Budget Blog

April 19, 2022 - Washington Report

By Leah Wavrunek posted 04-19-2022 04:18 PM

  

NASBO NEWS

New Resources for Unwinding Emergency Declarations

NASBO’s COVID-19 Relief Funds Guidance and Resources page has been updated to include a compilation of resources that aims to help states as they continue to prepare for the eventual unwinding of pandemic-related emergency declarations. The new section includes general resources, program-specific fact sheets, and links to the various declarations and related actions. This section will be updated as additional resources are released.

 

This Week on the Hill  

The House and Senate are in recess this week but both chambers return the week of April 25.

 

HHS Renews COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

Last week the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra renewed, effective April 16, 2022, the public health emergency declaration originally declared January 31, 2020. The renewal remains in effect for 90 days and the Secretary may extend the declaration for subsequent 90-day periods for as long as the emergency continues. The available temporary 6.2 percentage point increase in the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act expires at the end of the quarter in which the public health emergency ends. When a decision is made to terminate the declaration or let it expire, HHS plans to provide states with 60 days’ notice prior to termination. This resource from the Kaiser Family Foundation looks at implications when the COVID-19 emergency declarations, including the PHE, end.

 

FEMA Hosting Webinar on COVID-19 Public Assistance Deadlines

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is hosting a webinar for state, local, and territorial government officials to explain FEMA’s guidance on Public Assistance deadlines related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinar will be held April 21 at 1p.m. Eastern. Information on how to access the webinar is included in the announcement. 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 and 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 through July 1, 2022, the end date for 100 percent federal funding.

 

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).

  • HRSA to Distribute an Additional $1.75 Billion in Provider Relief Fund Payments: The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced more than $1.75 billion in Provider Relief Fund payments to 3,680 providers across the country. Phase 4 payments reimburse smaller providers for a higher percentage of losses during the pandemic and include bonus payments for providers who serve Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Medicare beneficiaries; with these latest payments, approximately 92 percent of all Phase 4 applications have been processed.
  • HHS Announces $226.5 Million to Launch Community Health Worker Training Program: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the availability of $226.5 million in ARPA funding to launch the Community Health Worker Training Program. This is a new multiyear program focused on education and on-the-job training to build the pipeline of public health workers. Applications are due June 14.
  • USDA Awards $42.9 Million to Rural Health Care Providers and Community Groups: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the establishment of a program under ARPA to expand rural hospitals and providers’ access to COVID-19 vaccines, testing, and supplies. Initial awardees include 93 rural health care organizations and community groups across 22 states, additional awardees will be announced in the coming weeks and months.
  • FCC Commits $37 Million in Emergency Connectivity Funding: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it is committing $37 million in the 13th wave of Emergency Connectivity Fund program support. The latest round of funding is supporting over 170 schools, 30 libraries and 4 consortia. On April 28, the FCC will open a third application filing window that closes May 13 for eligible equipment and services to be delivered or received in the upcoming school year.
  • FWS Announces $9 Million in ARPA Funding for Zoonotic Disease Initiative: The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced its first-ever Zoonotic Disease Initiative, a grant program focused on wildlife disease prevention and preparedness. Authorized under ARPA, the initiative will provide $9 million in available funding to states, territories and Tribes to strengthen early detection, rapid-response and science-based management research to address wildlife disease outbreaks before they cross the barrier from animals to humans and become pandemics. Applications are due by June 11.
  • CRS Releases Brief on State Small Business Credit Initiative: The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released an issue brief on the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), which received funding under ARPA. The brief looks at program implementation, including lessons learned from the original SSBCI in 2010-2017.
  • DHS OIG Issues Management Alert for COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program: The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) issued a management alert for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) COVID-19 Funeral Assistance program, which provides financial assistance to individuals and households to reimburse COVID-19-related funeral expenses. The alert highlights that the program’s operating procedures are inconsistent with previous interpretation of long-standing regulations for ineligible funeral expenses.
  • EDA Provides Update on ARPA Programs: The Economic Development Administration (EDA) provided updates on several programs authorized by ARPA, including which programs have been closed due to overwhelming demand.

 

Administration Actions Related to COVID-19

  • TSA Not Enforcing Travel Mask Mandate After Judicial Decision: The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued a statement on Monday that “due to today’s court ruling, effective immediately, TSA will no longer enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs…CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings at this time.” This statement followed a court ruling that found the CDC’s mask requirement, which had been recently extended to May 3, exceeded the agency’s statutory authority, vacating the mandate.
  • FDA Grants Emergency Use Authorization for First COVID-19 Breath Test: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the first COVID-19 diagnostic test that detects chemical compounds in breath samples. The test is performed by a qualified, trained operator under the supervision of a health care provider licensed or authorized by state law to prescribe tests and can provide results in less than three minutes.
  • FNS Updates Active SNAP Waivers: The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) updated its list of active COVID waivers by state and territory for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). While many of the listed waivers expire June 30, 2022, some have an expiration date of April 30 or May 31.
  • CDC Vaccine Advisory Committee to Meet This Week: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will hold a meeting on Wednesday to discuss how to address COVID-19 booster policy in the future.

 

IIJA Implementation Resources Released

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

  • The Department of Transportation (DOT) highlighted the more than $44 billion in funding available over the next five years for rural communities under the IIJA. This fact sheet highlights IIJA funding opportunities for rural communities to make it easier for rural leaders to find relevant opportunities.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) announced a request for information to collect feedback from stakeholders to inform the implementation of the IIJA’s $225 million in funding for improved building codes. This funding will assist state agencies and partners improve the energy efficiency of the country’s building stock through code upgrades that will ensure more efficient and resilient buildings. The funding will also support increased compliance with energy codes in the form of workforce development in advanced technologies, construction practices, and sustained building science. Comments must be submitted by May 20.
  • The Department of the Interior (DOI) released final guidance to states on how to apply for the first $775 million in initial grant funding available this year for plugging orphaned oil and gas wells under the IIJA. The guidance provides instructions to states on how to apply for initial orphaned well grants of up to $25 million. States will also be eligible for formula and performance grants, with guidance to be released at a later date.
  • The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced that 40 fish passage projects in 23 states and Puerto Rico will receive a total of nearly $38 million in fiscal year 2022 under the IIJA. With a total of $200 million in investments over the next five years, the National Fish Passage Program supports aquatic ecosystem restoration projects and restores free-flowing waters, allowing for enhanced fish migration and protecting communities from flooding.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) issued a request for information on designing equitable, sustainable, and effective revolving loan fund programs. The IIJA appropriated $250 million to be made available to states to implement energy efficiency revolving loan fund capitalization grant programs, enabling states to establish a revolving loan fund to provide loans and grants for commercial and residential energy audits, energy upgrades, and retrofits among other activities. Comments are due by May 6.
  • The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released a revised apportionment of fiscal year 2022 Highway Infrastructure Program funds for the Bridge Formula Program under the IIJA. This update cancels the previous notice dated January 14, 2022. The revision to the apportionment of the Bridge Formula Program funds is required due to the discovery of data entry errors in the bridge replacement costs used in the statutory formula.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) opened the application process for IIJA funding to modernize air traffic control towers at many small town and municipal airports. The FAA Contract Tower Competitive Grant program provides $20 million annually for five years within the newly established Airport Infrastructure Grant program. Grants awarded under this program are at a 100 percent federal participation and no airport match is required. Applications are due by May 16.
  • The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released initial implementation guidance on application of the “Buy America” preference in federal financial assistance programs for infrastructure. The IIJA requires that no later than May 14, 2022 – 180 days after enactment – the head of each covered federal agency shall ensure that “none of the funds made available for a federal financial assistance program for infrastructure, including each deficient program, may be obligated for a project unless all of the iron, steel, manufactured products, and construction materials used in the project are produced in the United States.” The memorandum provides implementation guidance to federal agencies on the application of the “Buy America” preference and a transparent process to waive such a preference when necessary.

 

FEMA Releases $405.1 Million EMPG Funding Notice

On Wednesday the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released the funding notice for the Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) program, making $405.1 million available. The program focuses on planning, operations, equipment acquisitions, training, exercises, construction, and renovation. Per the announcement, this is one of the highest ever annual amounts awarded for this grant, due to the combined release of $355.1 million in the omnibus appropriations bill and $50 million appropriated through the Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. Eligible applicants must submit an initial application by June 6. A list of pre-award determinations for each state and territory is included in the release.

 

USDA Announces $238.3 Million for Secure Rural Schools Program

On Friday the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service announced investment of $238.3 million to support public schools, roads, and other municipal services through the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Program, delivering payments to 742 eligible counties in 41 states and Puerto Rico. The program was reauthorized for fiscal years 2021 through 2023 under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Since 1908, 25 percent of Forest Service revenues from timber sales, mineral leases, livestock grazing, recreation fees, and other funding sources are shared with states and counties that have national forests. A list of fiscal year 2021 payments is included in the press release.

 

Interior Announces Reformed Oil and Gas Leases on Public Lands, Increased Rates

On Friday the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will post notices for significantly reformed onshore lease sales, following release of a November report that found federal oil and gas leasing programs and their administration have remained virtually unchanged for decades. The lease sales will incorporate many of the recommendations in the department’s report, including ensuring Tribal consultation and broad community input, reliance of the best available science including analysis of greenhouse gas emissions, and a first-ever increase in the royalty rate for new competitive leases to 18.75 percent. The final sale notices will offer approximately 173 parcels on roughly 144,000 acres, an 80 percent reduction from the acreage originally nominated.

 

CEQ Restores Elements of National Environmental Policy Act Regulations

Today the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) finalized a targeted regulation that restores three basic elements of its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations, including a reaffirmation that federal agencies must evaluate all relevant environmental impacts, including those associated with climate change, during environmental reviews. The amendments generally restore provisions that were in effect before being modified in 2020 and represent the first step in a two-phase approach to reform and modernize the regulations that guide the implementation of NEPA.

 

Administration Announces Actions to Improve Maternal Health

Last Wednesday the Vice President convened a meeting with cabinet secretaries and agency leaders to discuss the administration’s whole-of-government approach to addressing maternal mortality and morbidity. New actions announced by the administration include: 11 additional states and the District of Columbia have requested to extend Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage to a full year after pregnancy under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), in addition to the four states already approved; proposal of a “Birthing-Friendly” hospital designation to assist consumers in choosing hospitals; engaging the health care industry to improve health outcomes; approximately $16 million to strengthen the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) programs in eight states; $9 million in new funding for the State Maternal Health Innovation and Implementation Program; and posting a new Maternal Health Best Practices Guide for telehealth.

 

DOL Launches National Emphasis Program on Heat Hazards

Last week the Department of Labor (DOL) announced the launch of a National Emphasis Program to protect workers from heat illness and injuries. Through the program, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will proactively initiate inspections in over 70 high-risk industries in indoor and outdoor work settings when the National Weather Service has issued a heat warning or advisory for a local area. On days when the heat index is 80 degrees F or higher, OSHA inspectors and compliance assistance specialists will engage in proactive outreach and technical assistance to help stakeholders keep workers safe on the job. Inspectors will look for and address heat hazards during inspections, regardless of whether the industry is targeted in the National Emphasis Program. A fact sheet can be found here.

 

Administration Launches Year of Evidence for Action

The White House recently released a fact sheet on the administration’s “Year of Evidence for Action,” a series of initiatives that will involve sharing leading practices from federal agencies to generate and use evidence to advance equity, strengthen evidence-based decision-making within the federal government, and increase connection and collaboration among researchers and policymakers inside and outside the federal government. The fact sheet cites new requirements around data collection and independent evaluation of certain Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) grant programs, evidence-based efforts and grant requirements out of the U.S. Department of Labor, and numerous other examples of an increased focus at the federal level on using evidence in decision-making. Ongoing activities throughout the Year of Evidence will be showcased at Evaluation.gov.

 

OJJDP Releases Blog Highlighting Youth Reentry Resources

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) recently published a blog highlighting the resources available to enhance youth reentry efforts. In particular, OJJDP encourages those who work with reentering youth to use their toolkit, Reentry Starts Here: A Guide for Youth in Long-Term Juvenile Corrections or Treatment Programs. The guide features practical tips, straightforward explanations, and customizable content in three sections: planning for reentry, returning to your community, and a pocket guide for youth.

 

EPA Releases Workplan to Protect Endangered Species, Support Sustainable Agriculture

Last week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its first-ever comprehensive workplan to address the challenge of protecting endangered species from pesticides. The plan establishes four overall strategies and dozens of actions to adopt those protections while providing farmers, public health authorities, and others with access to pesticides. EPA currently has over 50 pesticide ingredients, covering over 1,000 pesticide products, with court-enforceable deadlines to comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) or in pending litigation alleging ESA violations, creating uncertainty. Over the coming months, EPA will engage with a wide range of stakeholders, including state agencies, to identify opportunities for collaboration and will continue seeking input on more effective and efficient ways to meet its ESA obligations.

 

For Your Information

USDA Announces $9.98 Million to Strengthen Specialty Crop Industry

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it has awarded $9.98 million to 14 collaborative, multi-state projects impacting 28 states to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. specialty crops. Funding is awarded competitively to state departments of agriculture that partner with stakeholder organizations in two or more states. In this fiscal year 2022 cycle, USDA received 79 applications and funded 14.

 

FTA Announces Initiative to Use Transit Buses to Generate Power During Disasters

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) published a $1 million notice of funding opportunity for an organization or partnership to develop standards for exportable power systems from electric and fuel cell-powered buses, which can supply electricity to community buildings, emergency shelters and hospitals during power disruptions. Applications are due by June 13.

 

EDA Announces FY2022 Build to Scale Funding Opportunity

The Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced the opening of the fiscal year 2022, $45 million Build to Scale program, which is designed to invest in regional economies through scalable business startups. The fiscal year 2022 Build to Scale program is comprised of two competitions—the Venture Challenge and the Capital Challenge. Eligible applicants include states and other political subdivisions of states. Applications are due June 13.

 

FEMA Awards $150 Million for Emergency Food and Shelter Program at Southern Border

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded $150 million in funding to the National Board for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) for distribution to organizations assisting migrants at the southern border. The funding was authorized in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022.

 

Recently Released Reports

The Impact of COVID-19 on Juvenile Justice Systems: Practice Changes, Lessons Learned, and Future Considerations

Council of Juvenile Justice Administrators

Discretionary Transportation Grants: DOT Should Clarify Application Requirements and Oversight Activities

U.S. Government Accountability Office

How Many Public Workers without Social Security Could Fall Short?

Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

 

Economic News

Unemployment Claims Reported for Week Ending April 9

The U.S. Department of Labor released unemployment insurance weekly claims data last Thursday that showed for the week ending April 9, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 185,000. This is an increase of 18,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was revised up by 1,000 from 166,000 to 167,000. The 4-week moving average was 172,250, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week's revised average of 170,250. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.1 percent for the week ending April 2, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 222,545 in the week ending April 9, an increase of 28,151 (or 14.5 percent) from the previous week.

 

Unemployment Rates Lower in 37 States in March

New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows unemployment rates were lower in March in 37 states and stable in 13 states and the District of Columbia. Compared to one year earlier, all 50 states and the District of Columbia had jobless rate decreases. The national jobless rate, 3.6 percent, declined by 0.2 percentage point over the month and was 2.4 points lower than in March 2021. Looking across states, 15 states had unemployment rates lower than the U.S. figure of 3.6 percent, 13 states and the District had higher rates, and 22 states had rates that were not appreciably different. Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 10 states and was essentially unchanged in 40 states and the District of Columbia. Over the year, nonfarm payroll employment increased in 49 states and the District and was essentially unchanged in 1 state.