Budget Blog

August 16, 2022 - Washington Report

By Leah Wavrunek posted 08-16-2022 02:59 PM

  

This Week on the Hill  

The House and Senate are not in session for the remainder of the month.

 

House Passes Reconciliation Bill, Sends to President

On Friday the House voted 220-207 in a party-line vote to send H.R. 5376, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, to the President for his signature. This summary from Senate Democrats highlights provisions of the bill, which is estimated to raise $737 billion in revenue and spend $437 billion, with $300 billion allocated to deficit reduction. The President is expected to sign the bill later today. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced new nutrient management funding opportunities as a result of the legislation.

 

Treasury Publishes Capital Projects Fund Compliance and Reporting Guidance

On Wednesday the Treasury Department published the Capital Projects Fund Compliance and Reporting Guidance for States, Territories, and Freely Associated States. The guidance covers reporting requirements, including report timelines, along with general guidance on compliance responsibilities under the program. According to the program’s website (under the section on Recipient Compliance and Reporting), “Treasury will host webinars to support recipients to meet relevant compliance and reporting requirements. Please continue to check this website for updates on the webinar schedule, the forthcoming user guide, and additional resources.”

 

Treasury Releases Alternative Compliance Examination Engagement Report Guide

Last Thursday the Treasury Department released the Alternative Compliance Examination Engagement Report User Guide. The department recognizes that due to the receipt of a State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF) award, many SLFRF recipients may expend $750,000 or more in federal awards during their fiscal year and newly be required to complete a Single Audit or a Program-Specific Audit. Section IV of the SLFRF Compliance Supplement describes an alternative approach for eligible recipients, the Alternative Compliance Examination Engagement. The 2022 Compliance Supplement for SLFRF can be found here.

 

Treasury Updates SLFRF Compliance and Reporting Guidance

On Monday the Treasury Department updated the Compliance and Reporting Guidance for State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF). According to the Revision Log (pg. 51) the guidance was updated to clarify resources for Uniform Guidance applicability and add a reference to an alternative to the Single Audit available for eligible recipients.

 

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 Updates Maintenance of Effort Guidance: The Department of Education updated its guidance document for maintenance of effort (MOE). Per the document, updates are on pages 4-5, along with Appendices A, B, and C. The revised document incorporates the Department's recent letter regarding rounding procedures.
  • Treasury Posts Materials from SLFRF Affordable Housing Webinar: On August 10, the Treasury Department hosted a webinar on recently released State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) guidance for housing production and preservation. During the session, Treasury provided an overview of the guidance, which increases flexibility to use SLFRF to fully finance long-term affordable housing loans and expands presumptively eligible affordable housing. The department released a recording of the webinar and the presentation.
  • FNS Issues Guidance on Planning for the Expiration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency: The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released guidance on temporary administrative waivers available to state agencies to support unwinding from the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Per the announcement, this guidance is for state agency planning purposes and does not signal or confirm when the federal PHE declaration will end.
  • USDA Announces $73.8 Million to Improve Health Care in Rural Communities: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it is awarding $73.8 million in ARPA funds as grants to improve health care facilities in rural towns across the country. The grants will help 143 rural health care organizations expand critical services for 3 million people in 37 states, Guam and Puerto Rico.
  • FCC Announces Nearly $68 Million in Emergency Connectivity Funding: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it is committing nearly $68 million in two new funding rounds through the Emergency Connectivity Program. The funding commitments support applications from all three application windows and benefit over 100,000 students across the country. To date, the commission has committed over $5.7 billion to schools and libraries.
  • USDA Announces Nearly $8 Million for Dietary Health and Nutrition Security: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the award of nearly $8 million in ARPA funds to 17 projects under the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program Produce Prescription Program. Projects under this program provide financial and non-financial incentives to eligible recipients to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables to improve dietary health.
  • Treasury Updates NEU Distribution Information for Second Tranche: The Treasury Department updated its table on status of payments to states for distribution to non-entitlement units of local governments (NEUs). The table, last updated August 12, shows the Total NEU Allocation, Second NEU Tranche amount and invoice date, and if a first or second extension has been granted.
  • HUD Issues CDBG-CV Best Practices Report: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a report on best practices in the Community Development Block Grant CARES Act (CDBG-CV) program. The report describes grantee recommendations regarding how to assist businesses with economic recovery, safely provide public services, implement public facility and building improvements, and provide non-congregate shelter options and affordable housing in both urban and rural settings in response to the coronavirus.
  • FNS Posts Table Comparing School Meal Flexibilities: The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released a school meals programs comparison table of flexibilities, comparing school year 2021-22 and school year 2022-23. The chart provides an overview of how specific program flexibilities have changed since school year 2021-22 and what flexibilities are available for the upcoming school year to support program operations.
  • Treasury Releases June Data for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program: The Treasury Department released the June report for the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program. The report shows cumulative expenditures as of June 30 of $20.9 billion for ERA1 and $11.3 billion for ERA2. The report also includes state and local data.

 

CDC Updates COVID-19 Guidelines

On Thursday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) streamlined its COVID-19 guidance to better help people understand their risk, how to protect themselves and others, what actions to take if exposed to COVID-19, and what actions to take if they are sick or test positive. The press release notes the availability of tools to reduce COVID-19 severity including vaccination, boosters and treatments. CDC also notes the updated guidance is intended to apply to community settings and it is working to align stand-alone guidance documents for healthcare settings, congregate settings at higher risk of transmission, and travel with this update. The updated guidance for K-12 schools and education programs can be found here.  

 

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 it has awarded more than $2.2 billion from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program, to help urban and rural communities with projects that modernize roads, bridges, transit, rail, ports, and intermodal transportation. The full list of 166 projects can be found here. The IIJA provides an additional $7.5 billion over five years for the program.
  • The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced $1.66 billion in grants to transit agencies, territories and states to invest in 150 bus fleets and facilities. Funded by IIJA, more than 1,100 of those vehicles will use zero-emissions technology and funding will nearly double the number of no-emission transit buses on the roadways.
  • The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced it has added $1 billion from the IIJA to the current Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program funding period, which closes September 1. The total available for high-speed internet grants is now $1.98 billion.
  • The Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded $49.2 million in innovative technology grants to improve mobility and multimodal connections on highway and transit systems. The funding includes $45.2 million in Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment grants to 10 projects and $4 million in Enhancing Mobility Innovation grants to nine projects.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) issued a Request for Information on the development and implementation of a $675 million Critical Minerals Research, Development, Demonstration, and Commercialization Program. Funded by the IIJA, the program will address vulnerabilities in the domestic critical materials supply chain. Comments are due by September 9.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) launched two new program offices – the Grid Deployment Office and the Office of State and Community Energy Programs. Together, the offices will drive more than $23 billion in investments to modernize and expand capacity of the nation’s power grid and deploy cheaper, cleaner energy.

 

ACF Issues Guidance on Using CSBG Funds for Mortgage Assistance

Last week the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) issued an information memorandum for the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) on use of funds for mortgage payment assistance. The memorandum notes that while grant recipients are prohibited from acquiring or improving property, CSBG grant recipients and eligible entities can use their funds to help a program beneficiary pay their mortgage costs as long as the beneficiary meets the CSBG eligibility requirements, and this assistance aligns with an approved Community Action Plan or Tribal Plan. Additional information in the memorandum addresses eligibility determination and responding to community needs.

 

FDA Finalizes Rule for Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

Today the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule to improve access to hearing aids, which may also lower costs. The action establishes a new category of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids, enabling consumers with perceived mild to moderate hearing impairment to purchase hearing aids directly from stores or online retailers without a medical exam or prescription. Per the announcement, close to 30 million adults in the U.S. could benefit from hearing aid use. The effective date for the final rule is 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.

 

FEMA Announces Funding Available for Two Resiliency Programs

On Friday the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced the availability of funding for two resilience grant programs, totaling more than $3 billion, to help communities become more resilient to climate change and associated extreme weather events and hazards. Funding for the annual Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grant program will more than double to nearly $2.3 billion and the Flood Mitigation Assistance program is seeing a five-fold increase to $800 million; both programs received additional funds under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Applications are due by January 27.

 

ACF Releases $38 Million in Fiscal Year 2022 LIHEAP Funds

On Monday the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released $38 million in a third and final round of non-supplemental funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for federal fiscal year 2022. Per the announcement, ACF has allocated 100 percent of the LIHEAP funding available to grant recipients for fiscal year 2022; recipients must obligate 90 percent of their total award by September 30, 2022. A table with state and territory allocations can be found here.

 

FNS Releases SNAP Fiscal Year 2023 Cost-of-Living Adjustments

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) recently released the fiscal year 2023 Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA) to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) maximum allotments, income eligibility standards, and deductions. COLAs are effective as of October 1, 2022. The information includes COLAs for the 48 contiguous states and District of Columbia, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

CISA Releases Toolkit for Election Cybersecurity

On Wednesday the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released its Protecting U.S. Elections: A CISA Cybersecurity Toolkit. The toolkit is a one-stop catalog of free services and tools available for state and local election officials to improve cybersecurity and resilience of their infrastructure. The toolkit is organized into three categories: assessing risk using an Election Security Risk Profile Tool; finding tools related to protecting voter information, websites, email systems and network; and protecting against phishing, ransomware, and distributed denial-of-service attacks.

 

Recently Released Reports

The State as a Model Employer of People with Disabilities

The Council on State Governments

Mental Health Funding in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act

Congressional Research Service

Public Pensions Contend with Falling Markets and Rising Inflation

Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

 

Economic News

Unemployment Claims Reported for Week Ending August 6

The U.S. Department of Labor released unemployment insurance weekly claims data last Thursday that showed for the week ending August 6, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 262,000. This is an increase of 14,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was revised down by 12,000 from 260,000 to 248,000. The 4-week moving average was 252,000, an increase of 4,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 247,500. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.0 percent for the week ending July 30, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 203,619 in the week ending August 6, an increase of 7,521 (or 3.8 percent) from the previous week.

 

Consumer Price Index Unchanged in July as Real Hourly Earnings Increased

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released new data on the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) for July, showing the CPI-U was unchanged on a seasonally adjusted basis. Over the last twelve months, the all items index increased 8.5 percent before seasonal adjustment. The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.3 percent in July, while the energy index fell 4.6 percent, with the gasoline index falling 7.7 percent, and the food index rising 1.1 percent. For the 12 months ending in July the index for all items less food and energy rose 5.9 percent. Meanwhile, real average hourly earnings for all employees increased 0.5 percent from June to July, seasonally adjusted. This result stems from an increase of 0.5 percent in average hourly earnings combined with no change in the CPI-U.