Budget Blog

September 20, 2022 - Washington Report

By Leah Wavrunek posted 09-20-2022 02:34 PM

  

This Week on the Hill  

The House and Senate are in session this week as negotiations continue on an expected continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government after September 30. No legislative text has been released at this time.

The House convened Monday with 26 bills scheduled for consideration. For Tuesday and the balance of the week, the House will consider S. 1098, the Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act, and may consider H.R. 8873, the Presidential Election Reform Act. Scheduled committee activity includes: the Ways and Means Committee will mark up legislation on Tuesday related to Social Security and public sector pensions; the Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on water infrastructure preparedness and resilience; and the Education and Labor Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on administration of the unemployment insurance system.

The Senate convened Monday and continues consideration of judicial nominations. Scheduled committee activity includes: the Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on state and local perspectives of implementation of the IIJA and the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the State Trade Expansion Program.

 

DHS Launches $1 Billion State, Local and Territorial Cyber Grant Program

On Friday the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) launched the first cybersecurity grant program specifically for state, local, and territorial governments. Authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the grant program provides $1 billion over four years, with $185 million available in fiscal year 2022 to support state, local and territorial efforts to address cyber risk to their information systems. Recipients are required to create a cybersecurity plan. Applications are due November 15. Additional information, including a fact sheet and frequently asked questions, can be found here. An allocation table is included in the notice of funding opportunity (under the tab “Related Documents,” select the pdf document).

 

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 Releases ERA1 Unobligated Fund Notice, Closeout Resource: The Treasury Department released information for the Emergency Rental Assistance 1 (ERA1) program. First, the department released a notice regarding unobligated ERA1 funds, communicating important upcoming deadlines and identifying certain options available to states, local governments, territories, Tribal governments, and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands regarding unobligated funds. Second, the department published the ERA1 Closeout Resource, detailing closeout information and resources along with additional guidance.
  • Capital Projects Fund Deadline Approaching: The deadline for states and territories to submit a grant plan for the Treasury Department’s Capital Projects Fund is September 24. Submissions are due through the Treasury Submission Portal.
  • Education Sends Letter on ARP ESSER State Plan Amendment Requirements: The Department of Education sent a letter to Chief State School Officers to provide information on the process for submitting an amendment to section D, Maximizing State-Level Funds to Support Students, in approved ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) state plans. The department notes that states may need to revise and strengthen this section of state plans “to better address the evolving educational needs of children as you lead academic recovery efforts.”
  • DOL Extends Deadline on UI Grant Opportunity: The Department of Labor (DOL) released Unemployment Insurance Program Letter No. 02-22, Change 2. The letter is intended to notify states about the deadline for expressing interest in the grant opportunity where $200 million is available for states that engage in a consultative assessment with the department and agree to implement recommendations to enhance their unemployment compensation systems and business processes to prevent fraud, promote equitable access and ensure timely payment of benefits. The deadline is extended to March 31, 2023. The letter also provides updated application instructions.
  • CMS Approves First Medicaid Mobile Crisis Intervention Services Program: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved the first Medicaid mobile crisis intervention services program, to be launched in Oregon. Authorized by ARPA, the new Medicaid option gives states an opportunity to support community-based mobile crisis intervention services for individuals with Medicaid, including those who have both a mental health and substance use condition.
  • HHS Announces Continued Availability of No-Cost COVID-19 Vaccines: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that people with Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage, private insurance coverage, or no health coverage can get COVID-19 vaccines, including the updated Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, at no cost, for as long as the federal government continues purchasing and distributing these vaccines.

 

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 $1.5 billion under the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) competitive grant program was awarded to 26 projects to make transportation systems safer and more resilient, eliminate supply chain bottlenecks, and improve critical freight movements.
  • The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced approval of the first 35 state plans under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program. With this approval, these states can now unlock more than $900 million in NEVI formula funding from fiscal years 2022 and 2023 to help build EV chargers across approximately 53,000 miles of highway. Approved plans can be found here and funding tables can be found here. The remaining plans will continue to be reviewed on a rolling basis as the plan approvals are finalized.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded IIJA funding to the first 18 states for water infrastructure improvements. More than $1.1 billion in capitalization grants from the IIJA have been issued through the State Revolving Funds, with additional capitalization grants forthcoming. The funding announced represents fiscal year 2022 awards for states that have submitted and obtained EPA’s approval of their plans for use of the funding; capitalization grants will continue to be awarded, on a rolling, state-by-state basis, as more states receive approval throughout the fiscal year.
  • The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced it is accepting applications for two programs that will make approximately $160 million available annually over five years for projects that use technology to improve transportation infrastructure and make communities safer. Funding is available under two programs: the new Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grants Program and the Advanced Transportation Technology and Innovation (ATTAIN) program; applications for both programs are due by November 18.

 

Education Announces Allocations for Stronger Connections Grant Program

Last week the Department of Education sent a letter to Chief State School Officers and released state and territory allocations for the Stronger Connections grant program, authorized in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (P.L. 117-159). The program is authorized for $1 billion in formula funding under Title IV, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to state educational agencies (SEAs) to provide students with safer and healthier learning environments. Under the act, SEAs must award these funds competitively to high-need local educational agencies (LEAs) to fund allowable activities. The letter also highlights how the department is encouraging funds to be prioritized for LEAs.

 

ACF Releases Series of Resources on Uses of Funds for Natural Disasters

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) recently released a series of resources on uses of funding and allowable flexibilities for emergency preparedness and natural disaster response. These resources include: Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Q and As on Disaster Relief; Using Social Services Block Grant (SSBG)/Consolidated Block Grant (CBG) to Support Emergency Preparedness Response and Recovery; and Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) Disaster Recovery and Flexibilities. The Office of Community Services also released the Disaster Flexibilities Hub to help support grant recipients, individuals and families during emergencies and natural disasters. The Hub is an information management tool that visually tracks and displays key data, guidance, and resources on declared disasters, disaster preparedness efforts, and the flexibilities built into the office’s block grant programs.

 

FNS Issues Final Rule on Summer Food Service Program Changes

On Monday the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) published a final rule in the Federal Register entitled “Streamlining Program Requirements and Improving Integrity in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)”. The rulemaking amends the program regulations to strengthen program integrity by clarifying, simplifying, and streamlining program administration to facilitate compliance with program requirements. The final rule notes that “Many of the provisions codified through this final rule are currently allowed as program flexibilities and have been shown to improve program administration and enhance service delivery for participating children and their families.” The rule is effective October 1, 2022.

 

NTIA Updates Federal Broadband Funding Guide

On Monday the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released an update to the federal broadband funding site, which aims to serve as a “one-stop shop” of resources for potential applicants seeking federal broadband funding. The site includes broadband funding opportunities and information on more than 80 federal programs across 14 federal agencies. Program types include direct grants, loans, indirect support, and discounts for industry, state, local, and Tribal governments, schools, libraries, and other community institutions that are interested in expanding and improving broadband access.

 

USDA Announces 70 Climate-Smart Commodities Projects

On Wednesday the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the investment of up to $2.8 billion in 70 selected projects under the first pool of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities funding opportunity. The investment will create market opportunities for American commodities produced using climate-smart production practices. USDA received over 450 proposals from more than 350 entities for the first funding pool, with applications covering every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. USDA will work with the applicants for the 70 identified projects to finalize the scope and funding levels in the coming months. Projects from the second funding pool will be announced later this year.

 

USDA Announces Nearly $2 Billion for Food Banks, School Meal Programs

On Wednesday the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it will provide close to $2 billion in additional funding to food banks and school meal programs for purchasing American-grown foods. The funds, provided through the Commodity Credit Corporation, include $943 million to purchase food for emergency food providers including food banks, $471.5 million to expand the Local Food Purchase Association, and $471.5 million for schools to purchase food for their lunch and breakfast programs. The funding to schools builds on two rounds of Supply Chain Assistance funds previously allocated in December 2021 and June 2022.

 

ACF Announces $300 Million in New Early Childhood Funds, Releases Workforce Guidance

Last week the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released new funding opportunities to strengthen the early care and education workforce, and also released program guidance to assist states, territories, Tribes, and community organizations in increasing compensation and benefits for early childhood educators. The funding includes $266 million through the Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five renewal and planning grants along with $30 million through the National Early Care and Education Workforce Center funding opportunity. The guidance on increasing compensation and benefits for early childhood educators addresses three federal funding streams: Child Care and Development Fund; Head Start; and Preschool Development Grants Birth to Five funds.

 

DOJ Announces Nearly $225 Million in VAWA Funding

The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced $224.9 million in grants designed to enhance victim services and justice solutions for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. Authorized under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the newly announced funding includes: $140.5 million under the STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grants; $36.2 million under the Transitional Housing Program; $33.4 million under the Rural Program; and $14.9 million under the State and Territory Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalitions Program.

 

VA Awards $137 Million to Help Homeless Veterans and Families

Last week the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the award of $137 million in grants through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program to help veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless and their families. These funds are supplemental to previous fiscal year 2022 grants and increase the number of veterans who are eligible for assistance. In fiscal year 2021, SSVF served 114,175 participants, including 80,049 veterans and 19,266 children. A list of grantees can be found here.

 

Recently Released Reports

HHS Roadmap for Behavioral Health Integration

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

National Guidelines for Post-Conviction Risk and Needs Assessment

Bureau of Justice Assistance

Overview of Opioid Treatment Program Regulations by State

The Pew Charitable Trusts

 

 

Economic News

Unemployment Claims Reported for Week Ending September 10

The U.S. Department of Labor released unemployment insurance weekly claims data last Thursday that showed for the week ending September 10, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 213,000. This is a decrease of 5,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was revised down by 4,000 from 222,000 to 218,000. The 4-week moving average was 224,000, a decrease of 8,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 232,000. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.0 percent for the week ending September 3, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 155,961 in the week ending September 10, a decrease of 16,934 (or -9.8 percent) from the previous week.

 

Unemployment Rates Stable in 34 in August

New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that many state unemployment rates saw little change in August; unemployment rates were higher in 16 states and stable in 34 states and the District of Columbia. Compared to one year earlier, all 50 states and the District of Columbia had jobless rate decreases. The national unemployment rate rose to 3.7 percent over the month but was 1.5 percentage points lower than in August 2021. Looking across states, 17 states had unemployment rates lower than the U.S. figure of 3.7 percent, 8 states and the District had higher rates, and 25 states had rates that were not appreciably different. Nonfarm payroll employment decreased in 1 state in August, increased in 10 states and was essentially unchanged in 39 states and the District of Columbia. Over the year, nonfarm payroll employment increased in 46 states and the District and was essentially unchanged in 4 states.