This Week on the Hill
The House and Senate are not in session for the remainder of the month.
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).
- USDA Announces $550 Million for Underserved Producers: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced up to $550 million in funding from ARPA to support projects that enable underserved producers to access land, capital, and markets, and train the next generation of agricultural professionals.
- DOL Awards $26 Million to Improve UI Benefits Delivery: The Department of Labor (DOL) announced the award of nearly $26 million in grant funding to improve how unemployment insurance (UI) benefits are delivered to people facing obstacles to access in California, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, and West Virginia. Through eight rounds, the department has awarded equity grants totaling nearly $133 million to 25 states and the District of Columbia.
- 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 26, shows the Total NEU Allocation, Second NEU Tranche amount and invoice date, and if a first or second extension has been granted.
- CDC Vaccine Advisory Committee to Meet on Booster Doses: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet on September 1-2 to discuss COVID-19 booster doses. Pfizer and BioNTech completed a submission to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting Emergency Use Authorization of a booster dose targeting omicron subvariants for individuals 12 years of age and older.
USDA Extends Infant Formula Waivers Through December 31
Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it extended a series of waivers to provide Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) families with additional formula options through the end of the year. The waivers, which were previously set to expire at the end of September, will now be available through the earlier of either December 31, 2022, or 60 days after the expiration of the state’s COVID-19 major disaster declaration. The waivers extended allow WIC state agencies, with the necessary agreements from their infant formula contract manufacturers, to offer participants additional infant formula options, such as alternate sizes, forms and brands. A policy memo on waiver expiration schedules can be found here.
President Cancels Portion of Student Debt, Makes Repayment Changes
Last Wednesday the President and the Department of Education announced a final extension of the pause on student loan repayment, interest, and collections through December 31, 2022. The department will also provide targeted student debt cancellation to borrowers with loans held by the department: borrowers with annual income during the pandemic of under $125,000 (for individuals) or under $250,000 (for married couples or heads of households) who received a Pell Grant in college will be eligible for up to $20,000 in debt cancellation while borrowers who meet the income standards but did not receive a Pell Grant will be eligible for up to $10,000 in relief. The department is also proposing a rule to cut in half (from 10 to 5 percent of discretionary income) the amount that borrowers have to pay each month on their undergraduate loans and additionally the rule would fully cover the borrower’s unpaid monthly interest. Other repayment changes are also outlined in this fact sheet. Memos were also released from the Departments of Education and Justice.
Administration Launches CHIPS.gov, Lays Out Implementation Priorities
On Thursday the President signed an executive order on implementation of the CHIPS Act of 2022 (P.L. 117-167) that highlights implementation priorities and establishes the CHIPS Implementation Steering Council. The priorities include protecting taxpayer dollars, meeting economic and national security needs, ensuring long-term leadership in the sector, strengthening and expanding regional manufacturing and innovation clusters, catalyzing private sector investment, and generating benefits for a broad range of stakeholders and communities. The Commerce Department also launched the website CHIPS.gov to inform program implementation.
USDA Invests $121 Million in Critical Infrastructure
On Wednesday the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an investment of $121 million in critical infrastructure to combat climate change across rural America. The investments include $111 million for 289 projects to help people living in socially vulnerable communities and funding will help people in 49 states, Guam, and Puerto Rico. A list of recipients can be found here.
DOJ Announces $49.9 Million in Office on Violence Against Women Grants
Last week the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced nearly $50 million in Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) grants to provide survivors of gender-based violence with access to legal services and improve effective coordination of justice systems impacting victim and family safety. The department awarded $35.7 million under the Legal Assistance for Victims Program and $14.2 million to 26 projects that aim to improve the response of the civil and criminal justice systems to families with a history of domestic violence. Later this year, OVW will launch the new Expanding Legal Services Initiative (ELSI) under the Legal Assistance for Victims Grant Program to support entities that do not yet have a legal representation program and need assistance establishing one; the grant solicitation will be released in the fall.
Final Rule on “Ghost Guns” Takes Effect
On Wednesday the Department of Justice (DOJ) noted that the “Frame or Receiver” final rule goes into effect. The new rule modernizes the definition of a firearm and makes it clear that parts kits that are readily convertible to functional weapons, or functional “frames” or “receivers” of weapons, are subject to the same regulations as traditional firearms. The rule is intended to help curb the proliferation of “ghost guns,” which are often assembled from kits, do not contain serial numbers, and are sold without background checks. The text of the final rule can be found here and additional information can be found here.
DHS Issues Final Rule for DACA
Last Wednesday the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it has issued a final rule that is intended to preserve and fortify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy for certain eligible noncitizens who arrived in the U.S. as children. The final rule defers their removal and allows them an opportunity to access a renewable, two-year work permit. The final review codifies existing DACA policy, with limited changes, and replaces the DACA policy guidance set forth in the 2012 Napolitano memorandum. The final rule is effective October 31, 2022. According to the announcement, “while a July 16, 2021, injunction from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas remains in effect, DHS is prohibited from granting initial DACA requests and related employment authorization under the final rule. Because that injunction has been partially stayed, DHS presently may grant DACA renewal requests under the final rule.”
HHS Announces More Than $20 Million to Combat HIV Epidemic
Last week the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced more than $20 million in funding to expand HIV prevention, testing, and treatment services at health centers nationwide. The funding is awarded to 64 health centers under the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. initiative, which aims to reduce the number of new HIV infections in the U.S. by 90 percent by 2030. A list of recipients by state can be found here.
HUD Announces Allocation Plan for Stability Vouchers
On Wednesday the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a notice explaining the department’s non-competitive allocation strategy and program requirements for new Stability Vouchers. Under the program, HUD will award up to $43.4 million to support approximately 4,000 new incremental vouchers with the goal of encouraging a community-wide commitment to the goal of ending homelessness through a coordinated, Housing First approach. The $43.4 million for the new incremental vouchers is part of a first-of-its-kind package of resources to address unsheltered homelessness and homeless encampments, including funds set aside specifically to address homelessness in rural communities. All registrations of interest for funding must be sent no later than October 20.
AASHTO Responds to Proposed NEVI Program Rulemaking
On August 20, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) sent a letter to the Federal Highway Administration. The letter provides feedback on the agency’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) formula program proposed rulemaking issued back in June.
24 States Set to Begin Plugging Over 10,000 Orphaned Wells
On August 25, the Department of Interior (DOI) announced it has awarded an initial $560 million from President Biden’s Infrastructure Law to 24 states to begin work to plug, cap, and reclaim orphaned oil and gas wells. Today’s investment is part of an overall $1.15 billion in Phase One funding announced in January by DOI for states to plug and remediate orphaned wells.
Treasury Announces Five Additional Capital Projects Fund Awards to Increase Access to Affordable, High-Speed Internet
Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the approval of an additional group of five states (Connecticut, Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Arkansas) under the American Rescue Plan’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund (CPF). The CPF provides $10 billion to 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.
Recently Released Reports
Thirteen States May Tax Student Loan Debt Cancelation
Clean Vehicle Tax Credits in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022
Congressional Research Service
Breaking the Rules: Rethinking Condition Setting and Enforcement in Juvenile Probation
Council on State Governments Justice Center
Trends in State Courts 2022
National Center for State Courts
Unemployment Claims Reported for Week Ending August 20
The U.S. Department of Labor released unemployment insurance weekly claims data last Thursday that showed for the week ending August 20, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 243,000. This is a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was revised down by 5,000 from 250,000 to 245,000. The 4-week moving average was 247,000, an increase of 1,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 245,500. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.0 percent for the week ending August 13, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 184,414 in the week ending August 20, a decrease of 3,039 (or -1.6 percent) from the previous week.
GDP Second Quarter Decrease Reduced 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 second quarter of 2022, showing that GDP decreased at an annual rate of 0.6 percent. The second estimate is based on more complete source data than were available for the “advance” estimate issued in July, which showed a decrease of real GDP of 0.9 percent. According to the release, the update primarily reflects upward revisions to consumer spending and private inventory investment that were partly offset by a downward revision to residential fixed investment. Real gross domestic income (GDI) increased 1.4 percent in the second quarter, compared with an increase of 1.8 percent in the first quarter.