Budget Blog

June 14, 2022 - Washington Report

By Leah Wavrunek posted 06-14-2022 03:47 PM

  

This Week on the Hill  

The House and Senate are in session this week.

The House convened Monday and considered five bills, followed by three bills scheduled for the balance of the week including H.R. 2773, Recovering America’s Wildlife Act of 2022, which would provide increased funding for states and territories. The Oversight and Reform Committee will hold a hearing today on federal efforts to prevent and detect pandemic relief fraud, while the Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on nutrition programs.

The Senate convened Monday and continues consideration of H.R. 3967, Honoring our PACT Act of 2021. The Finance Committee will hold a hearing today on the impact on small businesses of the South Dakota v. Wayfair decision and on Wednesday the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on protecting children from gun violence.

This week the Food and Drug Administration is holding listening sessions on its proposed ban on menthol cigarettes and flavors in cigars, which could be finalized sometime after the public comment period ends July 5. The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee will hold a two-day meeting today and Wednesday.

 

Treasury Updates SLFRF Reporting Guidance, Template

On Friday the Treasury Department posted updated reporting resources for the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF). This includes updated Compliance and Reporting Guidance (see Revision Log on pg.50) to reflect the final rule that Treasury adopted on January 6, 2022 and that took effect on April 1, 2022, as well as an updated Recovery Plan template. On June 9, Treasury also updated the document Non-entitlement Units of Government (NEU) and Units of general local government within counties that are not units of general local government (Non-UGLG) Distribution Templates User Guide.

This week Treasury will host two webinars for SLFRF recipients. While only Tier 1 recipients (states, territories, and metropolitan cities and counties with a population that exceeds 250,000 residents) are required to explicitly include equity, community engagement, metrics, and evaluation information in reporting as part of their Recovery Plan, these sessions will provide information for all recipients. The department also released the Equity and Outcomes Resource Guide.

  • Equity and Community Engagement, Wednesday, June 15 at 3:00 PM ET: Register for this webinar, which will provide information on how to incorporate equity and community engagement into SLFRF spending.
  • Metrics and Evaluation, Thursday, June 16 at 3:00 PM ET: Register for this webinar, which will cover information and examples of how these items may be incorporated into SLFRF spending and reporting.

 

Treasury Releases Implementation Resources for Multiple Pandemic Programs

The Treasury Department has recently released multiple implementation resources for several pandemic programs. First, Treasury has developed a Best Practices Guide for the Capital Projects Fund (CPF) that provides a brief overview of the CPF Grant and Program Plan submission process and identifies several best practices for recipients. Second, the department posted a webinar for the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF), providing information on required quarterly reports. Third, the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) released a template of the technical assistance application, along with supporting material to facilitate preparation of applications.  

 

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).

  • Education Posts ESSER Maintenance of Equity Webinar Materials: The Department of Education posted materials on the ARPA Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP ESSER) Maintenance of Equity local educational agency reporting requirements. These include a slide presentation, recording and transcript.
  • FCC Announces More Than $244 Million in Emergency Connectivity Funding: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it is committing over $244 million in Emergency Connectivity Fund program support. The funding will provide support in the upcoming school year for 259 schools, 24 libraries and 1 consortium across the country. Total funding committed to date has now reached $5.1 billion.
  • USDA Investing $65 Million in Workplace Pilot Program: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that in coordination with other federal agencies, it will develop a pilot program utilizing up to $65 million in ARPA funding to provide support for agricultural employers in implementing robust health and safety standards to promote a safe, healthy work environment.
  • FNS Awards $39.4 Million in Round One TEFAP Reach and Resiliency Grants: The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) awarded $39.4 million in ARPA grants to 38 state agencies to improve the Emergency Food Assistance Program’s (TEFAP) reach in remote, rural, Tribal, and/or low-income areas that are underserved by the program.
  • DOL Awards More Than $18 Million in UI Grants to Seven States: The Department of Labor (DOL) announced the award of more than $18 million in ARPA competitive grant funding to help workers in seven states (ME, NM, OK, OR, PA, WA, WI) understand the application process for claiming and receiving unemployment benefits and related services. ARPA Unemployment Insurance Navigator grants will allow community partners in each state to conduct outreach and provide resources and training to marginalized communities.
  • FNS Approves P-EBT Programs for School Year 2021-2022 and Summer 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: Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii and Missouri. To date, a total of 37 states/territories have been approved. The agency also approved states to operate a Pandemic EBT program during summer 2022: Alabama, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Vermont and Wisconsin.
  • Senate Finance Committee Republicans Seek Review of ARPA Oversight: Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee sent a letter to the Comptroller General of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a review and assessment of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF). The letter asks GAO to review Treasury’s oversight of the funds, including risk assessments, reporting burdens, spending controls, spending restrictions, and recoupments.
  • Education Releases Fact Sheet on Supporting Teachers: The Department of Education released a fact sheet on using ARPA funds to support teachers that also outlines additional federal resources available to sustain ARPA investments in teachers. The Secretary of Education also laid out his vision on supporting teachers.

 

Administration Actions Related to COVID-19

  • FDA Vaccine Advisory Committee to Consider COVID-19 Vaccines for Young Children: On Wednesday the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will meet in open session to discuss amending the emergency use authorization (EUA) of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for use by young children (aged 6 months to 4 or 5 years). In briefing documents, FDA reviewers said the vaccine options were safe and effective. Following action by the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would then need to sign off on the vaccines before they are available to the public; the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is scheduled to meet on Friday and Saturday.
  • Administration Releases Operational Plan for Vaccinating for Young Children: The administration announced an operational plan for COVID-19 vaccinations for children under 5 years old, if the vaccines are authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The plan includes securing vaccine supply, making vaccinations available in convenient places parents and families know and trust, leveraging federal programs like WIC and Medicaid, and supporting education and engagement efforts to build trust among parents and families.
  • FDA Panel Votes to Recommend Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine for Adults: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBAC) voted on June 7 to recommend that regulators authorize the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use in adults, finding the benefits of its two-dose primary series outweigh the potential risks. If the FDA accepts the panel’s recommendation on the Novavax two-dose vaccine, it will become the fourth vaccine available for adults in the United States.
  • CDC Publishes Data on Ventilation Improvements in Schools: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data examining ventilation improvement strategies among K-12 public schools. The most frequently reported ventilation improvement strategies were lower-cost strategies, with a smaller proportion of schools reporting more resource-intensive strategies. The report also found that rural and mid-poverty–level schools were less likely to report several resource-intensive strategies.
  • CDC Lifts Requirement for COVID Test Prior to Travel to U.S.: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced it was rescinding the order requiring persons to show a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding a flight to the U.S. effective June 12 at 12:01am ET. Air passengers will now not need to get tested and show the test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 prior to boarding a flight to the U.S. CDC said it will reassess the need for a testing requirement if the situation changes.
  • FNS Posts State Child Nutrition Waivers Available During Transition from Nationwide Waivers: The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is offering a suite of operational flexibilities that will be available to child nutrition programs for summer 2022 and school year 2022-23. These flexibilities are individual waivers to assist state agencies and program operators as they transition from operations under COVID-19 nationwide waivers to operations designed around their own unique circumstances. FNS also provided a checklist that lists all of the waivers that are being offered to state agencies as they offramp from the nationwide waivers.

 

Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Update

Last week the House adopted a deeming resolution (H. Res. 1151) that sets a $1.6 trillion discretionary spending limit for federal fiscal year 2023, which begins October 1. The amount reflects the President’s approximately $1.6 trillion discretionary budget request, but it does not specify how the funds would be divided between defense and non-defense spending. The House Appropriations Committee will divide the topline amount across the 12 subcommittee allocations as the subcommittees begin to mark up their bills this week (tentative schedule subject to change). The House and Senate have not agreed on a topline spending amount, and it is unclear at this time when the Senate will begin their appropriations process.

 

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) announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on proposed minimum standards and requirements for projects funded under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program. Nearly $5 billion will be made available to states over the next five years under the new program, established by the IIJA, to build out a national EV charging network. The department also released additional resources to help states successfully complete their deployment plans and access NEVI formula funding, including new Questions and Answers and a resource to help states evaluate best locations for charging stations when it may not be possible to provide charging stations at the required 50-mile intervals. Other technical assistance resources can be found here.
  • The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released a Notice of Funding Opportunity for the competitive Bridge Investment Program. Established by the IIJA, the program will provide $12.5 billion over five years, with nearly $2.4 billion available in fiscal year 2022 to help plan, replace, rehabilitate, protect, and preserve some of the nation’s largest bridges. Planning applications are due by July 25. Questions and Answers can be found here and a fact sheet can be found here.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $375 million through the IIJA for new recycling, reuse and waste prevention programs. The agency published three requests for information seeking input on the design of these new initiatives and the funding will develop programs such as a Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling grant program, a Recycling Education and Outreach grant program, and a Model Recycling Program toolkit.
  • The Bureau of Reclamation updated its frequently asked questions for the IIJA program management implementation plan.
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed rules for collecting data on the price and subscription rates of internet service offerings received by households enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program, as required by the IIJA. The FCC is required to make data collected available to the public.

 

House Passes Two Firearms Bills While Senate Announces Bipartisan Framework

Last week the House approved two bills that make changes to federal firearms laws while earlier this week the Senate announced a bipartisan framework. The House voted 223-204 to approve H.R. 7910, which combines eight other gun control bills with provisions including raising the age to 21 to buy a semiautomatic centerfire rifle, limiting magazine sizes and providing standards for safe gun storage. The chamber then voted 224-202 to approve H.R. 2377, which authorizes and establishes procedures for federal courts to issue federal extreme risk protection orders, which is a federal court order that prohibits a person from purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm or ammunition.

In the Senate, a bipartisan group announced a proposal that provides resources to states and Tribes for state crisis intervention orders, expands nationally the community behavioral health center model, increases protections for victims of domestic violence (“boyfriend loophole”), provides funding for school-based mental health and supportive services, invests in school safety resources, clarifies the definition of a federally licensed firearms dealer, makes telehealth investments to increase access for youth and families in crisis, and requires an enhanced review process for buyers under 21 years of age. Legislative text is currently being drafted and the Senate Majority Leader has indicated he will put the bill on the floor “as soon as possible.”

In addition, the National Governors Association (NGA) sent a letter to the President announcing the formation of a bipartisan working group that will study and make recommendations designed to stop mass shootings and increase confidence in the safety of communities.

 

House Passes Water Resources Development Bill

On Wednesday the House voted 384-87 to advance H.R. 7776, the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 (WRDA 2022). The bipartisan bill authorizes water resources development projects in collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The legislation authorizes the construction of 18 pending reports, authorizes 72 new feasibility studies, and directs the Corps to expedite the completion of 14 feasibility studies. A fact sheet, summary and bill text can be found here. The Senate version of WRDA 2022 passed unanimously out of committee in May.

 

FNS Releases Information on Additional WIC Flexibilities for Imported Infant Formula

On Thursday the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released a letter providing WIC state agencies flexibility related to Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) federal requirements. The flexibilities are being provided due to the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting major disaster declarations, which exacerbated the 2022 Abbott recall of certain powder infant formula and exempt infant formula on the nationwide supply chain. These waivers allow WIC state agencies to authorize and issue certain infant formulas imported under the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Infant Formula Enforcement Discretion Policy and only apply to infant formula being imported under FDA’s enforcement discretion, as a result of the 2022 Abbott recall of certain powder infant formula and exempt infant formula during COVID-19 supply chain issues.

 

EPA Announces $6.5 Billion Available for Water Infrastructure Projects

On Monday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the 2022 notices of funding availability for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program and the State Infrastructure Financing Authority WIFIA (SWIFIA) program. This year’s funding will provide up to $6.5 billion in total funding to support $13 billion in water infrastructure projects. The available funding includes $5.5 billion for the WIFIA program and $1 billion for the SWIFIA program and will prioritize four areas: increasing investment in economically stressed communities; making rapid progress on lead service line replacement; addressing PFAS and emerging contaminants; and supporting water innovation and resilience. Letters of interest may be submitted by prospective borrowers and received by EPA at any time on or after September 6, 2022; the submission period will close when all available funds are committed to prospective borrowers. Additional information can be found here.

 

CDC Launches New Heat Tracker

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released its newest version of the Heat and Health Tracker, an interactive map that shows the rate of emergency department visits associated with heat-related illness. According to the CDC, in the U.S. there are an average of 702 heat-related deaths each year and 67,512 emergency department visits due to heat. The tracker provides the local information so communities can better prepare for and respond to extreme heat events.

 

FNS Issues SNAP Clarification on Treatment of Meal Plans at Institutions of Higher Education

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) recently issued Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) guidance to clarify the treatment of meal plans at institutions of higher education. The guidance notes recent confusion among state agencies on the eligibility of applicants with meal plans and notes that state SNAP agencies must not deny an applicant simply because they participate in a meal plan; instead, states must determine the scope of an applicant’s meal plan to determine eligibility.

 

For Your Information

FAA Awards $518 Million in Airport Improvement Awards

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded $518 million to build safer, more accessible airports through the second round of the 2022 Airport Improvement Program. The funding supports 416 grants to airports across the country to fund a variety of construction, repair and maintenance projects. The FAA has awarded a total of $1.1 billion of the $3.2 billion total funding available in fiscal year 2022.

 

DOL Issues Guidance and Funding Allotments for State Foreign Labor Certification Activities

The Department of Labor (DOL) published Training and Employment Guidance Letter No. 12-21 to provide guidance to state workforce agencies regarding fiscal years 2022 through 2024 annual grants for foreign labor certification activities. The letter includes fiscal year 2022 allotments by state and territory (totaling $21.3 million), as well as guidance on the process and timelines to apply for funding. The funding enables state agencies to carry out activities including posting job orders, inspecting housing for agricultural workers, and administering prevailing wage and practice surveys.

 

HHS Invests Nearly $15 Million to Prevent and Treat Stimulant Use in Rural Communities

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced nearly $15 million in funding for rural communities to address psychostimulant misuse and related overdose deaths. This investment brings HHS to a total of more than $400 million for the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program initiative, a multi-year initiative aimed at reducing the morbidity and mortality of substance use, including opioid use, in high-risk rural communities. A list of recipients is included in the announcement.

 

DOL Issues Guidance on Trade Adjustment Assistance Expiration

The Department of Labor (DOL) published Training and Employment Guidance Letter No. 13-21 to advise state workforce agencies or cooperating state agencies that the authorization of appropriations for the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Program expires 11:59 PM EDT on June 30, 2022. Absent congressional action to reauthorize or continue the program, termination provisions will take effect beginning on July 1, 2022.

 

ACF Releases LIHEAP Application Instructions for Fiscal Year 2023

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released an action transmittal for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) grant recipients. The transmittal provides instructions for how to apply for fiscal year 2023 federal LIHEAP funding, confirming the deadline to apply is September 1, 2022. Recipients may also choose from two options in submitting their application.

 

Recently Released Reports

2021 State Higher Education Finance Report

State Higher Education Executive Officers Association

Core Principles for TANF Modernization: A Legislative Framework for TANF Reform

American Public Human Services Association

Broadband: National Strategy Needed to Guide Federal Efforts to Reduce Digital Divide

U.S. Government Accountability Office

 

Economic News

Unemployment Claims Reported for Week Ending June 4

The U.S. Department of Labor released unemployment insurance weekly claims data last Thursday that showed for the week ending June 4, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 229,000. This is an increase of 27,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was revised up by 2,000 from 200,000 to 202,000. The 4-week moving average was 215,000, an increase of 8,000 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 28, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 184,604 in the week ending June 4, an increase of 1,008 (or 0.5 percent) from the previous week.

 

Consumer Price Index Increased in May as Real Hourly Earnings Declined

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released new data on the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) for May, showing the CPI-U increased 1.0 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.3 percent in April. Over the last twelve months, the all items index increased 8.6 percent before seasonal adjustment. The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.6 percent in May, as the food index rose 1.2 percent and the energy index rose 3.9 percent, with the gasoline index rising 4.1 percent. For the 12 months ending May, the index for all items less food and energy rose 6.0 percent, while the energy index rose 34.6 percent and the food index increased 10.1 percent. Meanwhile, real average hourly earnings for all employees decreased 0.6 percent from April to May, seasonally adjusted. This result stems from an increase of 0.3 percent in average hourly earnings combined with an increase of 1.0 percent in the CPI-U.