Budget Blog

April 25, 2022 - Washington Report

By Leah Wavrunek posted 04-25-2022 04:49 PM

  

This Week on the Hill  

The Senate convenes today and the House tomorrow. Both chambers return for an extended work period, with an expected focus on additional COVID relief funds and assistance for Ukraine, while work also begins on fiscal year 2023 appropriation bills.

The House convenes Tuesday and will take up several bills over the balance of the week related to small businesses, conservation, and international security. The Senate convenes today to consider a nomination to the Federal Reserve.

 

Treasury Releases New SLFRF Reporting Webinar

Last week the Treasury Department posted a new webinar on project and expenditure reporting for the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF), focused on submissions using all expenditure categories. All webinars released to date, including reporting under revenue replacement, can be found here.

 

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 $105 Million to Prepare for 988 Transition: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is awarding nearly $105 million in ARPA grant funding to 54 states and territories in advance of the transition of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to the 988 dialing code in July. States and territories are expected to use the funds to improve response rates, increase capacity to meet future demand, and ensure calls initiated in their states or territories are first routed to local, regional, or state crisis call centers, and may also use these funds to build the workforce necessary for enhancing local text and chat response. A list of recipients can be found here.
  • HRSA Announces Nearly $90 Million to Collect Data and Reduce Disparities: The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced the availability of nearly $90 million in ARPA funding to support new data-driven efforts for Health Center Program-supported health centers and look-alikes to identify and reduce health disparities. The initiative is designed to collect more and better data on social determinants of health, while also streamlining and improving data quality reporting for health centers. Applications are due by May 23.
  • Treasury Extends Tribal Government Application Deadline for SSBCI: The Treasury Department is extending the deadlines for Tribal governments to initiate and submit their complete State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) Capital Program application and application for Technical Assistance to September 1, 2022.
  • 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: Pennsylvania. To date, a total of 25 states/territories have been approved.
  • Education Updates Homeless Children and Youth Program FAQs: The Department of Education updated its frequently asked questions (FAQs) for the ARP-Homeless Children and Youth (ARP-HCY) program. The new question, labeled April 2022, addresses if a state educational agency (SEA) can amend its approved ARP-HCY plan.

 

Administration Actions Related to COVID-19

  • Administration Appeals Court Ruling on Transportation Mask Requirement: The Justice Department will appeal a judge’s ruling that ended a mask requirement for public transportation, following a request from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Per its statement, “It is CDC’s continuing assessment that at this time an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health.”
  • CDC Launches New Forecasting Center: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the launch of the Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analysis. The center’s goals are to improve outbreak response using infectious disease modeling and analytics and to provide support to leaders at the federal, state, and local levels with its work focused on three main pillars: to predict, inform and innovate.

 

IIJA Implementation Resources Released

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

  • The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced a new program unlocking $6.4 billion in formula funding for states and localities over five years. The new Carbon Reduction Program (CRP), created under the IIJA, will help states develop carbon reduction strategies. FHWA also released a fact sheet, guidance, and state-by-state funding estimates.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) announced plans to seek applications and sealed bid admissions under the $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) program to support the continued operation of U.S. nuclear reactors. The guidance directs owners or operators of nuclear power reactors that are expected to shut down due to economic circumstances on how to apply for funding to avoid premature closure. The first CNC award cycle will prioritize reactors that have already announced their intention to cease operations while future CNC award cycles — including for the second to be launched in the first quarter of FY2023 — will not be limited to nuclear reactors that have publicly announced their intentions to retire. 
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an investment of $420 million in 132 infrastructure projects in 31 states, including rehabilitating dams, flood prevention, and watershed restoration projects. A list of recipients can be found under each program utilizing funding: the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program and Watershed Rehabilitation Program.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) issued a request for information to support $84 million in enhanced geothermal systems (ESG) pilot demonstration projects included in the IIJA. The request solicits feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on demonstration project attributes and outcomes that will most likely lead to successful EGS deployment in the future. Responses are due by May 13.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) invited public comments on draft guidance to implement two provisions of the IIJA that provide $20 million of rebates to support electric system upgrades for utilities and save commercial building operators money on their utility bills.
  • The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) published frequently asked questions (FAQs) on new requirements for public transportation safety plans under the IIJA. The FAQs address topics including applicability, safety committees, infectious disease exposure, and training.
  • The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released information on federal funding available for electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure on the National Highway System. The document highlights the policies and funding available today for partners in states, Tribes, territories, metropolitan planning organizations, and federal land management agencies to build out EV chargers.

 

DOT Launches Website on Flexible Funding Across Programs

The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently launched a new website that highlights flexible funding for transit access. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) are working together to promote safer routes to transit and help local policymakers better connect their communities through Complete Streets. Transferring, or flexing, funds from Federal Highway programs to the Federal Transit program facilitates federal investments at the local level for measures that improve access, particularly for underserved groups. The website includes frequently asked questions about flexible funding, highway programs that can be flexed to transit programs, and flex funding project examples.

 

DOL Proposes Rule on Wagner-Peyser Act Employment Services Staffing

Last week the Department of Labor (DOL) announced a proposed rule seeking public comment on proposed revisions to Wagner-Peyser Act regulations to include Employment Service staff in public employment offices in state merit systems and improve service delivery for migrant and seasonal farmworkers. If finalized, the rule would require states to use state merit staff to provide Employment Service (ES) services and extend the merit-staffing requirement to those states that previously had been operating different staffing models. The proposed changes would create a uniform standard of ES services provision for all states and align the use of state merit staff for ES services with the requirement that states administer the Unemployment Insurance (UI) programs with state merit staff. Additionally, DOL is proposing revisions to the ES regulations to strengthen the provision of services to migrant and seasonal farmworkers and enhance protections, including strengthening the status of state monitor advocates and clarifying their role. Comments are due by June 21.

 

Education Announces Changes to Student Loan Repayment Programs

Last week the Department of Education announced changes in student loan programs, which Federal Student Aid estimates will result in immediate debt cancellation for at least 40,000 borrowers under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Several thousand borrowers with older loans will receive forgiveness through income-driven repayment (IDR) while more than 3.6 million borrowers will also receive at least three years of additional credit towards income-driven repayment forgiveness. The changes include conducting a one-time account adjustment to count certain long-term forbearances toward IDR and PSLF forgiveness; increasing oversight of servicers’ forbearance use; conducting a one-time revision of IDR payments to address past inaccuracies; and permanently fixing IDR payment counting by reforming tracking. Additional information can be found here.

 

White House Releases Domestic Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems National Action Plan

Today the White House released a fact sheet detailing the first whole-of-government plan to address unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or drones) threats in the homeland through the Domestic Counter-UAS National Action Plan. The plan provides eight key recommendations for action including working with Congress to enact a new legislative proposal to expand the set of tools and actors who can protect against UAS, including expanding UAS detection authorities for state, local, territorial and Tribal law enforcement agencies; establishing a list of government-authorized detection equipment; establishing oversight and enablement mechanisms to support critical infrastructure owners and operators; establishing a National Counter-UAS Training Center; and creating a federal UAS incident tracking database.

 

White House Unveils National Drug Control Strategy

On Thursday the White House released its inaugural National Drug Control Strategy, which focuses on two critical drivers of the epidemic – untreated addiction and drug trafficking. The strategy instructs federal agencies to prioritize actions that will save lives, get people the care they need, go after drug traffickers’ profits, and make better use of data to guide these efforts. Specific actions outlined in the strategy include expanding harm reduction interventions like naloxone, expanding access to evidence-based treatment, and reducing the supply of illicit drugs.

 

USDA Launches Rural Partners Network

On Wednesday the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new effort to transform the way federal agencies partner with rural places to create economic opportunity. The Rural Partners Network (RPN) is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between federal agencies and local leaders and residents, launching in selected communities in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, as well as certain Tribes within Arizona. Community networks within these states will receive individualized support with the expertise to navigate federal programs, build relationships and identify additional resources to promote community-driven solutions. The network is expected to expand to additional places in later fiscal year 2022, including Nevada, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Native Alaskan communities.  

 

HHS Announces $385 Million for LIHEAP, Releases Heat Stress Dashboard

Last week the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the award of more than $385 million to help families and individuals with their energy costs through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The funding was provided under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 (P.L. 117-03) and marks the fourth LIHEAP funding release over the past year, following other supplemental releases under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). A table of funding amounts by state and territory can be found here. The department also released resources and tools to help grant recipients mitigate the impact of heat stress on vulnerable populations, including a new LIHEAP Heat Stress Dashboard. The dashboard provides information on the progression of extreme heat over time and the health impacts, plus information showing how LIHEAP funds are used for cooling, summer crisis, and weatherization.

 

USDA Invests Nearly $800 Million in Critical Infrastructure Across Rural America

On Friday the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced an investment of nearly $800 million in climate-smart infrastructure in 40 states, Puerto Rico and Northern Mariana Islands. The funding includes $787 million in renewable energy infrastructure to help agricultural producers, rural small business owners and residents lower energy costs and make energy-efficient improvements and $12 million to help rural communities hit by severe weather. A list of recipients can be found here.

 

For Your Information

FEMA Updates State and Local Mitigation Planning Policy Guides

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) updated the State and Local Mitigation Planning Policy Guides. The policies are the official interpretation of the mitigation planning requirements in the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act), as amended and other federal statutes as well as in federal regulations. The policies become effective for all mitigation plan approvals starting on April 19, 2023. A summary of changes can be found here.

 

USASpending.Gov Adds New Resource

The federal website USASpending.gov released a new resource, the Analyst’s Guide to Federal Spending Data. The guide includes information on effectively using USASpending.gov data, making it easier for users to conduct their own analyses and develop tools using federal spending data.

 

EPA Issues Best Practices for DWSRF Administration

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report highlighting best practices in seven areas related to the accessibility and effective management of Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) programs. The report highlights states’ programs that assist disadvantaged communities and small public water systems in completing their State Revolving Fund applications.

 

HHS Releases New Data and Report on Hospital and Nursing Home Ownership

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released data on mergers, acquisitions, consolidations, and changes of ownership from 2016-2022 for hospitals and nursing homes enrolled in Medicare. This data is a new tool for researchers, state and federal enforcement agencies, and the public to better understand the impacts of consolidation on health care prices and quality of care. HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) also released a related report that analyzes the new CMS data examining trends in changes of ownership over the past six years.

 

Recently Released Reports

Fiscal Considerations for the Future of Telehealth

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

How COVID-19 Shifted the Balance of Payments Between the States and Federal Government

Rockefeller Institute of Government

State Profiles Highlight Variations in How Many Low-Income Medicare Beneficiaries Get Additional Help with Their Medicare Costs

Kaiser Family Foundation

Federal-Aid Highways: Information on State Use and Oversight of Engineering Consultants

U.S. Government Accountability Office

 

Economic News

Unemployment Claims Reported for Week Ending April 16

The U.S. Department of Labor released unemployment insurance weekly claims data last Thursday that showed for the week ending April 16, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 184,000. This is an increase of 2,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was revised up by 1,000 from 185,000 to 186,000. The 4-week moving average was 177,250, an increase of 4,500 from the previous week's revised average of 172,250. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.0 percent for the week ending April 9, 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 196,897 in the week ending April 16, a decrease of 27,235 (or -12.2 percent) from the previous week.

 

Job Openings Rates Little Changed in 31 States in February

New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that job openings rates decreased in 13 states, increased in 6 states, and were little changed in 31 states and the District of Columbia in February. Hires rates increased in 6 states, decreased in 3 states, and were little changed in 41 states and the District of Columbia. Total separations rates increased in 6 states, decreased in 1 state, and were little changed in 43 states and the District while quits rates increased in 7 states and decreased in 5 states. Nationally, the job openings rate was unchanged in February, and hires and total separations rates were little changed.