities covered by ADA Title III) can ensure their websites are accessible to people with disabilities in line with the ADA’s requirements. The full guidance can be found here.
ACF Sends Letter on CSBG Funds for Fiscal Year 2022
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) sent a Dear Colleague letter to the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) network, providing the apportionment status of funding for fiscal year 2022. The President signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 117-103) into law on March 15, which includes the full allocation of CSBG funding through September 30, 2022; notification of funds availability is forthcoming. The letter also includes information on the 200 percent eligibility threshold.
FCC Announces $313 Million Available Through Rural Digital Opportunity Fund
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it is ready to authorize more than $313 million through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to fund new broadband deployments in 19 states bringing service to over 130,000 locations. This is the eighth round of funding in the program, which to date has provided over $5 billion in funding for new deployments in 47 states to bring broadband to over 2.8 million locations.
HUD Announces $72 Million Available to Help Youth Experiencing Homelessness
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced $72 million in available funding under the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program for up to 25 communities nationwide. Funding will be utilized for developing and implementing coordinated community approaches to preventing and ending youth homelessness and sharing that experience with communities around the country to mobilize them toward the same end. Applications are due by June 28.
DOL Announces $71 Million to Expand Training and Employment Opportunities
The Department of Labor (DOL) announced a $71 million funding availability to provide training and employment assistance to American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians. The grants will support services to equip individuals in these communities with education, job search assistance and occupational skills training to improve their access to better jobs and increased wages. The funding will support approximately 167 grants to deliver services under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act’s (WIOA) Indian and Native American programs. Applications are due by May 6.
Recently Released Reports
Medicaid Fraud Control Units Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General
Over Two-Thirds of the Nation's Counties Had Natural Decrease in 2021
U.S. Census Bureau
NASCA 2022: Areas of Responsibility
National Association of State Chief Administrators
Unemployment Claims Reported for Week Ending March 19
The U.S. Department of Labor released unemployment insurance weekly claims data last Thursday that showed for the week ending March 19, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 187,000. This is a decrease of 28,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was revised up by 1,000 from 214,000 to 215,000 and is the lowest level for initial claims since September 6, 1969. The 4-week moving average was 211,750, a decrease of 11,500 from the previous week's revised average of 223,250. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.0 percent for the week ending March 12, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 181,087 in the week ending March 19, a decrease of 22,824 (or -11.2 percent) from the previous week.
Unemployment Rates Lower in 31 States in February
New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that many state unemployment rates saw little change in February; 19 states had stable unemployment rates while 31 states and the District of Columbia had lower rates. Compared to one year earlier, all 50 states and the District of Columbia had jobless rate decreases. The national jobless rate, 3.8 percent, declined by 0.2 percentage point over the month as 2.4 points lower than in February 2021. Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 27 states and was essentially unchanged in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Over the year, nonfarm payroll employment increased in 48 states and the District and was essentially unchanged in 2 states.
State Personal Income Rose 7.4 Percent in 2021
State personal income increased 7.4 percent in 2021 according to data recently released by the Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis; this is after increasing 6.6 percent in 2020. In 2021, increases in earnings, transfer receipts, and property income (dividends, interest, and rent) contributed to personal income growth in all states and the District of Columbia. The percent change across all states ranged from 9.6 percent to 4.5 percent. Earnings increased 8.9 percent, accounting for most of the $1.4 trillion dollar increase in personal income for the nation in 2021. Transfer receipts increased 8.4 percent for the nation in 2021 after increasing 35.1 percent in 2020 and property income increased 1.2 percent in 2021 after decreasing 1.0 percent in 2020.