Budget Blog

May 31, 2022 - Washington Report

By Leah Wavrunek posted 05-31-2022 04:20 PM

  

This Week on the Hill  

The House and Senate are out this week and will return the week of June 6.

 

Treasury Makes Updates to SSBCI Program, Announces First Awards

The Treasury Department recently announced updates and awards under the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), funded in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). First, Treasury extended the deadline for states, the District of Columbia, and territories to submit their SSBCI Technical Assistance Grant Program applications to September 1, 2022. Second, the department updated the Capital Program Reporting Guidance on May 25, with the changes outlined on the first page of the document. Finally, the Treasury Department announced the first group of plans approved under the program, and noted it will continue approving plans on a rolling basis: Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, and West Virginia.

 

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).

  • FCC Announces Over $2.8 Billion in Final Emergency Connectivity Fund Requests: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it received requests for $2.8 billion in the third application filing window of the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program to fund 5,120,453 connected devices and 4,285,794 broadband connections. Applications will be prioritized to fund schools and libraries with the greatest need first, with a preference for those in rural areas. There is an estimated $1.5 billion remaining in the program.
  • EDA Announces All ARPA Programs Closed to Applicants Following Tremendous Demand: The Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced it has officially closed all of its ARPA programs for applications and the $3 billion program funding will be awarded on a rolling basis through September 30, 2022. As of May 11, EDA received approximately $15.8 billion in proposals for the $3 billion available for grant funding.
  • 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: District of Columbia, Illinois, Montana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. To date, a total of 34 states/territories have been approved.
  • White House Releases Report on Advancing Equity Through ARPA: The White House released a new report entitled “Advancing Equity Through the American Rescue Plan,” which includes a series of implementation case studies focused on lowering barriers to work, ensuring an equitable recovery for all communities, securing dignified housing and living conditions, investing in equity, and closing health disparities.
  • Treasury Sends Letter to Leaders on Uses of SLFRF to Address Challenges: The Deputy Secretary of the Treasury sent a letter to state, local and territorial leaders on the use of State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF). The letter urges state and local governments to continue to use SLFRF funds to address pressing challenges including expanding the workforce, expanding access to affordable housing, and keeping families and communities safe.
  • Education Publishes New Guidance on Using HEERF for Mental Health Supports: The Department of Education published new guidance to assist institutions in providing mental health supports for students, faculty and staff. It includes specific examples of how colleges can use Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) to invest in evidence-based mental health supports.

 

Administration Actions Related to COVID-19

  • CMS Launches Website Enhancements for Medicaid and CHIP Renewals: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched enhancements to gov to help beneficiaries prepare to renew their Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage. An action button on the homepage will enable beneficiaries to be automatically directed to a new Renew Your Medicaid and CHIP coverage page that provides information and an interactive map for connecting beneficiaries to their state Medicaid agency.
  • ACF Releases Letter to Agencies on COVID-19 PHE Unwinding: The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) sent a letter to state, local, territorial and Tribal agencies administering ACF programs on the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) continuous enrollment unwinding. The letter outlines impacts on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), strategies to reach families and individuals, and additional resources. A subsequent letter will outline what the PHE expiration means for ACF programs.
  • FDA Advisory Panel to Meet June 15 on Vaccines for Young Children: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBAC) will meet on June 15 to discuss the use of COVID-19 vaccines in children younger than age 5 and will consider data from both Pfizer and Moderna.
  • FNS Addresses WIC Infant Formula Flexibilities Due to Recall, Pandemic: The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released a series of policy memos in response to correspondence from WIC state agencies requesting program flexibility with regard to requirements in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) as a result of the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the 2022 recall of certain powder infant formula on the nationwide supply chain. FNS approved waiver requests for applicable WIC state agencies related to the following requirements: maximum monthly allowance, medical documentation, and vendor exchanges.

 

IIJA Implementation Resources Released

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

  • The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced that as of May 18, 34 states and territories have signed on to participate in the $45 billion Internet for All initiative. To participate in the $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, states and other eligible entities must submit a letter of intent and a planning funds budget, which will unlock up to $5 million in planning funds and allow states to begin creating their five-year action plan.
  • The Department of the Interior (DOI) released draft guidance for eligible states and the Navajo Nation on how to apply for the first $725 million in funding available for reclaiming abandoned mine lands (AML) under the IIJA. The guidance provides instructions on how to apply for fiscal year 2022 AML grants; comments on the guidance can be submitted through June 13.
  • The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the availability of approximately $13 million in competitive grant funds through the Federal Transit Administration’s Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development Planning. The IIJA increased program funding by 38 percent, sending nearly $70 million to communities over the next five years. Applications are due by July 25.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) released a Notice of Intent to fund the IIJA’s $3.5 billion program to capture and store carbon dioxide pollution directly from the air. The Regional Direct Air Capture Hubs program will support four large-scale, regional direct air capture hubs that each comprise a network of carbon dioxide removal projects to help address the impacts of climate change and create good-paying jobs.
  • The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced $33 million through the IIJA to plug, remediate, and reclaim orphaned oil and gas wells in national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and on other public lands. The allocation is part of a total $250 million provided through the IIJA for cleaning up orphaned wells and well sites on federal public lands, with funding distributed to four agencies for work in nine states (CA, KY, LA, OH, OK, PA, TX, UT and WV). A list of projects is included in the press release.
  • The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has begun accepting applications for its new Natural Gas Distribution Infrastructure Safety and Modernization Grant program. Authorized by the IIJA, the program offers nearly $200 million in grants annually over the next five years to improve the safety of high-risk, leak-prone natural gas distribution infrastructure. Funding is open to all municipal or community-owned utilities and applications are due July 25.
  • The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released an issue brief on inspectors general and implementation of the IIJA. The brief describes guidance issued and the expected use of an enterprise risk management strategy to address fraud concerns.
  • The Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a 180-day “Buy America” waiver for construction materials beginning on May 14 and expiring on November 10, 2022. DOT is establishing the transitional waiver to prepare for new compliance with the new Made in America standards for construction materials; during this time, DOT expects states, industry, and other partners to begin developing procedures to document compliance.
  • The Joint Office of Energy and Transportation will hold a webinar on June 8 at 12:30pm ET to provide information on the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) formula program, which asks states to consider equity in their planning process. The webinar will discuss available equity related tools and other resources that states can use to develop state plans. Register here.

 

State and Local Cybersecurity Bill Clears Congress

The House recently voted 404-14 to approve S. 2520, the State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act of 2021. The bill would require federal cybersecurity experts to share information regarding cybersecurity threats, vulnerabilities, and breaches, as well as resources to prevent and recovery from cyber-attacks, with states and localities. The legislation requires the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to provide state and local actors with access to improved security tools, policies and procedures, while also encouraging collaboration. In addition, the bill builds on previous efforts by the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) to prevent, protect, and respond to future cybersecurity incidents, ensuring that government officials and their staffs have access to the hardware and software products needed to bolster cyber defenses. The bill had previously passed the Senate and now goes to the President for his signature.

 

House Committee Advances WRDA

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted to advance the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 (WRDA 2022) out of committee and send it to the House floor for a vote. WRDA 2022 authorizes the study and construction of locally-driven projects that were developed in cooperation and consultation with the Army Corps of Engineers. The bill authorizes the construction of 16 pending reports received since enactment of WRDA 2020, authorizes 72 feasibility studies and directs the Corps to expedite the completion of 15 feasibility studies currently underway. The committee released several resources on the legislation, including a fact sheet and section-by-section summary. The Senate passed its version out of committee on May 4.

 

HHS Leaders Urge States to Maximize Efforts to Support Children’s Mental Health

Last week agencies across the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a joint letter to states, Tribes and jurisdictions encouraging them to prioritize and maximize their efforts to strengthen children’s mental health and well-being. The letter outlines HHS’ plans to support and facilitate state-level coordination across federal funding streams to advance and expand mental health services for children. In the letter, coordination opportunities are identified and highlighted, including developing a statewide children’s mental health task force that coordinates data across multiple programs.

 

DOJ Announces Additional Hate Crimes Initiatives

The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced a series of actions to deter and confront hate crimes and other bias-related incidents. The actions include the issuance of new guidance with the Department of Health and Human Services aimed at raising awareness of hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The department also released grant solicitations that include $5 million to support the transition of state and local law enforcement agencies to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) and reporting hate crimes through NIBRS, in addition to funding states to establish and oversee state-run reporting hotlines for victims of hate crimes.

 

President Signs Executive Order on Federal Policing Reforms

On Wednesday the President signed an executive order to advance effective and accountable federal policing and criminal justice practices. The order creates a new national dashboard of police misconduct, mandates the adoption of body-worn camera policies for federal law enforcement agencies, bans the use of chokeholds and certain other restraints in most circumstances, requires new standards that limit the use of force, and supports law enforcement with improved systems and training. The order also imposes restrictions on the transfer or purchase with federal funds of military equipment while directing a government-wide strategic plan to propose interventions to reform the criminal justice system.

 

SEC Proposes Rule on ESG Transparency, Disclosure Requirements

On Wednesday the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed amendments to rules and reporting forms intended to promote consistent, comparable and reliable information for investors concerning funds’ and advisers’ incorporation of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors. The proposed amendments seek to categorize certain types of ESG strategies broadly and require funds and advisers to provide more specific disclosures in fund prospectuses, annual reports, and adviser brochures based on the ESG strategies they pursue. Funds may be required to disclose specific impacts and summarize their progress on achieving those impacts. The SEC also released a fact sheet and text of the proposed rule. Comments will be due within 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.

 

OJJDP Launches National Juvenile Treatment Court Dashboard

Last week the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) launched the National Juvenile Treatment Court Dashboard. The dashboard is a map-based website that shows juvenile drug treatment courts operating across the country and details the tools, programs, and resources they use. The site provides juvenile drug treatment court professionals with best practices and encourages peer-to-peer connections.

 

Home and Community-Based Services Final Rule Update

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced a strategy for implementation of the home and community-based settings regulation, in partnership with the Administration for Community Living (ACL). This strategy aligns the focus of federal support and state compliance activities with the direct-service workforce crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). CMS will be holding multiple meetings with home and community-based services stakeholders to review this information.

 

For Your Information

DOL Announces $10.5 Million Available in State Grants for Mine Safety

The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Mine Safety and Health Administration announced the availability of more than $10.5 million in fiscal year 2022 state grant funding to provide federally mandated training and retraining of miners and mine operators. Any state in which mining takes place may apply for the grant, with DOL funding up to 80 percent of the program costs. Applications are due by July 25.

 

ACF Releases SSBG Third Quarter Allocations

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released a Dear Colleague letter for Social Services Block Grant (SSBC) program officials and state contacts. The letter provides grant recipients with an update on the budget and allocations for SSBG third quarter funds to provide funding for the period from April 1 through June 30, 2022.

 

EPA Announces $10 Million in Grant Funding for Beach Water Quality Monitoring

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is preparing to award up to $10 million in grants to 38 states, territories and Tribes to develop and implement beach monitoring and notification programs. Under the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act, EPA awards grants to eligible state, territorial and Tribal applicants to help them and their local government partners monitor water quality at coastal and Great Lakes beaches. A list of awards by state and territory are included in the announcement.

 

FEMA Announces First Round Project Selections for BRIC and FMA Grants

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced awards totaling $91.2 million for the first round of selected projects for the fiscal year 2021 Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) and Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) grant programs. FEMA is announcing these first-round selections earlier than last year to better assist communities in building resilience, while also announcing selections of 20 communities set to receive non-financial direct technical assistance. FEMA will make the second round of project selections later this summer.

 

USDA Invests $770 Million to Expand Market Opportunities for Rural Businesses

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an investment of $770 million to help create new and better market opportunities for rural businesses and people in 36 states and Puerto Rico. The funding will help entrepreneurs and business cooperatives create jobs, grow businesses, and find new and better markets for the items they produce. Funds are being awarded through three programs: Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program, Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Programs, and Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program.

 

Recently Released Reports

Medicaid Coverage of Pregnancy-Related Services: Findings from a 2021 State Survey

Kaiser Family Foundation

Financing Strategies to Address the Social Determinants of Health in Medicaid

Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission

Condition of Education 2022

National Center for Education Statistics

 

Economic News

Unemployment Claims Reported for Week Ending May 21

The U.S. Department of Labor released unemployment insurance weekly claims data last Thursday that showed for the week ending May 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 210,000. This is a decrease of 8,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level of 218,000. The 4-week moving average was 206,750, an increase of 7,250 from the previous week's unrevised average of 199,500. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.0 percent for the week ending May 14, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 183,927 in the week ending May 21, a decrease of 14,534 (or -7.3 percent) from the previous week.

 

GDP Decrease for the First Quarter of 2022 Increases Slightly on Second Estimate

The U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis released the “second” estimate for real gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter of 2022, showing that GDP decreased at an annual rate of 1.5 percent. The second estimate is based on more complete source data than were available for the “advance” estimate issued in April, which showed a decrease of real GDP of 1.4 percent. According to the release, the update primarily reflects downward revisions to private inventory investment and residential investment that were partly offset by an upward revision to consumer spending.