Budget Blog

June 7, 2022 - Washington Report

By Leah Wavrunek posted 06-07-2022 04:09 PM

  

This Week on the Hill  

The House and Senate are in session this week.

The House returns today and will consider 12 bills, including H.R. 7776, the Water Resources Development Act of 2022. For Wednesday and the balance of the week, the House will consider two bills, the Protecting Our Kids Act (H.R. 7910) and Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2022 (H.R. 2377), both related to firearm purchases and ownership.

The Senate resumes consideration of administration nominations and will vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to H.R. 3967, the Honoring Our PACT Act. On Thursday, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation will hold an oversight hearing of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), including implementation of the broadband funding included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

 

Education Submits Notice of Final Rule on Maintenance of Equity Reporting Provisions

Last week the Department of Education submitted a Notice of Final Requirement (NFR) for publication in the Federal Register regarding the local educational agency-level (LEA) maintenance of equity provisions under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The NFR establishes requirements for publishing LEA-level maintenance of equity data to demonstrate LEAs are maintaining both fiscal and staffing equity in fiscal years 2022 and 2023. State educational agencies (SEAs) will be required to publish certain information on their websites by certain dates. According to the NFR, there are few differences between the proposed requirement, published on January 3, 2022 and the final requirements but the NFR does change the timeline for publishing information on LEAs that are excepted from local maintenance of equity.

 

Treasury Announces First Capital Project Fund Awards

Today the Treasury Department announced the first group of plans approved under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Capital Projects Fund (CPF). The CPF authorized $10 billion for states, territories, freely associated states, and Tribal governments to fund critical capital projects that enable work, education and health monitoring in response to the public health emergency. The state plans approved in this first group will support broadband infrastructure and are designed, upon project completion, to deliver reliable internet service that meets or exceeds symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps). Together, the first state recipients under the CPF plan to connect over 200,000 homes and businesses to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet in Louisiana, New Hampshire, Virginia and West Virginia. States must submit their plans to Treasury no later than September 24, 2022.

 

USDA Offers Nationwide Waivers for Infant Formula

On Monday the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it is offering nationwide waivers to increase access to infant formula for families in need as states receive and distribute imported infant formula. USDA is leveraging new authority from the recently passed Access to Baby Formula Act (P.L.117-129) to offer this flexibility. The action builds on existing flexibilities to provide widest access to available infant formula for WIC families. Within days of the recall, USDA offered WIC state agencies waivers to maximize formula options for WIC participants and ensure they could exchange or return any recalled formula; to date, USDA has approved over 250 state waiver requests. A letter to state health commissioners can be found here, indicating additional guidance will be issued very soon. Guidance on other flexibilities, dated June 2, 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).

  • FTA Announces $25 Million to Help Transit Agencies: The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced $25 million in ARPA grant awards to 50 transit agencies across 24 states to help restore and improve services affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Grants are provided through the Route Planning Restoration Program and will help transit agencies with planning projects to increase ridership and reduce travel times in response to changes in travel patterns.
  • HHS Extends ARPA Spending Deadline for Home-and Community-Based Services: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), is notifying states they now have an additional year – through March 31, 2025 – to use ARPA funds to enhance, expand, and strengthen home-and community-based services for people with Medicaid who need long-term services and supports. The letter to State Medicaid Directors can be found here.
  • USDA Provides $700 Million to Support Biofuel Producers: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it has provided $700 million to help lower costs and support biofuel producers who faced unexpected market losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds were authorized under the CARES Act and include investments to support producers in 25 states.
  • Treasury Posts SSBCI Sample Certifications and Program Contacts: The Treasury Department provided sample certifications that may be used by participating jurisdictions for their State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) capital programs. The department also released a list of program contacts for states, territories and the District of Columbia.
  • Treasury Offering Webinar on SSBCI Capital Program Education: The Treasury Department is holding a webinar on capital program education for the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). The webinar will provide an introductory overview of SSBCI, Capital Access Programs, and Other Credit Support Programs such as Loan Guarantee Programs, Loan Participation Programs, Collateral Support Programs, and Venture Capital Programs. The webinar is scheduled for June 14 at 4pm ET.
  • PRAC Posts State and Local Pandemic Spending Data, Submits Report to Congress: The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) announced the public release of updated Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) spending by states, eligible local governments, Tribal governments, the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories. The PRAC also posted newly available data on the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) while also releasing its Semiannual Report to Congress, covering the period of October 1, 2021 through March 31, 2022.
  • ACL Announces Two Funding Opportunities: The Administration for Community Living (ACL) released two ARPA funding opportunities, with deadlines of June 24 for both. The opportunities include $17.9 million for state long-term care ombudsman programs and $163.6 million for grants to enhance adult protective services in states and territories.
  • ACF Issues Guidance on LIHEAP Obligation and Draw Down Plans: The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) sent an information memorandum to Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) grant recipients. The memo seeks to encourage and facilitate the timely obligation, expenditure and draw down of LIHEAP funding from the CARES Act and ARPA. The deadline for obligating CARES Act funds was September 30, 2021 and the deadline to obligate ARPA funds is September 30, 2022.
  • FEMA Posts State-Specific Funeral Assistance Data: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released updated monthly data for the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance program. As of June 3, FEMA has provided over $2.5 billion to over 389,000 people to assist with COVID-19-related funeral costs for deaths occurring on or after January 20, 2020. The release includes data on applications, amount approved, and number of awards by state and territory.
  • Treasury Releases April Emergency Rental Assistance Program Data: The Treasury Department released the April report for the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program, showing cumulative expenditures of $19.6 billion under ERA1 and $9.4 billion under ERA2. The department also released an Addendum to Reallocation Guidance for Tribal Governments.

 

Administration Actions Related to COVID-19

  • CMS Releases New Unwinding Tool: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a new tool states can use to further prepare for the eventual end of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) and return to normal Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) operations. The tool highlights the ten fundamental actions states need to complete to prepare for the unwinding when the Medicaid continuous enrollment requirement ends.
  • White House Gives Update on Vaccines for Young Children: COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha gave an update on the planning process for vaccines for children younger than 5 years old. He noted the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) advisory committee will meet on June 15 to review data submitted by Pfizer and Moderna and a decision from the FDA is expected shortly after that meeting; then the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must act. Dr. Jha also said that states could begin placing their orders, with 10 million doses available to states, pharmacies, community health centers and federal entities to order initially. Vaccinations could begin as early as June 21.
  • FMCSA Extends COVID-19 Emergency Declaration and Waivers to August 31: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced an extension of the emergency declaration and waiver for states and commercial learner’s permit holders operating motor vehicles to August 31 in response to the COVID-19 emergency.

 

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) released two new implementation guidance documents. These include implementation guidance for the National Highway Performance Program and the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, as revised by the IIJA.
  • The Indian Health Service (IHS) announced allocation decisions for $700 million appropriated through the IIJA, which appropriates that amount in each fiscal year through fiscal year 2026, for a total of $3.5 billion, for the IHS Sanitation Facilities Construction Program. The funding will provide 71,000 American Indian and Alaska Native homes with critical services like water wells and onsite wastewater disposal systems and connections to community water supply and wastewater disposal systems.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) released a Notice of Intent to fund the IIJA’s $8 billion program to develop regional clean hydrogen hubs across the country. The program will create networks of hydrogen producers, consumers, and local connective infrastructure to accelerate the use of hydrogen as a clean energy carrier. Additional information can be found here.
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched an online help center and other new resources in preparation for the inaugural Broadband Data Collection filing window opening on June 30, 2022. All facilities-based providers of fixed and mobile broadband internet access service must submit broadband availability data through the Broadband Data Collection no later than September 1, 2022.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Interconnection Innovation e-Xchange, a new partnership funded by the IIJA that brings together grid operators, utilities, state and Tribal governments, clean energy developers, and other stakeholders to connect more clean energy to the power grid by solving challenges facing the power industry. The program will provide technical assistance to partners to develop solutions to specific regional, state, and local interconnection issues, helping connect more clean energy to the grid and lowering costs for consumer and families.

 

DOT Announces Over $368 Million for Rail Infrastructure Improvements

On Thursday the Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced over $368 million in Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRSI) grant program funds to 46 projects in 32 states and the District of Columbia. The selected projects will improve and expand passenger rail and fund conventional and high-speed rail, as well as increase supply chain resilience and fluidity, support short line railroads, invest in new technology and safety advancements, and benefit rail industry workforce development and training activities. A list of grant awards can be found here.

 

Interior Announces $279 Million in Distributions from the Land and Water Conservation Fund

On Wednesday the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced the distribution of $279.7 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to all 50 states, territories and the District of Columbia for outdoor recreation and conservation projects. The allocation for each state and territory is determined by a population-based apportionment formula set in the LWCF Act; states and territories further allocate these funds to local projects, usually through a competitive process. A list of fiscal year 2022 total apportionments by state and territory is included in the announcement.

 

EPA Releases Proposed Rule on State and Tribal Authority Under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act

On Thursday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposed rule to update the regulatory requirements for water quality certification under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Under Section 401, a federal agency may not issue a license or permit to conduct any activity that may result in any discharge into a water of the United States, unless the state, territory, or authorized Tribe where the discharge would originate either issues a CWA Section 401 water quality certification or waives certification. The proposed rule is intended to support a predictable, efficient, stable, and transparent water quality certification process. Additional information on the rule, including a fact sheet, can be found here.

 

Administration Announces Actions to Spur Domestic Clean Energy Manufacturing

Yesterday the administration announced a series of actions to increase domestic clean energy manufacturing. Actions include invoking the Defense Production Act for five specific technologies (solar panel parts, building insulation, heat pumps, equipment for making and using clean electricity-generated fuels, and critical power grid infrastructure); utilizing federal procurement tools such as Master Supply Agreements and “Super Preferences”; and creating a 24-month bridge for certain solar imports. Additional information from the Energy Department can be found here.

 

Administration Releases Report from Drought Resilience Interagency Working Group

Last week the administration released the Drought Resilience Interagency Working Group’s Summary Report outlining the actions taken to date to improve drought-stricken communities’ longer-term resilience to drought through financial and technical assistance. The Departments of the Interior and Agriculture co-chair the working group, which was created one year ago. The working group will also facilitate interagency coordination to effectively deploy $13 billion in water-related investments provided by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), including $12.4 billion at the Interior Department and $918 million at USDA.

 

USDA Announces Framework, Investments to Strengthen Food System

On Wednesday the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced details of a framework to transform the food system to benefit consumers, producers and rural communities by providing more options, increasing access, and creating better markets for small and mid-size producers. The goals of the framework include building a more resilient food supply chain, creating a fairer food system, making nutritious food more accessible and affordable, and emphasizing equity. The framework highlights multiple funding investments in food production, food processing, food distribution, and markets.

 

Administration Announces National Initiative on Building Codes

Last week the administration announced the National Initiative to Advance Building Codes, which is intended to help state, local, Tribal and territorial governments adopt the latest, current building codes and standards, to increase resiliency to extreme weather events. The initiative will review federal funding and financing of building construction, harness $225 million in Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funding to support implementation of updated building energy codes, provide incentives and support for communities to adopt current building codes and standards by providing technical assistance, and advance “above-code” standards in new federal projects. According to the fact sheet, modernized building codes can save households an average of $162 each year on utility bills.

 

CMS Outlines Strategy to Strengthen Behavioral Health Care

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently released a behavioral health strategy. The goals of the strategy are to strengthen equity and quality in behavioral health care; improve access to substance use disorders prevention, treatment and recovery services; ensure effective pain treatment and management; improve access to and quality of mental health care and services; and utilize data to inform effective actions and measure impact on behavioral health. CMS is embarking on a multi-faceted approach to increase access and improve outcomes for people covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurance.

 

Commerce Secretary Announces National Travel and Tourism Strategy for 2022

On Monday the Secretary of Commerce announced a new National Travel and Tourism Strategy that focuses federal government efforts to support the U.S. travel and tourism industry. The strategy sets an ambitious five-year goal of attracting 90 million international visitors to the country each year; it is estimated the visitors would spend $279 billion annually. The strategy is divided into four pillars: promoting the U.S. as a travel destination; facilitating travel to and within the U.S.; ensuring diverse, inclusive and accessible tourism experiences; and fostering resilient and sustainable travel and tourism. A fact sheet can be found here.

 

For Your Information

FMCSA Announces $463 Million in Grants to Reduce Crashes Involving Commercial Vehicles

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced it would award over $463 million in grants to states to reduce commercial motor vehicle-involved (CMV) crashes, fatalities and injuries through uniform, equitable and effective CMV safety programs. In preliminary 2021 data, there was a 13 percent increase in fatalities from 2020 involving large trucks. All states, territories and the District of Columbia will receive funds.

 

USDA Announces $503 Million for Recreation and Conservation on Public Lands

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service announced $503 million through the Great American Outdoors Act to address deferred maintenance, improve infrastructure, increase user access, and support rural economies near public lands. The funds include $285 million through the Legacy Restoration Fund for 450 projects in 38 states and Puerto Rico and $218 million through the Land and Water Conservation Fund for 25 new projects.

 

FEMA Announces Mitigation Funding of $154 Million

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced $153.9 million is available to 68 congressionally directed projects through the fiscal year 2022 Pre-Disaster Mitigation program. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022 authorizes funding for 68 projects for states, Tribes, territories and local communities; communities with projects identified for funding must submit an application for their grants. A fact sheet can be found here.

 

DOL Issues Instructions and Allotments for Senior Community Service Employment Program Grantees

The Department of Labor (DOL) released Training and Employment Guidance Letter No. 11-21, which provides state, territorial, and national grantees with the program year 2022 Senior Community Service Employment Program allotments and application instructions. A table of authorized positions and funding by state and territory is included in the letter.

 

Recently Released Reports

Legacy Debt in Public Pensions: A New Approach

Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program, 2021

Bureau of Justice Statistics

Preparedness for 988 Throughout the United States

RAND Corporation

Unemployment Insurance: Transformation Needed to Address Program Design, Infrastructure, and Integrity Risks

U.S. Government Accountability Office

 

Economic News

Unemployment Claims Reported for Week Ending May 28

The U.S. Department of Labor released unemployment insurance weekly claims data last Thursday that showed for the week ending May 28, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 200,000. This is a decrease of 11,000 from the previous week’s revised level,  which was revised up by 1,000 from 210,000 to 211,000. The 4-week moving average was 206,500, a decrease of 500 from the previous week's revised average of 207,000. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 0.9 percent for the week ending May 21, 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 182,327 in the week ending May 28, a decrease of 2,921 (or -1.6 percent) from the previous week.

 

Economy Adds 390,000 Jobs in May

New data released last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 390,000 in May and the unemployment rate remained at 3.6 percent. The data also shows that in May there were 6.0 million unemployed persons, essentially unchanged. The number of long-term unemployed (jobless for 27 weeks or more) edged down to 1.4 million, accounting for 23.2 percent of the total unemployed. The labor force participation rate, at 62.3 percent, changed little over the month and is 1.1 percentage points below its February 2020 value. In May, notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality (84,000), professional and business services (75,000), transportation and warehousing (47,000), construction (36,000), state government education (36,000), health care (28,000) and manufacturing (18,000). Employment in retail trade declined by 61,000 while employment showed little change in information, financial activities, and other services. State government jobs increased by 36,000, with increases in state government education (+36,300) offsetting decreases to state government, excluding education (-600). The change in total nonfarm payroll employment was revised down for March (-30,000) and revised up for April (+8,000).

 

Job Openings at 11.4 Million in April

The number of job openings decreased to 11.4 million on the last business day of April, down by 455,000 over the month, according to data recently released by the U.S. Department of Labor. Job openings increased in transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+97,000) and in nondurable goods manufacturing (+67,000) but decreased in health care and social assistance (-266,000), retail trade (-162,000) and accommodation and food services (-113,000). The number of hires was little changed at 6.6 million and the hires rate was unchanged at 4.4 percent. The number of separations was little changed at 6.0 million. The number of quits reported in April was little changed at 4.4 million. Finally, layoffs and discharges edged down to a series low of 1.2 million. Over the 12 months ending in April, hires totaled 78.0 million and separations totaled 71.6 million, yielding a net employment gain of 6.4 million.