Budget Blog

June 28, 2022 - Washington Report

By Leah Wavrunek posted 06-28-2022 03:57 PM

  

This Week on the Hill  

The Senate is out this week, and the House has committee work scheduled.

 

FEMA Issues Advisory on Transition of National Guard Activations for COVID-19 Response Activities

Last week the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released an advisory entitled "Transition of National Guard Activations for COVID-19 Response Activities." The advisory provides information on transition of National Guard to State Active Duty and related funding under FEMA Public Assistance (PA). The advisory notes that federal funding for the National Guard to support the response to COVID-19 under Title 32 is transitioning to State Active Duty (SAD) on July 1, 2022. After July 1, 2022, governors may still activate National Guard personnel to SAD as necessary for ongoing COVID-19 response and may receive reimbursement from the PA program at a 90 percent federal cost share.

 

President Signs Bipartisan Safer Communities Act

On Saturday the President signed S. 2938, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, into law. The legislation includes protections for victims of domestic violence, an enhanced background check process for buyers under 21 years of age, and creation of several new sources of funding for states in the areas of crisis intervention orders, violence interruption funding, school-based mental health, and school safety. A bill summary can be found here and bill text can be found here. National Governors Association Chair Asa Hutchinson and Vice Chair Phil Murphy announced membership of the recently established bipartisan working group on school and community safety.

 

President Signs Keep Kids Fed Act

On Saturday the President signed the Keep Kids Fed Act (S. 2089) which extends meal reimbursements and provides the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the authority to issue flexibilities for schools and meal program operators. The legislation extends flexibilities for summer meals in 2022 and increases the reimbursement rate for school lunch and school breakfast to help offset increased food costs, by 40 cents and 15 cents respectively. The bill also helps daycares and home providers offset increased costs by providing an additional 10 cents per meal and streamlining reimbursement rates. The bill was revised in the Senate to reinstate the reduced-price meal co-pay for eligible families. Additional information 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).

  • Treasury Updates SSBCI Frequently Asked Questions: The Treasury Department updated its frequently asked questions (FAQs) for the State Small Business Credit Initiative. Multiple FAQs were added or updated in categories including General and Capital Program and are labeled by date.
  • Treasury Updates the ERA Program Recipient Reporting User Guide: The Treasury Department released Version 3.3 (see Revision Log on pg. 2) of the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Programs User Guide: Treasury’s Portal for Recipient Reporting. The newest version updates several sections and adds a new appendix.
  • Education Posts Maintenance of Effort Monitoring Reports: The Department of Education posted state monitoring reports for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, with reports posted for 10 states along with closeout letters if applicable.
  • Treasury Posts SLFRF Webinars and Presentations: The Treasury Department posted webinar recordings and presentations related to the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds: Performance Metrics and Evaluation (held June 16, webinar and presentation) and Equity and Community Engagement (held June 15, webinar and presentation).
  • FEMA Releases Fact Sheet on Test-to-Treat Sites: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released a fact sheet on Public Assistance (PA) and the administration’s test-to-treat initiative. Per the fact sheet, FEMA will continue to provide support in the fight against COVID-19 by offering funding through the PA program to state, local, Tribal, and territorial government entities for eligible costs related to test-to-treat sites.
  • FNS Approves P-EBT Programs for Summer 2022: The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) approved additional states to operate a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program during summer 2022: Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, and Utah. To date, a total of 15 states and territories have been approved.
  • HHS Releases Fact Sheet on Premium Assistance under ARPA: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a fact sheet on the impact on premiums if the subsidies provided by ARPA expire as scheduled at the end of 2022. The data includes state-specific During the recent Open Enrollment period, 14.5 million people signed up for health insurance coverage through both federal Marketplace and State-Based Marketplaces and more than 90 percent of people on HealthCare.gov received financial assistance.
  • CRS Releases Brief on UI Benefits and Impact on Consumer Spending and Employment: The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a short brief examining how COVID-19 unemployment insurance (UI) benefits impacted consumer and employment.

 

Administration Actions Related to COVID-19

  • CMS Announces Vaccinations Covered Without Cost-Sharing for Young Children: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that children aged six months to five years with Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage are eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations without cost-sharing. Currently all providers of COVID-19 vaccinations must agree to provide the vaccination at no cost to recipients, as a condition of receiving the vaccine dose from the federal government.
  • CDC Recommends Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine for Children and Adolescents: The Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendation that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine be used as an option for children ages 6 through 17 years, in addition to its already recommended use in children 6 months through 5 years and adults 18 years and older.
  • ACL Announces Free At-Home COVID-19 Tests for People Who are Blind or Have Low Vision: The Administration for Community Living (ACL) launched a new initiative to expand the availability of at-home COVID-19 tests that are more accessible for people who are blind or have low vision. The tests work with a compatible Bluetooth-enabled smartphone and free app to provide users with audible instructions and audible test results. Each order will include two rapid-antigen tests.
  • CMS Updates Preparedness and Response Toolkit for State Medicaid and CHIP Agencies: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released an updated Preparedness and Response Toolkit for State Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Agencies in the Event of a Public Emergency or Disaster. The toolkit was updated to include additional strategies, flexibilities, and lessons learned from the COVID-19 public health emergency. It also includes a new strategic framework for Medicaid and CHIP agencies as they prepare to respond to a disaster or public health emergency in the future.

 

IIJA Implementation Resources Released

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

  • The National Telecommunications Administration (NTIA) opened applications for the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program, which has $1 billion in funding available to expand middle mile infrastructure. The application period opened June 21 and closes on September 30. Multiple resources were also released including a program information sheet, application guidance, application checklist/packet, Notice of Funding Opportunity and frequently asked questions.
  • The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced more than $74.6 million will be distributed in 30 states to invest in geoscience data collection, mapping, data preservation, and scientific interpretation of areas with potential for critical minerals under the U.S. Geological Survey Earth Mapping Resources Initiative. IIJA funds account for $64 million in this effort.
  • The Bureau of Reclamation announced $25.5 million in IIJA funds for WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grants to safeguard local water supplies in the face of drought. Fourteen projects (listed in the press release) in eight western states will be awarded funding to help local communities improve water use efficiency by lining canals, upgrading water meters, installing automated gates to control water flow, and making other infrastructure improvements.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced $9 million in fiscal year 2022 IIJA funds to support over 40 projects in 8 western states to restore and conserve strategic areas within the sagebrush ecosystem. Under the IIJA, the FWS was appropriated $10 million per year for the next five years to expand work with partners to conserve the sagebrush ecosystem. A list of projects can be found here.

 

DOI Announces $549.4 Million in 2022 PILT Funding

Last week the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced more than 1,900 state and local governments will receive a total of $549.4 million in Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funding for 2022. Since PILT payments began in 1977, the department has distributed nearly $10.8 billion to states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A full listing of funding by state and county is available here.

 

President Signs State and Local Cybersecurity Bill Into Law

On Wednesday the President signed a bipartisan cybersecurity bill into law. Authored by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), the State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act (P.L. 117-150) is intended to promote stronger cybersecurity coordination between the Department of Homeland Security and state and local governments. The bill requires federal cybersecurity experts to share information regarding threats and vulnerabilities, as well as resources to prevent and recover from cyber-attacks, with states and localities. Enhanced information sharing will be conducted through the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and build on previous efforts by the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC).

 

House Passes Mental Health Package

Last week the House voted 402-20 to approve a bipartisan package reauthorizing multiple mental health and substance use programs. The Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act of 2022 (H.R. 7666) also expands access to opioid and other substance use disorder treatments and recovery support services. A section by section summary of the bill can be found here; it now moves to the Senate for possible consideration.

 

President Calls on Congress, States for Three-Month Gas Tax Holiday

Last Wednesday the President called on Congress to suspend the federal gas tax for three months, through September, and also called on states to take similar action to provide direct relief to consumers, either through suspending their own gas taxes or in other ways. For the federal gas tax holiday, the President also asked Congress to make sure it would not negatively affect the Highway Trust Fund by using other revenues to make the fund whole for the roughly $10 billion cost. It is uncertain if Congress will take up legislation implementing this call.

 

Education Proposes Amendments to Title IX Regulations

Last week the Department of Education released for public comment proposed changes to Title IX regulations. According to the fact sheet, the proposed amendments “aim to ensure full protection under Title IX for students, teachers, and employees from all forms of sex discrimination, including sex-based harassment and sexual violence, in federally funded elementary schools, secondary schools, and postsecondary institutions.” The proposed amendments also restore protections that were changed during the previous administration. Public comment may be submitted for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register; the prepublication version of the proposed changes can be found https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/t9nprm.pdf.

 

Administration Outlines Maternal Health Crisis Plan

On Friday the administration released the Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis, a whole-of-government approach to combatting maternal mortality and morbidity. The blueprint outlines five priorities to improve maternal health and outcomes in the United States and encourages states to extend Medicaid coverage from two months to one year postpartum. Actions in the blueprint also aim to strengthen partnerships between federal agencies to expand social services and promote stronger workplace protections for mothers.

 

FWS Rescinds Regulatory Definition of Habitat for Endangered Species

On Thursday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service announced the recission of a final rule, published in December 2020, which established a regulatory definition of “habitat” specific to designation of critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The services note that the “final rule will improve and strengthen implementation of the ESA by rescinding a definition of “habitat” that was unclear, confusing, and inconsistent with the conservation purposes of the ESA.” The final rule is effective July 25, 2022.

 

For Your Information

HUD Announces $365 Million to Address Homelessness

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the first-of-its-kind package of resources to address unsheltered homelessness and homeless encampments. The $365 million package includes $322 million in Continuum of Care Program grants through a Special Notice of Funding Opportunity with a $54.5 million set-aside for rural communities and $43 million to fund approximately 4,000 new vouchers.

 

FTA Announces $16.2 Million to Help Communities in Areas of Persistent Poverty

The Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awarded $16.2 million in grants to help marginalized communities across the country. The funding will support 40 projects in 32 states and two territories through the Areas of Persistent Poverty program, to help improve transit in Census-defined low-income areas.

 

DOI Report Highlights National Park Visitor Spending Impact on Local Communities

The Department of the Interior (DOI) released a National Park Service report, 2021 National Park Visitor Spending Effects, showing that visitor spending in communities near national parks in 2021 resulted in a $42.5 billion benefit to the economy and supported 322,600 jobs. Per the report, approximately 297 million visitors spent $20.5 billion in communities within 60 miles of a national park and 268,900 jobs were in park gateway communities. Information by state and territory is also provided.

 

Recently Released Reports

State and Local Workforce 2022

MissionSquare Research Institute

State Approaches to Motor Fuel Taxes

The Council of State Governments

The Year of State Tax Cuts: The Sequel

Tax Policy Center

 

Economic News

Unemployment Claims Reported for Week Ending June 18

The U.S. Department of Labor released unemployment insurance weekly claims data last Thursday that showed for the week ending June 18, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 229,000. This is a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was revised up by 2,000 from 229,000 to 231,000. The 4-week moving average was 223,500, an increase of 4,500 from the previous week's revised average of 219,000. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 0.9 percent for the week ending June 11, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 202,844 in the week ending June 18, a decrease of 3,255 (or -1.6 percent) from the previous week.

 

State Personal Income Rises 4.8 Percent in the First Quarter of 2022

New data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that state personal income increased 4.8 percent at an annual rate in the first quarter of 2022 after increasing 3.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021. The percent change in personal income across all states ranged from a high of 8.5 percent to a low of 1.3 percent. In the first quarter of 2022, increases in earnings and property income (dividends, interest, and rent) more than offset a decrease in transfer receipts. For the nation, earnings increased 8.3 percent in the first quarter of 2022 after increasing 10.3 percent in the fourth quarter; the increase in earnings reflected the continued economic recovery following the partial economic shutdown that began in the first quarter of 2020 after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.