Budget Blog

September 13, 2022 - Washington Report

By Leah Wavrunek posted 09-13-2022 04:03 PM

  

This Week on the Hill  

The House and Senate are both in session this week, facing a deadline of September 30 to keep the federal government funded.

The House convenes today and will consider 15 bills. For Wednesday and the balance of the week, the House will consider four bills with additional legislative items possible.

The Senate convened yesterday and continues work on judicial nominations. According to media reports, a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government past September 30 is expected to begin in the Senate as lawmakers negotiate what may be attached to the CR. The CR is expected to last through mid-December though no legislative text has been released at this time.

 

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).

  • FCC Announces Additional $81 Million in Emergency Connectivity Funding: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a commitment of over $81 million in a new funding round through the Emergency Connectivity Program, which provides digital services for students. The funding commitment supports applications from the third application window, benefitting approximately 170,000 students in five states and the District of Columbia.
  • CMS Releases Slide Deck on Medicaid Unwinding Efforts: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a slide deck that provides information on opportunities to support Medicaid unwinding efforts for states with integrated eligibility systems or workforces. The slide deck covers relevant policy guidance released by CMS, including ways to use information from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to facilitate Medicaid determinations.
  • Administration Announces Plans for Fall Vaccination and COVID-19 Management Campaign: The administration outlined its plan for the updated COVID-19 vaccine shot and managing COVID-19 to minimize disruptions. The plan includes offering updated vaccines for free with over 170 million doses secured; launching a targeted campaign for those most at-risk; increasing the nation’s stockpile of at-home COVID-19 tests; expanding the number of Test-to-Treat sites; calling on every school district to host at least one vaccination clinic by Thanksgiving; and preparing for potential surges and new variants.
  • 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 September 9, shows the Total NEU Allocation, Second NEU Tranche amount and invoice date, and if a first, second or third extension has been granted.
  • Treasury Announces Additional Recipients of Capital Projects Fund Awards: The Treasury Department announced six additional Capital Projects Fund awards to increase access to affordable, high-speed internet. Awards were announced for Connecticut, Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Arkansas and New Hampshire. The department will continue approving state and Tribal plans on a rolling basis.
  • Treasury Extends SSBCI Tribal Deadline: The Treasury Department extended the deadline for Tribal governments to initiate and submit their complete State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) Capital Program application to October 31, 2022.
  • Treasury Amends ERA Reallocation Guidance: The Treasury Department updated the Emergency Rental Assistance 1 (ERA1) reallocation guidance by adding Footnote 3, relating to the deadline for Program Improvement Plan submissions.
  • PRAC Releases Updated CRF Data: The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) released updated Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) spending data by states, eligible local governments, Tribal governments, the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories. The updated data includes all funds spent March 1, 2020 through June 30, 2022. As of June 30, 2022, 97 percent of the total funds have been spent.
  • ACF Releases Guidance on Child Abuse and Family Violence Prevention Funding: The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released new guidance for programs receiving ARPA funding. The guidance addresses Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention programs and Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act State Grants use of supplemental funding provided under ARPA as well as an overview of Family Violence Prevention and Services Act supplemental grant awards.
  • ACF Releases Information on Use of ARPA LIHEAP, LIHWAP Funds: The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released an information memorandum to provide an overview of and guidance on Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) funds made available through ARPA. All LIHEAP funds must be obligated by September 30, 2022 while LIHWAP funds must be obligated by September 30, 2023 and liquidated by December 31, 2023.
  • ACF Publishes Information on Spending Deadline and Uses of Pandemic Emergency Assistance Fund: The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released information reminding grant recipients of the deadline to use Pandemic Emergency Assistance Fund initial awards by September 30, 2022 and providing guidance on allowable uses of funds.
  • FNS Releases P-EBT Policy Memos on State Plans and Virtual Schools: The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released two new policy memos and guidance documents related to the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program. The policy memos include new guidance to states for school year 2022-23 along with updated guidance on virtual schools.

 

IIJA Implementation Resources Released

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

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will hold an intergovernmental briefing on the Climate Ready Coasts initiative, which will invest $1.5 billion to help coastal communities address resilience to climate change and extreme weather events. A briefing will be held Thursday, September 15 at 4pm ET.
  • The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Joint Office of Energy and Transportation will hold a webinar to share resources and technical assistance for grant recipients of the Low-and No-Emission Buses and Bus Facilities program (Low/No). The webinar will be held Thursday, September 15 at 3pm ET.
  • The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced Louisiana is the first state to receive planning grants for deploying high-speed internet networks and developing digital skills training programs under the Internet for All initiative. All fifty states and six territories applied for planning grant funding for the Internet for All initiative's Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program and the Digital Equity Act program; grant awards for all 56 eligible entities will be announced on a rolling basis.
  • The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced it has awarded an initial $560 million to 24 states to begin work to plug, cap and reclaim orphaned oil and gas wells. This investment is part of an overall $1.15 billion in Phase One funding announced in January by the department for states to plug and remediate orphaned wells. States will receive additional formula funding dollars in the coming months.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the selection of 39 recipients that will receive nearly $12 million in pollution prevention (P2) grants funded by the IIJA’s $100 million program investment. These grants will allow states and Tribes to provide businesses with technical assistance to help them develop and adopt P2 practices to prevent or reduce pollution before it is created, while also reducing business and liability costs. A list of recipients is included in the announcement.
  • The Forest Service announced more than $65 million in investments to improve water quality, roads, trails, and fish habitat nationwide. The funding includes $25.5 million through the Collaborative Aquatic Landscape Restoration Program and $40 million through the Legacy Roads and Trails Program.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced $7.7 million in new grants using IIJA funds to support ongoing natural infrastructure projects in seven states. The grants will support the design and implementation of projects to enhance the resilience of coastal communities and improve habitat for fish and wildlife in Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) issued a request for information to help guide the implementation of $335 million in IIJA investments for lithium-ion battery recycling programs. DOE is requesting feedback on how federal investments can accelerate the collection, transportation, processing, and recycling of batteries and scrap materials, enable second-life applications of lithium-ion batteries previously used to power electric vehicles, and support high-quality jobs for American workers, including through State and Local grant programs. Comments are due by October 14.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) issued a request for information seeking input on the $10.5 billion Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnership Program to enhance the resilience and reliability of the nation’s electric grid. The request seeks information from states, Tribes, communities, utilities, project developers, and other key stakeholders to help refine the funding opportunity announcement that will be made later this year and to guide the implementation of the funding over five years. Comments are due by October 14.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted resources for IIJA investments in brownfields, including information on relevant programs and policy changes.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced up to $169 million in funding is available for Brownfields Multipurpose, Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grants under the fiscal year 2023 grant competitions. The funding is increased by the IIJA, with EPA anticipating awarding approximately 198 grants nationwide at amounts ranging from $500,000 to $2 million per award. Applications are due by November 22.
  • The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced the redistribution of fiscal year 2022 obligation limitation to states, with a total of $6.2 billion in obligation limitation available for redistribution; states requested a total of $6.3 billion in additional formula obligation limitation.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) announced it is accepting applications from all 50 states, five U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia for $425 million in formula funding through the State Energy Program (SEP). The funding expands formula grants to nearly 10 times of recent funding levels, while allowing states broad flexibility to finance a range of activities and projects. Additional information can be found here.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it is now accepting applications for ReConnect Program loans and grants to expand access to high-speed internet in rural America. The application deadline is November 2, with additional information available here.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) launched a notice of intent for a new program to fund resilience projects. The Safeguarding Tomorrow Revolving Loan Fund program will make $50 million available in capitalization grants to states to fund low-interest loans to local governments. FEMA expects to publish the program funding opportunity by the end of 2022 and receive applications through spring 2023.

 

IRA Implementation Resources Released

The administration announced implementation resources for the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA, P.L. 117-169).

  • The administration released a series of fact sheets on impacts of the IRA on the U.S. territories. Fact sheets were released for the Northern Mariana Islands, S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and Puerto Rico. Previously released state fact sheets can be found here.
  • The President signed an executive order on the implementation of the energy and infrastructure provisions of the IRA, which includes “effectively coordinating with state, local, Tribal and territorial governments.” The order establishes the White House Office on Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation to coordinate the policymaking process. The President previously announced that John Podesta will serve as Senior Advisor to the President for Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation, overseeing implementation of the law’s clean energy and climate provisions.

 

DHS Issues Final Rule on Public Charge Determinations

On Thursday the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a final rule that restores the historical understanding of a “public charge,” reversing actions by the prior administration to consider receipt of supplemental public health benefits such as Medicaid and nutritional assistance as part of the public charge inadmissibility determination for those applying for a green card. Under the final rule, DHS will not consider in public charge determinations benefits received by family members other than the applicant and will also not consider receipt of certain non-cash benefits for which noncitizens may be eligible including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or other nutrition programs, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid, housing benefits, any benefits related to immunizations or testing for communicable diseases, or other supplemental or special-purpose benefits. The final rule takes effect on December 23, 2022 and DHS will develop a Policy Manual update to help immigration officers apply this regulation and better inform the public about how the rule will be implemented. A statement from the Department of Health and Human Services can be found here.

 

Commerce Releases Implementation Strategy for $50 Billion in Funding from CHIPS Bill

Last week the Department of Commerce released its strategy outlining how the department will implement $50 billion from the CHIPS Act of 2022 (P.L. 117-167). The department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will oversee the CHIPS for America program, to revitalize the domestic semiconductor industry and spur innovation. The newly released strategy outlines the initiatives, strategic goals, and guardrails guiding the CHIPS for America program, while also providing clear recommendations for potential applicants. Funding documents, which will provide specific application guidance for the CHIPS for America program, will be released by early February 2023. Awards and loans will be made on a rolling basis as soon as applications can be processed, evaluated and negotiated. An executive summary of the strategy can be found here.

 

Federal Judge Rules Against HIV Prevention Drug Covered Under the ACA

Last week, Federal District Court Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that coverage of the HIV prevention drug required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) imposes a substantial burden on religious freedom under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In addition, Judge O’Connor ruled that the process for determining what kinds of preventive care must be covered by private health insurance under the ACA is unconstitutional, questioning the authority of the government’s Preventive Services Task Force to determine what preventive services employers must cover. This decision could potentially jeopardize a range of free preventive drugs and screenings including for cancer and immunizations. Judge O'Connor requested that both the defendants and plaintiffs file supplemental briefings before making a final decision. The Biden administration is expected to appeal.


HRSA Announces Temporary Changes in the State Maternal and Child Health Block Grant Allocations 

On Friday the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing temporary changes to the method of calculating poverty-based allocations for the State Title V Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Services Block Grant. The changes will begin in fiscal year 2023 and are a result of disruptions to data collection due to the COVID-19 pandemic. HRSA also recently announced investments of more than $20 million to improve maternal and infant health.

 

HHS Awards Youth Mental Health Grants

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced that it awarded $40 million in youth mental health grants throughout the month of August. The department also announced $47.6 million in new grant funding opportunities developed from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

 

DOL Awards $19.8 Million in Trade Assistance Grants

Last week the Department of Labor (DOL) announced the award of $19.8 million in funding to provide training and employment services in 45 states and Puerto Rico to eligible workers affected adversely by foreign trade. The awards are DOL’s final distribution of fiscal year 2022 funds to states through the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers (TAA) Program. Without congressional action to reauthorize the program, the TAA Program entered a phased termination status on July 1, 2022; the program remains in termination until the last eligible worker is served or until Congress reauthorizes the program to accept new petitions.

 

SAMHSA Announces $79.1 Million in Overdose Prevention Grants

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently announced the award of $79.1 million in overdose prevention grants. The funding includes $14.5 million for grants to first responders, $7.1 million for rural emergency medical services training, $8.2 million for targeted capacity expansion, $12.1 million for treatment for pregnant and postpartum women, and $32.7 million for medication-assisted treatment. Recipients for each category of funding can be found in the announcement.

 

SBA Announces $20 Million for State and Territory International Trade Agencies

On Thursday the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced $20 million in awarded grants for 52 state and territory international trade agencies, the highest number of grantees since the program’s inception. The funds support export growth and international expansion among small businesses. A list of recipients can be found here.

 

HHS Provides Update on 988 Lifeline, Announces Grants to Tribal Communities

On Friday the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released new data showing usage of the 988 Lifeline increased 45 percent over the first month of the transition and also highlights the types of contacts (calls, chats, texts) and how quickly they were answered. To better support 988 Lifeline services in Tribal communities, HHS announced a new $35 million grant opportunity, which will result in more trained crisis counselors. This investment builds on the $432 million provided to date to support the 988 transition, including $105 million in grant funding to states and territories provided by the American Rescue Plan Act.

 

USDA Sends Letter to Governors Encouraging Support for School Meal Programs

The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently sent a letter to governors encouraging actions to support school meal programs. The letter outlines support including leveraging state and local resources to support school meals, seeking other federal funds that can be used to support child nutrition programs, engaging with school districts to better support the foodservice workforce, and maximizing the use of the Community Eligibility Provision and direct certification.

 

Administration Launches Apprenticeship Ambassador Initiative

The administration recently announced the launch of the Apprenticeship Ambassador Initiative, a national network of more than 200 employers and industry organizations, labor organizations, educators, workforce intermediaries, and community-based organizations. The Apprenticeship Ambassadors have committed to expand and diversify programs over the next year by collectively developing 460 new Registered Apprenticeship programs across their 40 industries, hiring over 10,000 new apprentices, and holding 5,000 outreach events. The announcement highlights industry actions as well as federal agency efforts to support apprenticeships.

 

Administration Launches Climate Mapping Portal

Last week the administration launched the Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation Portal to provide a live dashboard to help communities see extreme weather and other hazards from climate change they are facing, while also providing maps projecting how each community could be impacted in the future. The site also points users to federal grant funds for climate resilience projects, including those available through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). A webinar on the portal can be found here.

 

Recently Released Reports

Lessons From a Historic Decline in Child Poverty

ChildTrends

Impact of COVID-19 on State and Federal Prisons, March 2020-February 2021

Bureau of Justice Statistics

The Safer Communities Act: Changes to Medicaid EPSDT and School Based Services

Kaiser Family Foundation

 

Economic News

Unemployment Claims Reported for Week Ending September 3

The U.S. Department of Labor released unemployment insurance weekly claims data last Thursday that showed for the week ending September 3, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 222,000. This is a decrease of 6,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was revised down by 4,000 from 232,000 to 228,000. The 4-week moving average was 233,000, a decrease of 7,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 240,500. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.0 percent for the week ending August 27, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 175,842 in the week ending September 3, an increase of 1,978 (or 1.1 percent) from the previous week.

 

Consumer Price Index Rises in August as Real Hourly Earnings Increase

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released new data on the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) for August, showing the CPI-U rose 0.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis after being unchanged in July. Over the last twelve months, the all items index increased 8.3 percent before seasonal adjustment. The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.6 percent in August, while the energy index fell 5.0 percent, with the gasoline index falling 10.6 percent, and the food index rising 0.8 percent. For the 12 months ending in August the index for all items less food and energy rose 6.3 percent. Meanwhile, real average hourly earnings for all employees increased 0.2 percent from July to August, seasonally adjusted. This result stems from an increase of 0.3 percent in average hourly earnings combined with an increase of 0.1 percent in the CPI-U.

 

Economy Adds 315,000 Jobs in August

New data recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 315,000 in August and the unemployment rate rose by 0.2 percentage point to 3.7 percent. The data also shows that in August there were 6.0 million unemployed persons, an increase of 344,000. The number of long-term unemployed (jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 1.1 million, accounting for 18.8 percent of the total unemployed. The labor force participation rate increased by 0.3 percentage point over the month to 62.4 percent but is 1.0 percentage point below its February 2020 level. In August, notable job gains occurred in professional and business services (68,000), health care (48,000), retail trade (44,000), manufacturing (22,000), and financial activities (17,000). Employment showed little change in construction, transportation and warehousing, information, other services, and government. State government jobs increased by 3,000, with increases in state government, excluding education (+7,400) offsetting decreases to state government education (-4,500). The change in total nonfarm payroll employment was revised down for June (-105,000) and July (-2,000).

 

Job Openings Increase to 11.2 Million in July

The number of job openings was little changed at 11.2 million on the last business day of July, according to data recently released by the U.S. Department of Labor (up from 11.0 million in June). The largest increases in job openings were in transportation, warehousing and utilities (+81,000), arts, entertainment and recreation (+53,000), federal government (+47,000) and state and local government education (+42,000). The number of hires was little changed at 6.4 million in July and the hires rate was unchanged at 4.2 percent. The number of separations was little changed at 5.9 million. The 4.2 million quits reported in July were little changed; many economists closely watch the number of quits as a measure of employee confidence in finding another job. Finally, layoffs and discharges were little changed at 1.4 million.