This Week on the Hill
The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will consider several bills including H.R. 3807, the Relief for Restaurants and Other Hard Hit Small Businesses Act. The bill would appropriate $42 billion for additional restaurant relief and $13 billion for other industries. The Senate will vote on the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and may consider a supplemental COVID-19 appropriations bill (see story below).
FEMA Issues Guidance on COVID-19 Public Assistance Deadlines
On Friday the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released guidance addressing deadlines for COVID-19 Public Assistance. Per the guidance, FEMA is establishing July 1, 2022 as the deadline for applicants to submit their Request for Public Assistance (RPA) for the COVID-19 pandemic incident. FEMA is also establishing December 31, 2022 as the interim deadline for eligible applicants to submit project applications for COVID-19 work completed from the beginning of the incident period on January 20, 2020, through July 1, 2022, the end date for 100 percent federal funding. FEMA funding will remain available for eligible work conducted after July 1, 2022 under the 90/10 percent cost share until the COVID-19 incident period is closed.
Treasury Updates SLFRF Reporting Resources
On Friday the Treasury Department released the Project and Expenditure Report templates for the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) program. The Project and Expenditure Report is due from all SLFRF recipients by April 30, 2022. A program user guide was also updated (see Revision Log on pg. 118) to assist in the submission of information.
Treasury Releases ERA Program Reallocation Guidance, Updates Reporting Guidance
On Wednesday the Treasury Department released reallocation guidance for the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program under the American Rescue Plan Act, also known as ERA2. The guidance sets forth the procedures for the ERA2 reallocation process; a summary fact sheet of the guidance was also released. Also last week, the department published technical updates to the ERA1 reallocation guidance, along with a redlined version showing the updates to the version published on October 4, 2021. For reporting, the department released ERA Reporting Guidance v.3.2 on March 29 and updated its User Guide – Treasury’s Portal for Recipient Reporting on March 30. The ERA program page can be found here.
FEMA Issues Advisory on Funding to Support the Safe Operation of Schools
Today the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued an advisory highlighting that schools and school districts may use the FEMA Public Assistance program to seek 100 percent reimbursement for eligible costs related to health and safety measures supporting in-person learning. FEMA will reimburse 100 percent of the eligible costs from the beginning of the incident period through July 1, 2022. The advisory also notes complementary funding streams and how those funds can be used to provide up-front cost before reimbursement is sought. Schools and school districts must apply for reimbursement through their state, territory or Tribal nation.
Treasury Releases Draft Compliance and Reporting Document for HAF Program
Last Wednesday the Treasury Department released Draft Guidance on Participant Compliance and Reporting Responsibilities for the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF), authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act. The guidance provides additional detail and clarification for each participant’s compliance and responsibilities under the HAF program and should be read in concert with other referenced HAF resources. The HAF program page can be found here.
Senate Announces Agreement on COVID-19 Supplemental Bill
On Monday a group of Senators announced a bipartisan agreement to provide $10 billion in COVID-19 supplemental appropriations. The bill does not include funding for global pandemic aid but instead focuses on domestic response programs. Of the total, $9.25 billion would be allocated for vaccines, therapeutics and testing capacity while $750 million would be allocated for research, clinical trials and development of vaccines for emerging variants. The bill also includes language from S. 3011, the State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure, and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act. The language provides additional flexibility to use the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund for infrastructure and disaster relief and help smaller governments comply with program requirements.
The bill fully offsets new funding by repurposing unspent funds from previous COVID relief bills including: $1.93 billion from the Shuttered Venues Operators Grants; $900 million from Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL); $1.6 billion from U.S. Department of Agriculture programs from both the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act; $2.31 billion from the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Program; $500 million from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund; $887 million from the Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund; and $1.873 billion in outlay savings from the State Small Business Credit Initiative. Also released were the bill text, summary, CBO score, and one-pager.
The Senate hopes to vote on the bill this week and send it to the House before both chambers leave for a two-week recess. Some House Democrats have voiced potential opposition to the deal due to the lack of global aid.
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).
- DOL Announces $15.9 Million in Equitable Access to UI Grants to Four States: The Department of Labor (DOL) announced the award of $15.9 million in equity grant funding to state unemployment insurance (UI) systems in four states: Alabama, Idaho, Missouri and New Mexico. The grants will fund projects aimed at ensuring access to UI services. On March 1, DOL announced the first four grants (OR, PA, VA and DC) and it will continue to make announcements as funding is awarded to additional states.
- FWS Awards Endangered Species Funding from ARPA: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced the distribution of the first wave of awards – a total of more than $1.6 million – under the Endangered Species COVID-19 Relief program, funded by ARPA. The act appropriated $30 million to reimburse expenses related to the care of captive species listed under the Endangered Species Act, as well as rescued and confiscated wildlife that are at risk of extinction. A list of recipients by states is included in the press release.
- DOL Announces Extension of Period of Performance for Awards Promoting Equitable UI Access: The Department of Labor (DOL) issued Unemployment Insurance (UI) Program Letter No. 23-21, Change 3. The intent of the letter is to advise states that the period of performance for awards that promote equitable access to unemployment compensation programs is extended to March 31, 2024.
- Treasury Releases Updated ERA Program Spending Data: The Treasury Department announced that through February 2022, state and local Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) grantees have made over 4.7 million payments to households and spent or obligated approximately $30 billion in assistance of the program’s total $46 billion. The department expects the vast majority of the remaining funds to be deployed to households or paid to grantees by the middle of 2022. Monthly data can be found here.
- HHS Highlights Expanded Postpartum Coverage Under ARPA: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) highlighted that beginning April 1, 2022, ARPA’s new state plan options offer state Medicaid and CHIP agencies an opportunity to provide 12 months of continuous postpartum coverage. The new ARPA state plan option is currently limited to a five-year period that ends on March 31, 2027.
- ACF Posts Information on LIHWAP Quarter 2 Report Submission: The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) posted an action transmittal for the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP). The document provides grant recipients with the LIHWAP quarter 2 quarterly report submission deadline of April 29 and additional submission information.
Administration Actions Related to COVID-19
- CMS Releases Medicaid/CHIP Resources for Resumption of Normal Operations: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released two new tools for states to utilize as they prepare to return to normal eligibility and enrollment operations after the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). The tools were developed in cooperation with the National Association of Medicaid Directors and CMS’s state and territory Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP) partners. The resources are: Strategic Approaches to Support State Fair Hearings as States Resume Normal Eligibility and Enrollment Operations After the COVID-19 PHE and Medicaid and CHIP Unwinding Efforts: Summary of Best and Promising State Practices from CMS/State Discussions.
- White House Launches COVID.gov for Pandemic Resources: The White House launched gov, a one-stop shop website for information on vaccines, tests, treatments, and masks. The site includes a Test-to-Treat locator to help people find COVID-19 tests and oral antiviral treatments if appropriate.
- Administration Announces Medicare Coverage for COVID-19 Tests: The administration announced that Americans with Medicare Part B, including those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, now have access to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved, authorized, or cleared over-the-counter COVID-19 tests at no cost. People with Medicare can get up to eight tests per calendar month from participating pharmacies and health care providers for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. A fact sheet can be found here, along with frequently asked questions.
- CDC Expands Eligibility for Additional Booster Dose for Certain Individuals: Following the Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of a second booster dose for older people and certain immunocompromised individuals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its recommendations to allow certain immunocompromised individuals and people over the age of 50 who received an initial booster dose at least 4 months ago to be eligible for another mRNA booster.
- CDC Data Includes Findings on Teens’ Mental Health During Pandemic: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data on the mental health of high school students during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, 37 percent of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health during the pandemic and 44 percent reported they persistently felt sad or hopeless during the past year. Other challenges including emotional abuse, physical abuse and job loss are included in the data.
- FMCSA Extends Waiver of “Under-the-Hood” Skills for CDL Application: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) granted a 90-day extension (to June 30, 2022) of its temporary waiver of the “under-the-hood” skills test that is part of a new commercial driver’s license (CDL) application. This action was taken in response to challenges with recruitment of new school bus drivers during the pandemic.
- CMS Releases Guidance on Medicaid Access Monitoring Review Plans: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released an information bulletin to inform states that the agency is exercising enforcement discretion during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) with regard to state submissions of updated Medicaid access monitoring review plans and will delay enforcement of the requirement that states submit updated plans by October 1, 2022. Given the demands on state Medicaid agencies during the PHE, CMS is delaying enforcement of the requirement for states to submit updated plans that otherwise would be due by October 1, 2022, until October 1, 2024.
- White House Releases Tool Kit to Help Schools Improve Air Quality and Energy Efficiency: The White House released a tool kit to help schools and school districts access available funding, as well as technical assistance opportunities and planning tools, to help schools improve air quality, energy efficiency, and more. The toolkit highlights multiple applicable funding sources, including those authorized in COVID-19 relief bills.
- FEMA Extends Emergency Non-Congregate Sheltering Policy: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) extended the current policy on non-congregate sheltering in non-COVID-10 incidents through July 1, 2022.
IIJA Implementation Resources Released
Federal agencies continue to release implementation resources pertaining to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
- The Department of Energy (DOE) announced it is accepting applications from states, Tribes, and territories for $3.17 billion in new funding through the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). This expanded funding, enabled by the IIJA, will allow recipients to retrofit thousands of low-income homes to make them healthier and more energy efficient while lowering utility bills. The state and territory allocation table can be found here.
- The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced new guidance and increased funding for the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside; the IIJA nearly doubled the funding from $850 million annually to an average annual of $1.44 billion from 2022 through 2026. The program helps state and local governments carry out projects that create safer streets, Safe Routes to School programs, and other local community projects. A fact sheet can be found here.
- The White House announced the administration will invest more than $2.7 billion in funding to 300 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects through the country focused on strengthening ports and waterways.
- The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced that the Bureau of Reclamation will invest $420 million for rural water construction activities in fiscal year 2022, as authorized by the IIJA. The investment includes work related to pipeline connections, construction of water treatment plants and intakes, pump systems, reservoir construction and other efforts to provide potable water to rural and Tribal communities. Projects are eligible for the funding across six states: Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota.
- The Department of Energy released a Request for Information for a $500 million grant program from the IIJA for K-12 public school energy upgrades. Public school facilities will be eligible for energy improvements that result in a direct reduction in school energy costs, including improvements to the air conditioning and heating, ventilation, hot water heating, and lighting systems. In addition, funding would support any improvement, repair, renovation to, or installation in a school that leads to an improvement in teacher and student health. Comments on the request must be submitted by May 18.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new online resources to help school districts and other eligible recipients prepare for the $5 billion Clean School Bus Program created by the IIJA. EPA anticipates it will begin accepting applications for Clean School Bus Rebates in late April 2022. The resources include an email sign up, webinar, listening session, instructions for setting up an account and a tool for creating a fleet inventory. The Clean School Bus Program page can be found here.
- The Department of Energy (DOE) released the State Energy Security Plan Administrative and Legal Requirements Document. The purpose of the document is to provide initial guidance for a portion of the $500 million appropriated for State Energy Program (SEP) formula awards under the IIJA and to alert states that all future distributions of financial assistance through SEP will require the submission to DOE of a State Energy Security Plan that meets the requirements set out by the IIJA. DOE has determined that states may access a portion of their IIJA allocation to prepare a State Energy Security Plan; applications are due by May 3.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) updated its questions and answers for the State Revolving Fund under the IIJA. Additional information on program funding can be found here.
House Passes Bill to Cap Insulin Prices
On Thursday the House voted 232-193 to advance H.R. 6833, the Affordable Insulin Now Act. The bill caps cost-sharing under private health insurance for a month's supply of selected insulin products at $35 or 25 percent of a plan's negotiated price (after any price concessions), whichever is less, beginning in 2023. The bill also caps cost-sharing under the Medicare prescription drug benefit for a month's supply of covered insulin products at $35 beginning in 2023. The Senate is working on a separate bill, and it is unknown at this time when that chamber will consider the House-passed bill.
USDA Issues Final Rule on Organic Dairy Producers
Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published the Origin of Livestock (OOL) final rule for organic dairy. The change to the USDA organic regulations is intended to promote a fairer and more competitive market for all organic dairy producers, by making sure that certified USDA organic dairy products are produced to the same consistent standard. The department’s National Organic Program will oversee the new rule, which will allow a dairy livestock operation transitioning to organic, or starting a new organic farm, to transition non-organic animals at one time and prohibits organic dairies from sourcing any transitioned animals. More information on the rule, which is effective June 6, can be found here.
USDA to Provide Payments to Livestock Producers Affected by Drought and Disasters
Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that ranchers who have approved applications through the 2021 Livestock Forage Disaster Program for forage losses due to severe drought or wildfire in 2021 will soon begin receiving emergency relief payments for increases in supplemental feed costs in 2021 through the new Emergency Livestock Relief Program. The continuing resolution signed into law on September 30, 2021 included $10 billion in assistance to agricultural producers impacted by wildfires, droughts, and other disasters experienced during calendar years 2020 and 2021. For impacted ranchers, USDA will leverage data to deliver immediate relief for increases in supplemental feed costs in 2021.
ACF Extends Cash and Medical Assistance for Eligible Refugees
On Thursday the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) announced a notice of change of eligibility period for refugee assistance. Under the change, the Refugee Cash Assistance and Refugee Medical Assistance eligibility period is expanded from eight months to 12 months of assistance for participants whose date of eligibility for Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) benefits is on or after October 1, 2021. According to the agency, “the expansion of the eligibility period will positively impact refugees who are not eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Medicaid in their state of residence by providing extended medical coverage and allowing more time to address any medical and mental health issues that impede their ability to become self-sufficient.”
CMS Releases National Health Projections for 2021-2030
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of the Actuary released the national health projections for 2021-2030 showing estimated growth of 4.2 percent in 2021, down from 9.7 percent in 2020, as supplemental funding for the COVID-19 pandemic declined significantly. Average annual growth in health spending is expected to average 5.1 percent over 2021-2030. The average annual spending growth in Medicaid is projected to be 5.6 percent for 2021-2030, with Medicaid spending growth of 10.4 percent in 2021, associated with rapid gains in enrollment. Over 2022 and 2023, Medicaid spending growth is expected to slow to 5.7 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively. This is a result of projected enrollment declines after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), when the continuous enrollment condition under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act expires and states begin to disenroll beneficiaries no longer eligible for Medicaid.
For Your Information
HHS Awards $256.6 Million for Family Planning Services
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded $256.6 million in grant funding to support 76 grantees to deliver family planning services. These grants will restore access to Title X services and fill service gaps. A list of grant awards by state and territory is included in the press release.
CMS Announces $110 Million Through Medicaid’s Money Follows the Person Program
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it will offer more than $110 million to expand access to home and community-based services (HCBS) through Medicaid’s Money Follows the Person (MFP) program. The new notice of funding opportunity makes individual awards of up to $5 million available for more than 20 states and territories not currently participating in MFP; the funds will support initial planning and implementation to get programs off the ground. Applications are due by May 31.
FWS Announces $18 Million for Boating Infrastructure
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced its Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) program will provide more than $18 million in grant funding to 20 states to construct, renovate and maintain marinas and other boating facilities for outdoor recreation. Grantees may also use funds to produce and distribute information and educational materials about the program and recreational boating. Lists of awards can be found here.
USDA Announces $5 Million for Food Security
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service announced $5 million in funding is available to Alaska, Hawaii and the U.S. territories to support small-scale gardening, herding and livestock operations to increase the quantity and quality of locally grown food in food insecure communities. States and territories that receive funding will then competitively grant subawards. Applications are due by June 6.
HRSA Announces New Funding to Support Community-Based Doulas
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced the availability of $4.5 million for hiring, training, certifying, and compensating community-based doulas in areas with high rates of adverse maternal and infant health outcomes. This funding, provided through HRSA’s Healthy Start Initiative, is provided as a supplement to current recipients. Applications are due by May 31.
ACF Releases SSBG Program Guidance
The Administration for Children and Families sent an action transmittal for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) and Consolidated Block Grant (CBG). The notice contains the fiscal year 2023 guidance for the preparation of the Pre-Expenditure Report and Intended Use Plan. The notice also outlines adjustments to the CBG governing policies, laws, and regulations.
HHS Renews Public Health Emergency for Opioid Crisis
The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) renewed, effective April 4, the determination that an opioid public health emergency exists nationwide. The original determination was made on October 26, 2017 and the most recent renewal was effective January 4.
Recently Released Reports
Assessment of Epidemiology Capacity in State Health Departments, 2021
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
State Legislatures Take Up Tax Reform and Relief in 2022
Public Pension Plan Investment Return Assumptions
National Association of State Retirement Administrators
Unemployment Claims Reported for Week Ending March 26
The U.S. Department of Labor released unemployment insurance weekly claims data last Thursday that showed for the week ending March 26, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 202,000. This is an increase of 14,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was revised up by 1,000 from 187,000 to 188,000. The 4-week moving average was 208,500, a decrease of 3,500 from the previous week's revised average of 212,000. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 0.9 percent for the week ending March 19, 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 195,460 in the week ending March 26, an increase of 13,121 (or 7.2 percent) from the previous week.
Economy Adds 431,000 Jobs in March
New data released last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 431,000 in March and the unemployment rate declined to 3.6 percent (down from 3.8 percent). The data also shows that in March there were 6.0 million unemployed persons, down by 318,000. These measures are little different from their values in February 2020 (3.5 percent and 5.7 million, respectively), prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of long-term unemployed (jobless for 27 weeks or more) decreased by 274,000 to 1.4 million, accounting for 23.9 percent of the total unemployed. The labor force participation rate, at 62.4 percent, changed little in March. Among those not in the labor force in March, 874,000 persons were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic, down from 1.2 million in the prior month. In March, notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality (112,000), professional and business services (102,000), retail trade (49,000), manufacturing (38,000), and social assistance (25,000). Employment showed little change in mining, wholesale trade, information, other services, and government. State government jobs decreased by 14,000, with decreases in both state government excluding education (-8,100) and state government education (-5,900). The change in total nonfarm payroll employment was revised up for January (+23,000) and February (+72,000).
Job Openings Little Changed at 11.3 Million in February
The number of job openings was little changed at 11.3 million on the last business day of February, according to data recently released by the U.S. Department of Labor. Job openings decreased in finance and insurance (-63,000) and nondurable goods manufacturing (-39,000) but increased in arts, entertainment, and recreation (+32,000), educational services (+26,000) and federal government (+23,000). The number of hires edged up to 6.7 million (+263,000) and the hires rate was little changed at 4.4 percent. The number of separations was little changed at 6.1 million. The 4.4 million quits reported in February were up slightly (+94,000); many economists closely watch the number of quits as a measure of employee confidence in finding another job. Finally, layoffs and discharges were little changed at 1.4 million. Over the 12 months ending in February, hires totaled 77.0 million and separations totaled 70.6 million, yielding a net employment gain of 6.4 million.