Budget Blog

April 12, 2022 - Washington Report

By Leah Wavrunek posted 04-12-2022 03:55 PM

  

This Week on the Hill  

The House and Senate are in recess this week.

After announcing a bipartisan agreement on a $10 billion COVID-19 supplemental bill last week, the Senate did not vote on the measure after a potential amendment was raised regarding immigration. The Senate may consider the bill when the chamber returns from recess the week of April 25.

 

Treasury Updates SLFRF, ERA Implementation Resources

Last week the Treasury Department released and updated resources for implementation of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF) and Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program. First, the department posted a webinar recording on the Project and Expenditure Report – Reporting under Revenue Replacement, to provide an overview of revenue replacement reporting. Second, the department updated the NEU and Non-UGLGs Agreements and Supporting Documents User Guide, releasing Version 2. According to the revision log (pg. 13), the update reflects changes in functionality related to submission of documents. Last, the department updated the ERA form for requesting voluntarily reallocated funds. Grantees requesting to have their funds voluntarily reallocated should continue to use this template letter.

 

FEMA Issues Updated Advisory on Funding to Support the Safe Operation of Schools

On Wednesday the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued an updated 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. This follows the April 5 release of the original advisory, included in last week’s Washington Report. 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 costs before reimbursement is sought. Schools and school districts must apply for reimbursement through their state, territory or Tribal nation.

 

Treasury Publishes Approved HAF Plans for State Programs, Promising Practices

On Wednesday the Treasury Department published approved Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) plans for state programs. In 2021, Treasury released 10 percent of each participant’s HAF allocation to implement pilot programs and required HAF participants to submit implementation plans for review by Treasury before disbursing remaining funds. The information posted includes recipient name, allocated amount, plan requested amount, and documentation including submitted narrative, portal submission, term sheets, and feedback. The department also published promising practices for Helping Homeowners Determine Their Best Options and Strategic Outreach.

 

OMB Announces 2021 Compliance Supplement Technical Update Affecting SLFRF

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently announced that the 2021 Compliance Supplement Technical Update is available on the website of the Chief Financial Officers Council. The 2021 Compliance Supplement Technical Update document provides an update for two programs that were included with the 2021 Compliance Supplement (issued on August 13, 2021 – FR Doc. 2021-17363) and Addendum 1 (issued on December 3, 2021 - FR Doc. 2021-26238). The two programs are: (1) the Department of Health and Human Services Assistance Listing 93.498 - Provider Relief Fund and (2) Treasury Assistance Listing 21.027 - Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF). It also provides an update to Part 8 Appendix VII to add the alternative compliance examination engagement in accordance with the Government Accountability Office’s Government Auditing Standards for eligible recipients of the SLFRF. The update for the SLFRF includes a simplified Single Audit process designed for entities that would otherwise not be required to undergo an audit pursuant to 2 CFR Part 200, Subpart F, if it was not for the expenditure of SLFRF funds directly awarded by the Treasury Department. This information has also been added to the SLFRF website under compliance and reporting responsibilities.

 

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).

  • Education Consolidates Information/Administration of Relief Programs: The Department of Education unveiled a new website for the Office of State and Grantee Relations. The office administers seven COVID-19 relief programs under the CARES Act, CRRSA Act, and ARPA including the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund and Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund.
  • HUD Makes Additional $3.3 Million Available to Fight Housing Discrimination: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it is making an additional $3.3 million in ARPA funding available to help its Fair Housing Initiatives Program agencies combat housing discrimination related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This constitutes the third round of funding, with approximately $16.1 million awarded to 62 agencies to date. Applications are due by May 5.
  • FEMA Releases Updated Funeral Assistance Data by State and Territory: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has provided more than $2.1 billion to over 320,000 people to assist with COVID-19-related funeral costs for deaths occurring on or after January 20, 2020. The press release includes state and territory data on number of applications, amount approved, and number of awards as of April 4.
  • 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: Maine. To date, a total of 24 states/territories have been approved.
  • Treasury Releases Fact Sheet on Implementation of ARPA Programs Prioritizing Equity: The Treasury Department released a fact sheet on how the department’s implementation of ARPA programs prioritizes equity, highlighting flexibilities, broader uses, and robust collaboration and engagement.
  • ACF Announces Release of LIHWAP Data Dashboard: The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) issued a Dear Colleague letter for Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) grant recipients and stakeholders. The letter serves as notification that the LIHWAP data dashboard has been publicly released; the dashboard visually tracks, analyzes and displays key performance indicators. Currently, state grant recipient information is available, with territory and Tribal information expected in May.

 

Administration Actions Related to COVID-19

  • Administration Extends Student Loan Pause Through August 31: The Department of Education announced an extension of the pause on student loan repayment, interest and collections through August 31, 2022. The department will continue to prepare to transition borrowers back into repayment, including allowing all borrowers with paused loans to receive a “fresh start” on repayment by eliminating the impact of delinquency and default and allowing them to reenter repayment in good standing. Additional information can be found here.
  • ACL Releases Fact Sheet on Preparing for Medicaid Changes After PHE Expires: The Administration for Community Living (ACL) developed a new fact sheet to help grantees prepare for Medicaid changes when the Public Health Emergency (PHE) expires. The fact sheet details five things the aging and disability networks should know about the end of the PHE.
  • KFF Resource Provides Overview of Implications for Expiration of COVID-19 Emergency Declarations: The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) released an issue brief that provides an overview of the major health-related COVID-19 federal emergency declarations that have been made, summarizes the flexibilities triggered by each, and identifies the implications for their ending.
  • CRS Releases Brief on FMAP Increase for Title IV-E Foster Care and Permanency Payments: The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a brief on the temporary Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) increase for Title IV-E foster care and permanency payments. The brief provides information on the program, program costs that receive federal support at the FMAP, distribution of funds, and requirements that a state must meet to receive the increased FMAP.
  • CMS Returning to Certain Pre-COVID-19 Policies in Long-Term Care and Other Facilities: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced guidance that restores certain minimum standards for compliance with CMS requirements, which will be accomplished by phasing out some temporary emergency declaration waivers that have been in effect throughout the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE). CMS will retain the ability until the expiration or termination of the national COVID-19 PHE to issue individual state-based, county-based, or facility-based waivers as needed.
  • CMS Announces Eligible Individuals Can Receive Second Booster Shot at No Cost: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it will pay for a second COVID-19 booster shot of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines without cost sharing. People with Medicare pay nothing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and there is no applicable copayment, coinsurance or deductible; people with Medicaid coverage can also get COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, at no cost.
  • President Directs Federal Agencies to Research and Treat Long COVID: The President released a memorandum for the heads of executive departments and agencies, directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to coordinate a government-wide response to the long-term effects of COVID-19. The Secretary must publish a public report within 120 days outlining services and mechanisms of support across agencies to assist the public while also coordinating an interagency national research agenda on long COVID.
  • FDA Updates Authorization for Monoclonal Antibody Sotrovimab: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated its emergency use authorization for sotrovimab, a monoclonal antibody used for the treatment for COVID-19. Per the FDA, sotrovimab is no longer authorized to treat COVID-19 in any U.S. region due to increases in the proportion of cases caused by the Omicron BA.2 sub-variant, as the authorized dose of sotrovimab is unlikely to be effective against the sub-variant.
  • FNS Issues Policy Clarification on SNAP COVID-19 Voluntary Quit and Good Cause: The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released a policy clarification for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The memorandum provides guidance to state agencies on how to determine if an individual has good cause for not meeting the general work requirement in situations related to COVID-19 workplace safeguards and vaccination requirements. State agencies must ensure that good cause determinations for not meeting the general work requirement are in line with federal law.

 

House Passes $55 Billion Aid Package for Restaurants, Other Businesses

On Thursday the House voted 223-203 mostly along party lines to advance H.R. 3807, the Relief for Restaurants and Other Hard Hit Small Businesses Act of 2022. The bill would provide $55 billion in relief to small businesses through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund and establish a new program for hard-hit industries. The bill provides $42 billion to replenish the restaurant fund to help fund applicants that did not receive an award under the original Restaurant Revitalization Fund, authorized at $28.6 billion under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Additionally, the bill provides $13 billion to establish the Hard Hit Industries Award Program to assist small businesses with 200 or fewer employees that have experienced 40 percent or more in lost revenue. A bipartisan Senate package, S. 4088, was not considered in that chamber before the recess and it is unclear if the Senate will take up the House version or reconcile differences on the bills.

 

IIJA Implementation Resources Released

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

  • The administration released a rural playbook for the IIJA, designed to be a roadmap for delivering opportunity and investments in rural America. The playbook is intended to help rural communities understand the available funding for infrastructure provided by the IIJA and other sources. The administration also released links to fact sheets from seven agencies that highlight how to leverage agency resources and capabilities as well as a rural cost share analysis to provide easy access to eligibility information.
  • The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced a more than $20 billion investment in transit. As part of the announcement, FTA released apportionment tables for each of 30 programs for fiscal year 2022. The new tables reflect funding increases authorized by the IIJA and supersede partial-year tables posted in February 2022, prior to enactment of the fiscal year 2022 omnibus appropriations bill.
  • The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced it is investing $46 million in funding to Tribal communities to address the unique impacts of climate change in Indigenous communities. The initial funding, made available from the IIJA and fiscal year 2022 appropriations, is available for projects and initiatives that address and strengthen climate resilience and adaptation; ocean and coastal management; and more.
  • The Department of the Interior (DOI) released a five-year monitoring, maintenance and treatment plan to address wildfire risk. The IIJA provides $1.5 billion to the Wildland Fire Management Program to address wildfire risk and prepare communities and ecosystems against the threat of wildfire by making historic investments in forest restoration, hazardous fuels management and post-wildfire restoration. This plan is a roadmap for achieving those objectives in coordination with federal, non-federal, and Tribal partners.
  • The Bureau of Reclamation updated its frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the bureau’s IIJA funding. The FAQs address topics including funding opportunity announcements, types of grant opportunities available, and where to find recorded presentations.
  • The Department of the Interior (DOI) released a notice of information collection associated with the administration of grants related to orphaned well site plugging, remediation, and restoration, including grants to states. The notice details the types of information the department plans to collect in administering the grant process. Comments on the notice are due by May 31.
  • The Department of Education Office of Educational Technology posted information on Digital Equity Education Roundtables (DEER), noting that the IIJA addresses digital equity through a historic $65 billion investment. To access Digital Equity Act capacity building funds, states are required to identify barriers to digital inclusion and set measurable objectives to address them. The office will host a series of national convenings to identify adoption barriers and promising solutions, in addition to publishing a resource on equitable broadband adoption strategies to inform the digital equity plans. Additional information can be found in this blog.
  • The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) sent an implementation blueprint to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), outlining recommendations for implementation of the IIJA. One general consideration included is that where a range of possible legislative interpretations exist, the USDOT should provide interpretations that allow each state to best meet its unique needs.

 

President Announces Sale of Summer E15 Gasoline to Address High Gas Prices

Today the President announced that the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is planning to allow E15 gasoline – gasoline that uses a 15 percent ethanol blend – to be sold this summer to expand access to affordable fuel and reduce gasoline prices. To make E15 available in the summer, the EPA is planning to issue a national, emergency waiver; without the waiver, E15 cannot be used in most of the country from June 1 to September 15. The EPA plans to take final action to issue the emergency waiver closer to June 1. Per the announcement, E15 can save a family 10 cents per gallon of gas on average. In implementing the waiver, EPA will work with states to ensure there are no significant air quality impacts through the summer driving season.

 

DOI and USDA Propose $2.8 Billion in Great American Outdoors Act Investments for FY2023

On Friday the Departments of the Interior (DOI) and Agriculture (USDA) announced their proposed fiscal year 2023 allocations of $2.8 billion in projects, grants, and programs authorized in the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) to support local economies, outdoor recreation, access to public lands and voluntary national conservation efforts in every state. The act established the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund (LRF), authorized at up to $1.9 billion annually from fiscal years 2021-2025 to reduce deferred maintenance on public lands and at Indian schools. The law also provides permanent, full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually to secure public access and improve recreation opportunities on public lands.

 

EPA Proposes Ban on Most Remaining Uses of Asbestos, Addresses Nutrient Pollution

Last week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced two regulatory actions. First, the agency released a proposed rule to prohibit ongoing uses of the only known form of asbestos currently imported into the country. The substance is found in products including sheet gaskets, brake blocks, and other vehicle friction products. Comments on the proposed rule are due by June 13. Second, the agency released a new policy memorandum on Accelerating Nutrient Pollution Reductions in the Nation’s Waters. In the memo, EPA commits to deepening existing partnerships and fostering new collaboratives with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, states, territories, Tribes, agriculture, industry, and the broader water sector to reduce excess nutrients in the nation’s waters; EPA will also provide technical assistance and other support to help states, territories and Tribes scale effective nutrient loss reduction strategies.

 

FEMA Releases FY2022 Standard Terms and Conditions for Non-Disaster Awards

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently released the standard terms and conditions for all non-disaster financial awards funded in fiscal year 2022. The terms and conditions address topics including environmental planning and history preservation review, applicability to Tribes, acceptance of post award changes, disposition of equipment, prior approval for modification of approved budget, and the indirect cost rate.

 

ACF Posts SSBG Fraud Notice for States and Territories

On Wednesday the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) issued a fraud notice to states and territories for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG). The message is to advise of a significant effort targeting individuals, many who are eligible for services by the Office of Community Services’ programs, including the SSBG. Individuals are being targeted by claims that they won a SSBG award, yet must pay a transaction fee to receive the award. ACF asks state and territory program administrative officials and stakeholders to join the agency in publicizing this information to prevent additional loss.

 

Education Begins Accepting Applications for Efforts to Address Teacher Shortage

Last week the Department of Education announced it is now accepting applications under the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant program for efforts to increase the pipeline of highly effective educators. The SEED program will award $65 million to support the implementation of evidence-based practices that prepare, develop, or enhance the skills of educators. These grants also will enable recipients to develop, expand, and evaluate practices that can serve as models that can be sustained, replicated, and scaled. Applications are due by June 3.

 

VA Releases Information on Actions to Assist Veterans in Reentry

Last week the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) introduced new efforts to improve interagency coordination and expand outreach to criminal justice partners to better help those reentering society after incarceration. On the federal side, the VA will partner with the Social Security Administration and Bureau of Prisons to streamline information-sharing and improve timeliness to reinstate benefits as applicable. The VA will also expand its existing outreach campaign to state prison systems and jails to increase the number of veterans to whom it can offer individualized reentry services and connect more veterans to post-release services while they are still incarcerated. According to the press release, there are approximately 107,400 veterans in state or federal prison and following release, they are at increased risk of homelessness, suicide, and death by drug overdose.

 

FCC Announces Majority of States Joined Robocall Partnerships

On Thursday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced five more state Attorneys General are partnering with the commission in robocall investigations. To date, 27 states and the District of Columbia have signed Memoranda of Understanding with the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau. The Chairwoman also reached out to the remaining states to invite them to establish their own bi-lateral robocall investigation partnership. These partnerships can provide critical resources for building cases and preventing duplicative efforts in protecting consumers and businesses nationwide and the FCC offers resources to support state investigations.

 

Administration Proposes to Fix the “Family Glitch” in the Affordable Care Act

Last week the administration announced plans to eliminate the “family glitch” in health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through proposed rules from the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service. Under current rules, individuals can qualify for ACA marketplace subsidies if their employer requires them to spend more than 9.83 percent of household income on their employer’s health plan premium. This affordability threshold of household income is based on the cost of the employee’s self-only coverage, not the premium required to cover any dependents.

 

FCC Invites Comment on 988 Fees and Revenue Collections

Today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it is seeking information for the annual information collection on 988 funds mandated by the Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020. The act designates 988 as the “universal telephone number within the United States for the purpose of the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system operating through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.” The commission invites submission of information concerning a state’s or jurisdiction’s authority to collect 988 fees or charges, the amount of revenue collected from the fee or charge, and how the revenue collected from the 988 fee or charge was used, covering the period of January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021. Information must be submitted by July 17. FCC will release more detailed information in the coming weeks.

 

For Your Information

DOL Awards $189.5 Million to Support Workforce Agencies

The Department of Labor (DOL) awarded $189.5 million to workforce agencies in 49 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia to operate their Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessments (RESEA) programs; this is a $40 million increase over the previous year. A list of awards by state and territory is included in the press release.

 

MARAD Announces $19.6 Million for Small Shipyard Grants

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) announced the availability of $19.6 million in fiscal year 2022 funding to help modernize small, U.S. shipyards and train workforce in the sector. The grants can be used to purchase equipment or train employees. Applications are due by May 16.

 

ACF Posts FY2022 Runaway and Homeless Youth Basic Center Program State Allocations

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) posted the fiscal year 2022 Runaway and Homeless Youth Basic Center Program state allocation table. The allocation table includes the continuation award plus new awards for a total state allocation for states, territories and the District of Columbia. The all region total is $61.1 million.

 

HUD Publishes CDBG-DR Allocation Table

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published a table for Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) grantees that includes the allocations under P.L. 117-43 for disasters occurring in 2020 and 2021. This represents the final allocation of funds under P.L. 117-43.

 

Homeland Security Releases a Summary of Resources for Law Enforcement Partners

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a new summary of resources for enforcement partners, highlighting many of the resources available including training and grant opportunities. Other topics covered in the guide include preparedness and prevention, cybersecurity, school safety and security, and human trafficking.

 

Recently Released Reports

Addressing Social Determinants of Health in Federal Programs

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State; January - June 2021 Preliminary Data

Governors Highway Safety Association

Governors' Top Education Priorities in 2022 State of the State Addresses

Education Commission of the States/National Governors Association

 

 

Economic News

Unemployment Claims Reported for Week Ending April 2

The U.S. Department of Labor released unemployment insurance weekly claims data last Thursday that showed for the week ending April 2, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 166,000. This is a decrease of 5,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was revised down by 31,000 from 202,000 to 171,000. The 4-week moving average was 170,000, a decrease of 8,000 from the previous week's revised average of 178,000. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.1 percent for the week ending March 26, unchanged from the previous week’s revised rate. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 193,137 in the week ending April 2, a decrease of 3,674 (or -1.9 percent) from the previous week.

 

Consumer Price Index Increased in March as Real Hourly Earnings Declined

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released new data on the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) for March, showing the CPI-U increased 1.2 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.8 percent in February. Over the last twelve months, the all items index increased 8.5 percent before seasonal adjustment, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending December 1981. The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.3 percent in March, while the gasoline index rose 18.3 percent and the food index rose 1.0 percent. Over the last twelve months, the all items index less food and energy index rose 6.5 percent, the largest 12-month change since the period ending August 1982. Meanwhile, real average hourly earnings for all employees decreased 0.8 percent from February to March, seasonally adjusted. This result stems from an increase of 0.4 percent in average hourly earnings combined with an increase of 1.2 percent in the CPI-U.