Budget Blog

May 10, 2022 - Washington Report

By Leah Wavrunek posted 05-10-2022 04:27 PM

  

This Week on the Hill  

The House and Senate are in session this week with an expected focus on Ukraine assistance, veterans and nominations. The House convenes today and will consider 27 bills. For Wednesday and the balance of the week, the House will consider four bills including H.R. 5129, Community Services Block Grant Modernization Act of 2022. The chamber may also vote on legislation to provide $39.8 billion in supplemental aid to Ukraine following an announced decoupling of Ukraine aid from additional COVID-19 aid. The Senate continues consideration of administration nominations, including a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

 

Treasury Posts Draft Capital Projects Fund Compliance and Reporting Guidance for Public Comment

Today the Treasury Department announced the draft Capital Projects Fund (CPF) Compliance and Reporting Guidance for states, territories and freely associated states is available for a 15-day public comment period. Treasury invites interested parties to review and submit comments; all comments must be submitted by following the instructions outlined on regulations.gov by May 25. Treasury notes it will publish the CPF reporting guidance on the program website following the public comment period.

 

Treasury Posts HAF Quarterly Report User Guide, Updates Reporting Guidance

On Monday the Treasury Department posted the Quarterly Report User Guide for the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF). The document provides information on using Treasury’s portal to submit the required HAF quarterly report. The department also updated the Guidance on Participant Compliance and Reporting Responsibilities, with updates outlined in the change log on page 2 of the document, and the HAF Frequently Asked Questions on Reporting Requirements, with changes tracked on page 2. The change log indicates one of the updates is changing the first quarterly report due date.

 

FEMA Seeks Feedback on COVID-19 Public Assistance Programmatic Deadlines Policy

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is seeking public feedback on a draft policy that will establish Public Assistance programmatic and implementation deadlines across all COVID-19 emergency and major disaster declarations; it also describes application of the 100 percent cost share through July 1, 2022 and 90 percent federal cost share effective July 2, 2022. Parties interested in applying for Public Assistance related to the COVID-19 emergency and major disaster declarations are encouraged to review and provide feedback on the policy. FEMA will also host a series of webinars to discuss the upcoming programmatic deadlines and answer related questions; information on timing and how to access the webinar is included in the announcement. FEMA also posted frequently asked questions about disposition requirements for equipment and supplies for all emergency and major disaster declarations for the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Treasury Releases Reporting Guidance for SSBCI Capital Program

On Monday the Treasury Department released reporting guidance for the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) Capital Program. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provided $10 billion for the program, which was created to strengthen capital programs that support private financing to small businesses. The reporting guidance details the reporting and document retention requirements for jurisdictions that receive SSBCI funding; Treasury will create an online portal that participating jurisdictions must use to submit reporting data. The guidance includes deadlines for quarterly and annual reports.  

 

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).

  • USDA to Distribute $50 Million in Aid to Cotton and Wool Apparel Manufacturers: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a commitment of $50 million to assist eligible apparel manufacturers under the new Cotton and Wood Apparel (CAWA) program. This is part of the department’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative and will support eligible entities who experienced certain decreases in 2020. Applications are due by June 17.
  • HHS Announces $16.3 Million to Expand Telehealth Care in Title X Program: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded $16.3 million in ARPA funds to support 31grantees to enhance and expand the telehealth infrastructure and capacity of Title X family planning clinics in 26 states, one territory and one freely associated state. A list of recipients is included in the press release.
  • FCC Commits Nearly $39 Million in Emergency Connectivity Funding: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it is committing nearly $39 million in the 14th wave of Emergency Connectivity Fund support. The latest round is supporting 140 schools, 14 libraries and 1 consortium across the country. May 13 is the last day for schools and libraries to apply for support to purchase eligible equipment and services for the 2022-2023 school year through a third application window the FCC opened last week.
  • Treasury Announces SSBCI Webinars: The Treasury Department announced two webinars for the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). First, a webinar to provide guidance on preparing leverage tables needed for SSBCI equity programs will be held May 12 at 2pm ET, register here. Second, a webinar on the newly released Technical Assistance guidance will be held May 18 at 4pm ET, register here.
  • Secretaries Issue Statement on Foreclosure, Homeowner Assistance Fund: The Secretaries of Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, and Agriculture called on servicers of federally backed mortgages to pause foreclosure proceedings when they are notified by a Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) program administrator of a pending HAF application to avoid harm to vulnerable homeowners. Other HAF resources are included in the press release.
  • FNS Releases New Guidance on Summer Pandemic EBT: The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released new guidance to assist states in the development of Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) plans for summer of 2022.
  • ACF Updates LIHWAP Frequently Asked Questions: The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released an update to frequently asked questions for the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP). The update addresses utility vendors that bundle water and wastewater with other bills, properly applying benefits to household accounts, and providing services for tribal members who reside outside of the Tribe’s jurisdiction.
  • ACF Releases LIHWAP Renters Resource Guide: The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released a renters resource guide to support Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) grant recipients. The guide includes procedural considerations related to serving households who rent and other households not billed directly by water service providers for water and wastewater services.
  • Treasury Releases Notice to Units of Local Government on Participation in ERA2 Deadline: The Treasury Department released a notice to units of local government that have not yet accepted any Emergency Rental Assistance Round 2 (ERA2) funds or executed the ERA2 Award Terms. Any unit of local government that intends to participate in ERA2 must contact the department by 5pm ET on May 16 to indicate its intent to participate.
  • FNS Approves P-EBT Programs for School Year 2021-2022: The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) approved additional states to operate a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program during school year 2021-2022: Connecticut and Nevada. To date, a total of 29 states/territories have been approved.

 

Administration Actions Related to COVID-19

  • FCC Opens Public Comment Period on Use of Text Messages/Calls for Medicaid Resumption of Regular Operations: In response to a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is seeking comment for clarification that certain automated calls and text messages or prerecorded voice calls relating to enrollment in state Medicaid and other governmental health coverage programs are permissible under the Telephone Consumer Protect Act. Comments are due by May 17.
  • CMS Releases Update to Coverage and Reimbursement of COVID-19 Vaccines, Vaccine Administration, and Cost-Sharing Under Medicaid and CHIP Toolkit: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) updated its toolkit for coverage and reimbursement of COVID-19 vaccines, vaccine administration, and cost-sharing under Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Basic Health Program. A list of changes, effective May 6, can be found on page 3 of the toolkit.
  • CDC Recommends Continued Use of Masks on Public Transportation: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a recommendation for masks and travel. The agency recommends that everyone aged 2 and older – including passengers and workers – properly wear a well-fitting mask or respirator in indoor areas of public transportation (such as airplanes, trains, etc.) and transportation hubs (such as airports, stations, etc.).
  • FDA Limits Use of Johnson & Johnson Vaccine: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limited the authorized use of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine to individuals 18 years of age and older for whom other authorized or approved vaccines are not accessible or clinically appropriate, and to individuals 18 years of age and older who elect to receive the Janssen vaccine because they would otherwise not receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The update cites the risk of blood clots to warrant limiting the authorized use of the vaccine.

 

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 more than $2.3 billion for three efforts to advance diverse carbon management approaches that reduce carbon dioxide pollution, address the impacts of climate change, and create jobs. The efforts include a $2.25 billion Notice of Intent, funded by the IIJA, to accelerate geologic carbon storage projects.
  • The Maritime Administration (MARAD) announced that up to $684.3 million is now available for Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP) grants, to be awarded on a competitive basis to projects that improve the safety and efficiency of goods around a port. The funding is comprised of IIJA funds ($450 million) and fiscal year 2022 appropriations ($234.3 million). Applications are due by May 16.
  • The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced $240.4 million for infrastructure repairs in fiscal year 2022 through the Bureau of Reclamation, including significant repairs on canal linings, dam spillways and water pipeline replacements. The funding will support 46 projects. A second application period for extraordinary maintenance funding is planned for October.
  • The Department of the Interior (DOI) made two funding announcements through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). First, DOI announced $10.65 million provided by the IIJA will be used for repairs and upgrades for Indian Affairs-owned water systems that serve workplaces, schools, detention centers and more. Second, the department announced the allocation of nearly $10 million from the IIJA for irrigation projects and power utilities owned by the BIA.
  • The administration announced a commitment from 20 internet service providers, covering more than 80 percent of the U.S. population, to either increase speeds or cut prices to benefit households eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Under the program, eligible households can receive a discount up to $30 per month for internet service and under the commitments, the service providers will ensure they all offer ACP-eligible households high-speed, high-quality internet plans for no more than $30 per month. The administration also launched a website, gov, as part of an effort to make sure as many eligible households as possible take advantage of the new program.

 

Senate Committee Advances Water Resources Reauthorization Bill

On Wednesday the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works voted 20-0 to advance the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act of 2022 (WRDA 2022). The bill authorizes investments in the projects and programs of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and for the first time since 2007, authorizes new environmental infrastructure projects and modifies existing ones. The legislation also authorizes 36 new Corps feasibility studies and authorizes or modifies 21 projects for construction. The committee released the draft bill text, section by section, and bill summary.

 

FEMA Updates Guidance For Homeland Security Programs

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently sent an information bulletin to provide applicants, recipients, and subrecipients of the Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) with additional guidance and priorities regarding the law enforcement terrorism prevention activities (LETPA) requirement. Under law, FEMA is required to ensure that at least 25 percent of the funds appropriated for the HSGP, and related programs, are used for LETPA. For fiscal year 2022, this percentage requirement is being raised from 25 percent to 30 percent.

 

DOJ and EPA Launch Environmental Justice Initiative

Last week the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a series of actions to address environmental justice. The department is launching a new Office of Environmental Justice and the Attorney General announced a new comprehensive environmental justice enforcement strategy, in addition to issuing an interim final rule that will restore the use of supplemental environmental projects (SEP) in appropriate circumstances. SEPs are local projects that defendants can agree to undertake as part of an enforcement case settlement to help rectify environmental violations. Under the enforcement strategy, all U.S. Attorneys are directed to designate an environmental justice coordinator within their office and consider outreach efforts to identify areas of environmental justice concern in communities within their district.  

 

Census Bureau to Release State-by-State Post-Enumeration Survey Results

On Thursday the Census Bureau announced it will release results from the 2020 Post-Enumeration Survey (PES) for the 50 states and District of Columbia on May 19. A webinar will also be held to highlight the results. The release includes coverage estimates for states, including undercount and overcount rates and components of coverage by state and the District, as well as national components of coverage. Results will not be broken down by demographic characteristics or geographic areas within the state given the sample size.

 

BJA Releases Justice Counts Program Solicitation

Last Wednesday the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) released a grant solicitation for the fiscal year 2022 Justice Counts Implementation Program. The solicitation seeks applications for funding to support Justice Counts implementation and funds will support states to adopt a core set of criminal justice metrics – to collect, analyze, and share data in a timely and consistent manner – so policymakers have access to actionable data to make policy and budgetary decisions. For purposes of the solicitation, “state” means any state, District of Columbia, and territories. Applications are due in grants.gov by June 21. Additional information on Justice Counts, including the Tier 1 metrics, can be found here.

 

DoD Announces Temporary Prohibition on Burning Forever Chemicals

Last week the Department of Defense (DoD) issued a memorandum implementing a provision of the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) regarding per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The NDAA requires the department to prohibit the incineration of DoD PFAS materials after April 26, 2022, until DoD issues guidance implementing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) interim guidance on the destruction and disposal of PFAS. DoD is in the final stages of issuing this guidance but because it is not yet finalized, defense components must immediately discontinue contracting activities for the incineration of any PFAS materials.

 

HHS Launches New Maternal Mental Health Hotline

On Friday the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the launch of the Maternal Mental Health Hotline. This is a new, confidential, toll-free hotline for expecting and new moms experiencing mental health challenges. The hotline launched on May 8 with counselors available to provide mental support. The hotline is accessible by phone or text at 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (1-833-943-5746) in English and Spanish.

 

SAMHSA Continues to Update Resources for 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) continues to update resources regarding the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. The resources are designed to help states, territories, Tribes, mental health and substance use disorder professionals, and other stakeholders looking for information on strengthening suicide prevention and mental health crisis services. 988 goes live on all devices on July 16. The page highlights the background of 988, provides a 988 partner toolkit, shares suicide prevention resources and compiles SAMHSA 988 funding.

 

For Your Information

FHWA Announces $1.14 Billion for Bridge Repair and Replacement

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced an additional $1.14 billion in formula funding for bridge repair and replacement. The funding was provided by the fiscal year 2022 appropriations act and complements the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which included $27.5 billion for the Bridge Formula Program and $1.25 billion for the Bridge Investment Program. The apportionments notice can be found here.

 

DOJ Announces $40 Million for Community Policing, $5 Million for Collaborative Reform

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the availability of approximately $40 million in funding in Community Policing Development grants and roughly $5 million for the Collaborative Reform Initiative. Funding will support crisis intervention teams, de-escalation training, accreditation, and anti-bias training, along with organizational assessments. Applications for the community policing funds are due by June 23 and Collaborative Reform applications are due by July 8.

 

DOL Releases Multiple Program Year 2022 Allotments

The Department of Labor (DOL) released Training and Employment Guidance Letter No. 09-21. The letter provides information to states and outlying areas on Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Adult, Dislocated Worker and Youth Activities program allotments for program year 2022, final program year 2022 allotments for the Wagner-Peyser Act Employment Services Program, and program year 2022 allotments of Workforce Information Grants to states.

 

ACF Announces Release of Remaining CSBG Funds for Fiscal Year 2022

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released a Dear Colleague letter for the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG). The letter provides the apportionment of CSBG funding for fiscal year 2022 that represent the full the allocation of available funding for the year. Allocations for states total $725.2 million and $1.01 million for territories.

 

FCC Announces Nearly $200 Million for New Broadband Deployments

The Federal Communications Commission announced it is ready to authorize $199.3 million through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to fund new broadband deployments in 26 states and the Northern Mariana Islands, bringing services to over 230,000 locations. This is the ninth round of program funding since July 2021. Authorized applicants can be found here.

 

Recently Released Reports

Resources for Tracking Federal COVID-19 Spending

Congressional Research Service

The Nation's Fiscal Health: Federal Action Critical to Pivot Toward Fiscal Sustainability

U.S. Government Accountability Office

Overview of Public Pension Plan Amortization Policies

National Association of State Retirement Administrators

 

 

Economic News

Unemployment Claims Reported for Week Ending April 30

The U.S. Department of Labor released unemployment insurance weekly claims data last Thursday that showed for the week ending April 30, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 200,000. This is an increase of 19,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was revised up by 1,000 from 180,000 to 181,000. The 4-week moving average was 188,000, an increase of 8,000 from the previous week's revised average of 180,000. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.0 percent for the week ending April 23, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 196,962 in the week ending April 30, a decrease of 7,164 (or -3.5 percent) from the previous week.

 

Economy Adds 428,000 Jobs in April

New data released last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 428,000 in April and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.6 percent. The data also shows that in April there were 5.9 million unemployed persons, essentially unchanged. 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) was little changed at 1.5 million, accounting for 25.2 percent of the total unemployed. The labor force participation rate, at 62.2 percent, changed little over the month and is 1.2 percentage points below its February 2020 value. In April, notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality (78,000), manufacturing (55,000), transportation and warehousing (52,000), professional and business services (41,000), and health care (34,000). Employment showed little change in construction, information, other services, and government. State government jobs increased by 7,000, with increases in state government excluding education (+8,900) offsetting decreases to state government education (-1,500). The change in total nonfarm payroll employment was revised down for February (-36,000) and March (-3,000).

 

Job Openings at Series High 11.5 Million in March

The number of job openings was at a series high of 11.5 million on the last business day of March, although little changed over the month, according to data recently released by the U.S. Department of Labor. Job openings increased in retail trade (+155,000) and in durable goods manufacturing (+50,000) but decreased in transportation, warehousing, and utilities (-69,000), state and local government education (-43,000) and federal government (-20,000). The number of hires was little changed at 6.7 million and the hires rate was unchanged at 4.5 percent. The number of separations edged up to 6.3 million (+239,000). The number of quits reported in March were a series high of 4.5 million (+152,000). Finally, layoffs and discharges were little changed at 1.4 million. Over the 12 months ending in March, hires totaled 77.7 million and separations totaled 71.4 million, yielding a net employment gain of 6.3 million.

 

Federal Reserve Raises Interest Rates

At its May meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee voted 9-0 to raise the target range for the federal funds rate to .75 to 1.0 percent and anticipates that ongoing increases in the target range will be appropriate. The committee noted that although overall economic activity edged down in the first quarter, household spending and business fixed investment remained strong, while job gains have been robust in recent months and the unemployment rate has declined substantially. However, inflation remains elevated and uncertainty due to the invasion of Ukraine was noted. The committee also decided to begin reducing its holdings of Treasury securities and agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities on June 1.