This Week on the Hill
The House and Senate are not in session this week.
Treasury Makes $10 Billion Available Through Capital Projects Fund
Today the Treasury Department released a fact sheet and announced that states, territories, and Freely Associated States now have access to $9.9 billion in funding through the Capital Projects Fund, with $100 million available for Tribal Governments. According to the press release, states, territories, and Freely Associated States are now able to access approximately $495 million in administrative funds that can be used to prepare for investments in capital assets; Treasury allows up to 5 percent of an eligible recipient’s allocation to be used to develop eligible programs and projects, including working with communities to identify high-priority projects and with subrecipients on program design, along with meeting federal compliance and audit requirements. These entities can also now submit Grant and Program Plans to Treasury, detailing how the capital funds will increase community resilience and access to connectivity infrastructure, including broadband.
SLFRF Project and Expenditure Report Deadline is January 31
The first deadline for project and expenditure reports under the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) is January 31 for recipients in tiers 1-3 (which includes states and territories). Treasury has released multiple resources for reporting, including the Project and Expenditure Report User Guide, which was updated on January 24 (see the Revision Log on pg. 88 for a summary of changes). There are also several webinars posted, covering topics such as submission of the project and expenditure report, overview of reporting tiers, account creation and login, bulk uploads, and user roles. All reporting and compliance information can be found here.
OSHA Withdraws Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard
Today the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced it is withdrawing the vaccination and testing emergency temporary standard (ETS) issued on November 5 for large employers. The withdrawal is effective January 26, 2022. The announcement notes that “Although OSHA is withdrawing the vaccination and testing ETS as an enforceable emergency temporary standard, the agency is not withdrawing the ETS as a proposed rule. The agency is prioritizing its resources to focus on finalizing a permanent COVID-19 Healthcare Standard.”
Treasury Releases ERA Reporting Guidance Version 3.0
The Treasury Department released new reporting resources for the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program. Updated reporting guidance, version 3.0, includes updates that clarify naming conventions, update appendices with information relevant to the Treasury Portal, and transition terminology “grants” with subawards. The Revision Log on page 1 highlights the changes. Treasury also released a Quarterly Reporting Special Tip to share observations and important reporting tips. According to Treasury, “Information in this document will be useful to all ERA recipients as they prepare their Q4 2021 Quarterly Reports and future Quarterly Reports.”
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).
- HHS Distributing $2 Billion in Provider Relief Fund Payments: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it is making more than $2 billion in Provider Relief Fund Phase 4 General Distribution payments to more than 7,600 providers. Phase 4 payments have an increased focus on equity, including reimbursing a higher percentage of losses for small providers and incorporating “bonus” payments for providers who serve Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Medicare beneficiaries. A state and territory breakdown of payments can be found here.
- HHS Awarding $103 Million for Reducing Health Care Provider Burnout: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced $103 million in awards to improve the retention of health care workers and help respond to staffing needs by reducing burnout and promoting mental health and wellness. The funds, authorized through ARPA, will be disbursed through three programs to 45 grantees and will fund evidence-informed programs, practices and training.
- Education Announces Resources to Support College Students: The Department of Education announced resources for students and institutions to help reduce barriers to success in higher education, especially those exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The resources include an additional $198 million in ARPA funds to primarily support community colleges and institutions with the greatest needs; new guidance on using funds to meet students’ basic needs; and guidance on using existing data to connect students to other federal benefits.
- ACF Releases FAQ on Use of SLFRF for TANF Maintenance of Effort: The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released a frequently asked question (FAQ) asking if states may count expenditures of certain funds from the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF) program toward the maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The answer is no, expenditures of SLFRF program funds cannot be used toward the TANF MOE requirement because the TANF statute prohibits any funds made available by the federal government from counting towards MOE.
- FNS Updates Guidance for Pandemic EBT Program: The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released a Question and Answer Addendum for the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program. The document provides information to states to assist in the development of state plans to operate Pandemic EBT for school children.
- Administration Announces 2021 Compliance Supplement Addendum 2 Available: The administration announced the 2021 Compliance Supplement Addendum 2 is now available. It includes the Federal Register notice and adds audit guidance for 7 programs including Pandemic EBT, Child Care and Development Block Grant, Low Income Household Water Assistance Program and TANF.
- Treasury Announces New Website to Help with Child Tax Credit Access and Filing: The Treasury Department announced the re-launch of gov that includes several features to help taxpayers file their taxes and access the remainder of the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) or the full amount of the CTC as tax filing season begins.
Administration Actions Related to COVID-19
- White House to Begin Distributing 400 Million N95 Masks: The White House announced it is making 400 million N95 masks available for free. The masks will be available through pharmacies and community health centers and will be sourced from the Strategic National Stockpile. Shipments were expected to begin last week with plans for the program to be fully operational by early February.
- ACL Provides Information on Assistance with Ordering Free COVID-19 Tests: The Administration for Community Living (ACL) provided information on how to assist older adults and people with disabilities with placing orders for free at-home COVID-19 tests; the website to order the tests was launched last week by the administration.
- White House Launches Phone Line for Ordering Free At-Home Tests: The White House launched a phone line for Americans to use to order free at-home COVID-19 tests if people are unable to order using the gov website. The number is 1-800-232-0233 and is open 8a.m. until midnight EST, seven days a week.
- Administration’s Vaccine Mandate for Federal Workers Blocked: A U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Texas blocked the administration’s vaccine mandate for federal workers. In the ruling, the judge says the case is about “whether the President can, with a stroke of a pen and without the input of Congress, require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment. That, under the current state of the law as just recently expressed by the Supreme Court, is a bridge too far.” The Department of Justice indicated it would immediately appeal the decision. Updated guidance on compliance with the injunction can be found here.
- President Signs Impact Aid Legislation: The President signed S. 2959, the Supplemental Impact Aid Flexibility Act, into law. Addressing challenges presented by the pandemic, the legislation allows school districts participating in the Impact Aid Program to use previously reported student headcounts on their applications for the 2022-2023 school year.
- CMS Updates Nursing Home Visitation FAQs: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) updated its frequently asked questions (FAQs) for nursing home visitation. The update addresses issues presented by the Omicron variant.
- ACL Begins Awarding Public Health Workforce Funds: The Administration for Community Living (ACL) began distributing $150 million to expand the public health workforce within the aging and disability networks. Half of the total funding will be awarded over the first two weeks with the remainder awarded on a rolling basis over the coming months. Four networks receiving funds must submit letters of assurance, including State Councils on Developmental Disabilities and Independent Living Designated State Entities. FAQs on the funding can be found here.
- FDA Expands Use of Treatment for COVID Outpatients: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took two actions to expand the use of the antiviral drug Veklury (remdesivir) to certain non-hospitalized adults and pediatric patients for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 disease. Previously, the use of Veklury was limited to patients requiring hospitalization.
- CDC Updates Guidance on Strategies to Mitigate Health Care Personnel Staffing Shortages: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance on strategies to mitigate health care personnel staffing shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance was updated to address concerns about increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant and potential impacts on the health care system given a surge of infections.
FDA Limits Use of Certain Monoclonal Antibodies Due to Omicron Variant
On Monday the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revised the authorizations for two monoclonal antibody treatments – bamlanivimab and etesevimab (administered together) and REGEN-COV (casirivimab and imdevimab) – to limit their use to only when the patient is likely to have been infected with or exposed to a variant that is susceptible to these treatments. Because data show these treatments are highly unlikely to be active against the omicron variant, these treatments are not authorized for use in any states, territories, and jurisdictions at this time. In the future, if patients in certain regions are likely to be infected or exposed to a variant that is susceptible to these treatments, then use may be authorized in these regions. Several other therapies – Paxlovid, sotrovimab, Veklury (remdesivir), and molnupiravir – are expected to work against the omicron variant and are authorized or approved to treat patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk for progression to severe disease. A table of treatment distributions by state and territory can be found here. The maker of sotrovimab recently announced the federal government was purchasing an additional 600,000 doses, to be delivered throughout the first quarter of 2022.
IIJA Implementation Resources Released
Federal agencies and stakeholders continue to release implementation resources pertaining to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
- The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced an interagency initiative to plug orphaned wells. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed by the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission to establish a framework to implement the $4.7 billion orphaned well program. DOI recently announced that nearly every state with documented orphaned wells submitted a Notice of Intent indicating interest in applying for a formula grant; the department will publish state amounts, and detailed application guidance, in the coming weeks.
- The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced more than $1.2 billion over five years for the Appalachian Development Highway System toward completion of designated corridors in 11 states in the region (Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia). Under the IIJA, annual funding for the system will increase 146 percent compared to fiscal year 2021; the total amount available to states in fiscal year 2022 is $246.3 million. Apportionment information can be found here.
- The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the release of $100 million from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This is the first installment of the five-year, $500 million investment in the program from the IIJA. A table of state and territory allocations is included in the press release.
- The Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) announced the Civil Works studies, projects and programs that the Corps would implement in fiscal year 2022 with the $22.81 billion in supplemental funding provided by IIJA and the 2022 Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. Funding from the IIJA would support 15 feasibility studies, Preconstruction Engineering and Design phase of 5 projects, 19 construction projects, and 22 new projects.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) announced an oversight plan for IIJA funding. The act provides USDA more than $8.3 billion in funding and the plan breaks down the funding while also laying out OIG’s approach to oversight.
- The Bureau of Reclamation released the IIJA spend plan for fiscal year 2022. The bureau received total funding of $8.3 billion and is working to establish the exact allocation of the initial $1.66 billion by project for fiscal year 2022.
- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) established a pilot program that would allow employers to establish an apprenticeship program for certain 18-20 year old drivers to operate commercial vehicles in interstate commerce, as required by the IIJA.
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released rules to implement the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The commission updated the income qualifications for the program and added new qualifications, including participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
- The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) provided feedback on policy guidance released by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on IIJA funding. The feedback highlighted needed flexibility, the systems approach taken by state departments of transportation, and funding differences among the states.
- A coalition of public and private sector stakeholders sent a letter to members of Congress urging passage of full-year appropriations for fiscal year 2022. The letter notes that without full-year appropriations, obligation limitation constraints may block access to funding increases and new programs provided by the IIJA.
Federal Agencies Begin Implementing $15 Minimum Wage
On Friday the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced that federal civilian employees would now be paid at least $15 per hour. OPM issued implementing guidance for how agencies should adjust pay rates for General Schedule and Federal Wage System employees stationed in the U.S. and how to use administrative authority for other pay systems to increase the pay of federal employees who currently make less than $15 per hour. In total, these changes will impact 67,000 out of 2.2 million federal employees, with the largest share at the Department of Defense. The press release also includes the numbers of affected employees by state and territory. Agencies must implement these changes by January 30.
FAA Estimates 78 Percent of U.S. Planes Can Land at Airports with 5G-C Band
On Thursday the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued new approvals that allow an estimated 78 percent of the U.S. commercial fleet to perform low-visibility landings at airports where wireless companies deployed 5G C-band. This now includes some regional jets. The FAA’s 5G and Aviation Safety website includes information on aircraft models with cleared altimeters, buffers around airports with low-visibility approaches in 5G deployment, and questions and answers.
FHWA Redistributes $475.7 Million in FY2022 Authorized Funding
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently released the redistribution amounts by state of certain funds for the period beginning on October 1, 2021 and ending on February 18, 2022. The funds were authorized pursuant to the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2022 and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2022. The total amount of certain authorized funds provided by this notice is $475,708,288.
FTA Announces Two Transit Funding Awards
Last week the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) made two funding announcements. First, FTA awarded $10.3 million in Tribal Transit Program grant awards to 36 Tribal governments for projects that support transit services for American Indian Tribes and Alaska Native villages in rural states. FTA received 51 eligible project proposals totaling approximately $18.8 million from 47 applicants in 14 states. Second, FTA announced the award of approximately $11 million to 20 projects in 12 states to support comprehensive planning efforts to improve access to public transportation. A list of selected projects can be found here.
DOL Releases FY2022 Funding Allotments and Guidance for RESEA Grants
On Friday the Department of Labor (DOL) released guidance on fiscal year 2022 funding allotments and operating guidance for unemployment insurance (UI) Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment (RESEA) grants. The guidance provides guidelines for the fiscal year 2022 grants and invites State Workforce Agencies to submit a RESEA State Plan. Plans must be submitted by March 7 for states to continue a current RESEA program or implement a new program.
USDA Announces $1.36 Billion in Disaster Relief Funds for the Forest Service
On Friday the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $1.36 billion in disaster relief funds for the Forest Service to support post-disaster recovery and restoration in states across the country. The Forest Service will utilize these recovery dollars for hazardous material cleanup, reforestation, watershed restoration, and infrastructure repair including for trails, roads, bridges and facilities. The department also announced more than $48 million of investments through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership for projects that mitigate wildfire risk, protect water quality, improve wildlife habitat, restore forest ecosystems, and contribute to USDA’s efforts to combat climate change.
SBA Announces New Pilot Program to Bolster Cybersecurity Infrastructure
Last week the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced $3 million in new funding for state governments to help emerging small businesses develop their cybersecurity infrastructure. Under the Cybersecurity for Small Business Pilot Program, state governments are eligible to compete for grants that will help deliver cybersecurity assistance to start-up business owners. Applications are due by March 3.
Administration Launches Coalition to Strengthen Building Performance Standards
Last week the President announced the launch of the Building Performance Standards Coalition, a partnership between 33 state and local governments dedicated to delivering cleaner, healthier, and more affordable buildings. Participation includes developing policy roadmaps, convening teams to create policy, identifying and acting on pre-requisites for building performance standards, and sharing results. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency announced technical assistance and support to aid in the coalition’s efforts.
CMS Releases Updated Guide for Medicaid Managed Care Contract Review and Approval
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the updated State Guide to CMS Criteria for Medicaid Managed Care Contract Review and Approval. The guide incorporates changes to the Medicaid managed care regulations as a result of the 2020 Managed Care final rule. The updated guide includes final rule revisions pertaining to pass-through payments, state-directed payments, network adequacy standards, risk sharing mechanisms, appeals and grievances, and requirements for beneficiary information.
For Your Information
Administration Releases Toolkit of Resources to Help Rebuild Puerto Rico’s School Infrastructure
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Department of Education released a toolkit outlining federal resources available to help Puerto Rico recover and rebuild school facilities. The document includes a directory with technical assistance opportunities and information on other funding sources from federal partners.
HUD Awards $104.7 Million in Healthy Homes Production Grants
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded nearly $104.7 million to 60 non-profit organizations, and state and local government agencies, located in 29 states to protect children and families from home health hazards. The grants will target significant lead and health hazards in over 7,400 homes for which other resources are not available.
FHWA Announces $17.8 Million for Tribal Technical Assistance Centers
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published a Notice of Funding Opportunity announcing the availability of up to $17.8 million over five years to re-establish seven Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP) Centers across the country. The TTAP Centers will help Tribal governments administer and manage their transportation programs and systems, as well as support Tribes in competing for funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Applications are due by March 25.
HHS Announces $13 Million to Increase Access to Behavioral Health Care in Rural Communities
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the availability of $13 million in funding to increase access to behavioral health care services and address health inequities in rural America, including through evidence-based, trauma-informed treatment for substance use disorder. Applications are due by April 19.
ACF Releases SSBG Second Quarter Funds for Fiscal Year 2022
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) second quarter allocations for fiscal year 2022, covering December 4, 2021 through February 18, 2022. First quarter funds were released in November to all states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico covering October 1 through December 3, 2021.
FNS Accepting Requests for SNAP Technical Assistance
The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is accepting requests for SNAP to Skills technical assistance from all states interested in growing and improving their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employing and Training programs. States may request technical assistance support any time during the fiscal year 2022-2023 period by completing a request form, which they may request from their FNS regional office or by emailing the SNAP to Skills team.
NIH Study Finds Opioid Treatment Reduces Recidivism
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced findings from a study conducted in two rural jails, which found that people with opioid use disorder who were incarcerated and received buprenorphine were less likely to face rearrest and reconviction after release than those who did not receive the medication. The study revealed a 32 percent reduction in rates of probation violations, reincarcerations, or court charges.
CMS Releases 2019 Data Book to Help Inform Drug Prevention and Treatment Efforts
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently released a data book on Treatment of Substance Use Disorder in Medicaid for 2019. This third annual edition reports the number of Medicaid beneficiaries with a substance use disorder (SUD) and the services they received during calendar year 2019 and is intended to help policymakers, researchers and other stakeholders better understand where to focus drug prevention and treatment efforts.
Recently Released Reports
How Are Private Insurers Covering At-Home Rapid COVID Tests?
Kaiser Family Foundation
Has COVID Affected Pensions for Workers Without Social Security?
Center for Retirement Research at Boston College
Balancing Stormwater Infrastructure Costs: How Governors and States Can Equitably Address Stormwater Funding
National Governors Association
Unemployment Claims Reported for Week Ending January 15
The U.S. Department of Labor released unemployment insurance weekly claims data last Thursday that showed for the week ending January 15, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 286,000. This is an increase of 55,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was revised up by 1,000 from 230,000 to 231,000. The 4-week moving average was 231,000, an increase of 20,000 from the previous week's revised average of 211,000. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.2 percent for the week ending January 8, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 337,417 in the week ending January 15, a decrease of 83,418 (or -19.8 percent) from the previous week.
Unemployment Rates Lower in 42 States in December
New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that unemployment rates were lower in December in 42 states and the District of Columbia and stable in 8 states. Compared to one year earlier, 48 states and the District of Columbia jobless rate decreases and two states were little changed. The national jobless rate, 3.9 percent, declined by 0.3 percentage point from November and was 2.8 points lower than in December 2020. In total, 17 states and the District of Columbia had unemployment rates higher than the U.S. figure, 16 states had lower rates, and 17 states had rates that were not appreciably different. Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 17 states and was essentially unchanged in 33 states and the District of Columbia. Over the year, 48 states and the District added nonfarm payroll jobs and 2 states were essentially unchanged.