This Week on the Hill
The House has committee work this week while the Senate is in session. The current resolution funding the federal government expires on Friday (see story below).
Current Public Health Emergency Expires in 60 Days, Extension Unknown
Last year the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent a letter to governors regarding the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). In the letter, HHS states that “when a decision is made to terminate the declaration or let it expire, HHS will provide states with 60 days’ notice prior to termination.” The current extension of the COVID-19 PHE is in effect through April 15, meaning today would mark 60 days for possible notice from the administration. The Federation of American Hospitals sent a letter to the Secretary of HHS urging extension of the PHE “well beyond its current expiration date in April 2022” while over 70 House Republicans signed a letter urging the administration to begin the process to unwind the PHE while also requesting several actions including identifying all emergency measures, regulatory flexibilities, and related programs enacted during the PHE.
Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Update
Last Tuesday the House voted 272-162 to approve a third continuing resolution (CR), funding the federal government through March 11. The current CR expires February 18, and the Senate is expected to consider the extension prior to that date. The new bill, H.R. 6617, continues funding at current levels and provides “anomalies” including: $350 million to the Department of Defense to respond to water contamination in Hawaii; extends the temporary emergency scheduling order placing fentanyl-related substances in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act through March 11; and extends the current federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) for certain territories through March 11. A section-by-section summary can be found here and legislative text here. Also last week, appropriators announced an agreement on a “framework” for an omnibus spending bill for the fiscal year, but no details on the framework have 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).
- USDA Establishes $6.5 Billion Pandemic Cover Crop Program: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Risk Management Agency announced that agricultural producers who have coverage under most crop insurance policies are eligible for a premium benefit if they planted cover crops during the 2022 crop year. Producers must report cover crop acreage by March 15, 2022. The program helps farmers maintain their cover crop systems, despite the financial challenges posed by the pandemic; funding is provided by the December relief bill. The program rule can be found here.
- DOT Announces Additional $69 Million for Aviation Manufacturing and Repair Businesses: The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced it is offering an additional $69 million in ARPA funding to 127 more aviation manufacturing and repair businesses. The new awards, combined with the prior rounds of funding (announced September and November 2021), bring the total to $673 million to help protect aviation manufacturing jobs. A list of eligible recipients can be found here.
- USDA Announces $50 Million to Support Seafood Processors: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an investment of approximately $50 million in grants to support seafood processors, processing facilities and processing vessels through the Seafood Processors Pandemic Response and Safety Block Grant Program. The grant funding will be distributed through state agencies in 24 states plus American Samoa. A list of awards can be found here.
- FCC Commits Nearly $126 Million in Emergency Connectivity Funds: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it is committing $125.9 million in its ninth wave of Emergency Connectivity Fund program support. This round of funding will support over 270,000 students and provide funding for 340 schools, 20 libraries and 6 consortia. Since June 2021, the program has committed over $4.5 billion.
- EDA Provides Status Update on ARPA Programs: The Economic Development Administration (EDA) provided a status update on the administration’s ARPA programs. The update covers the Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation Program, Economic Adjustment Assistance and Indigenous Communities Program, Research and Networks Program, and Closed Programs.
- FNS Approves P-EBT Programs for School Year 2021-2022: The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) approved additional states to operate a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program during school year 2021-2022: Louisiana and Tennessee. To date, a total of 14 states have been approved.
- Education Announces Approval of All ARP-HCY State Plans: The Department of Education announced it approved all remaining American Rescue Plan Homeless Children and Youth (ARP-HCY) state plans. The department approved plans for all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. More information on each state’s plan can be found here and frequently asked questions can be found here.
- USDA Announces Final Strategic Framework for Enhancing Surveillance of Emerging Diseases: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced the final strategic framework outlining how the agency will advance surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 and other emerging zoonotic diseases, as directed by ARPA. The agency also launched a new website to keep stakeholders and the public informed on surveillance projects and other ARPA-funded activities.
- Education Sends Letter Regarding Energy Conservation Standards and Relief Funds: The Department of Education sent a letter to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) regarding the society’s concerns over outdated energy conservation standards referenced in the Code of Federal Regulations. The department notes that when communicating with states regarding HVAC projects supported by COVID relief funds, it indicates that projects “should meet the current ASHRAE standards…”
- Education Posts Webinar Information on Relief Funds Program Reporting: The Department of Education updated its 2022 annual reporting information for various Education Stabilization Fund programs. It also posted a series of form review webinars, specific to individual programs, scheduled between February 24 and March 8.
- EDA Announces Build Back Better Regional Challenge Conference Video Recordings Available: The Economic Development Administration (EDA) is providing information shared at a conference for Build Back Better Regional Challenge finalists, noting the information that was shared can be helpful to any community working to transform their regional economy, create jobs or develop an inclusive economic development strategy for growth.
Administration Actions Related to COVID-19
- FDA Delays Meeting on Vaccine for Young Children: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it is postponing the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee meeting originally scheduled for February 15 to consider Pfizer’s emergency use authorization request for use of its COVID-19 vaccine in children 6 months through 4 years of age. The FDA notes that new data recently emerged, and the postponement will give the agency time to consider it, allowing for a transparent public discussion.
- FDA Approves New Antibody Treatment That Works Against Omicron: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for a new monoclonal antibody for the treatment of COVID-19 that retains activity against the omicron variant. The EUA for bebtelovimab is for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients (12 years or age and older). The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the purchase of 600,000 treatment courses of the new monoclonal antibody treatment, with approximately half the treatment courses delivered in February and the other half in March.
- Education Posts Fact Sheet for Schools on Finding COVID-19 Tests: The Department of Education posted a fact sheet on four ways schools can find COVID-19 tests. The first option highlighted is using their state’s K-12 COVID-19 testing resources.
- CDC Updates COVID-19 Guidance for Correctional and Detention Facilities: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance on management of COVID-19 in correctional and detention facilities. The updates include reduced quarantine duration during routine operations, recommendations on isolation and quarantine duration during crisis-level operations, a description on use of medication for prevention of severe disease, updated language on vaccination status, and updated recommendations on use of personal protective equipment.
- CRS Updates Report on Status of Federal COVID-19 Vaccination Mandate Litigation: The Congressional Research Service (CRS) updated its legal issue brief on the status of federal COVID-19 vaccination mandate litigation, including requirements for large employers, health care workers and federal workers.
- CMS Updates FAQs on COVID-19 Health Care Vaccination Rule: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released updated frequently asked questions (FAQs) that were initially issued on November 5, 2021 and updated as of January 20, 2022 regarding the health care staff vaccination rule. On February 1, CMS sent a letter to health care facility administrators regarding implementation of the vaccination rule.
- CMS to Post Facility-Level COVID-19 Booster Rates for Nursing Homes: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it is now posting data on COVID-19 booster shots administered to nursing home residents and staff on the Care Compare The data will show resident and staff booster rates at the facility level and will include national and state averages.
- CDC Updates Guidance on Length of Time Between Boosters for Immunocompromised People: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its interim clinical considerations for the COVID-19 vaccines for moderately or severely immunocompromised people. In part, the updated guidance shortens the interval between completion of the mRNA vaccine primary series and the booster dose to at least 3 months (instead of 5 months) and addresses vaccination following treatment with monoclonal antibodies.
- CMS Releases Updates to the Coverage and Reimbursement of COVID-19 Vaccines, Vaccine Administration, and Cost Sharing Toolkit: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released updates to the Coverage and Reimbursement of COVID-19 Vaccines, Vaccine Administration, and Cost Sharing under Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Basic Health Program toolkit. The updates include information on vaccine authorizations and recommendations as well as updated information on current PREP Act amendments.
- Education Issues Non-Regulatory Guidance on Waivers for Federally Declared Disasters: The Department of Education released non-regulatory guidance on flexibility and waivers for grantees and program participants impacted by federally declared disasters. The guidance is to help participants restore teaching and learning environments and resume services following disasters, including weather-related disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic.
- ACL Releases Fact Sheet on Obtaining COVID-19 Tests: The Administration for Community Living (ACL) released a fact sheet on insurance coverage for at-home COVID-19 tests, as well as information for those covered by Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program or Medicare.
IIJA Implementation Resources Released
Federal agencies and stakeholders continue to release implementation resources pertaining to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
- The Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Energy (DOE) announced nearly $5 billion that will be made available under the new National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program, established by the IIJA, to build out a national electric vehicle (EV) charging network. The program will provide nearly $5 billion over five years to help states create a network of charging stations along designated Alternative Fuel Corridors. The total amount available to states in fiscal year 2022 is $615 million and states must submit an EV Infrastructure Deployment Plan before they can access the funds. The new Joint Office of Energy and Transportation also launched a new website, gov, where officials can find links to technical assistance, data and tools for states, and careers. Resources released include program guidance, Request for Nominations for states to expand Alternative Fuel Corridors, and state-by-state funding amounts.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced two grant opportunities for states and Tribes to develop and provide businesses with information, training, and tools to help them adopt pollution prevention practices. Approximately $14 million in grants with no cost share/match requirement are made possible under the IIJA.
- The Department of Energy (DOE) issued two notices of intent to provide $2.91 billion to boost production of advanced batteries used in clean energy industries such as electric vehicles and energy storage, as directed by the IIJA.
- The Department of Energy (DOE) released a notice of intent and request for information on the implementation of the IIJA’s $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit Program. The nuclear credit program supports the continued operation of U.S. nuclear reactors, allowing owners or operators of commercial U.S. reactors to apply for certification and competitively bid on credits to help support their continued operations.
- The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) highlighted that more than 500 public comments were received in response to its request for comment on new broadband grant programs authorized by the IIJA. The written comments will inform the drafting of the Notice of Funding Opportunity for each program and can be viewed here.
- The Department of Energy (DOE) released a request for information on the design, construction, and operation of a new facility to demonstrate the commercial feasibility of a full-scale rare earth element and critical minerals extraction and separation refinery using unconventional resources. The facility would be supported by $140 million provided by the IIJA.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the report, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Clean School Bus Program: Initial Implementation Report to Congress. The law provides $5 billion over five years for the replacement of existing school buses with clean school buses and zero-emission school buses.
- The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs announced a series of webinars to help partners better understand the programs included in the recently released IIJA guidebook. The webinars will provide an in-depth look into the programs contained within each of the 12 major chapters. All webinars are scheduled for 4pm-5pm ET and NASBO will include updated registration links for later webinars when information is available.
- Airports, February 17
- Electric Vehicles, February 22
- Public Transportation, February 24
- Rail Road, February 28
- Roads, Bridges and Major Projects, March 3
- Safety, March 8
- Clean Energy and Power, March 10
- Water, March 15
- Resilience, March 17
- Environmental Remediation, March 22
- Broadband, March 24
- The White House announced that more than 10 million households are enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program, the $14.2 billion successor to the Emergency Broadband Benefit. Under the program eligible households can receive a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service (up to $75/month for eligible households on Tribal lands) and a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer or tablet.
- Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) sent a letter to governors regarding a memorandum published on December 16, 2021 by the Federal Highway Administration entitled “Policy on Using Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Resources to Build a Better America.” The letter notes provisions in the IIJA and highlights concerns that implementation meets the intent of the law.
- Multiple organizations representing state and local governments, including the National Governors Association and National Conference of State Legislatures, sent a letter to congressional leadership urging Congress to swiftly pass appropriations for fiscal year 2022. The letter notes the impacts of delayed approval on several programs including those authorized by the IIJA and the inability to access the nearly 20 percent funding increase for highway formula programs and more than 30 percent increase for public transit formula programs.
- Brookings released a new Federal Infrastructure Hub that includes an interactive database of every IIJA program, spending details, and key characteristics. It also compiles links to resources from both the federal government and other organizations.
Senators Unveil Bipartisan VAWA Reauthorization
On Wednesday a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization Act. The bill would reauthorize VAWA through 2027 and also includes the following key provisions: provides services, protection and justice for young victims of violence, including extending the Rape Prevention and Education grant program; enhances judicial and law enforcement tools through reauthorization of the STOP Violence Against Women Formula Program and expansion of the program to better support survivors 50 years of age or older and survivors with disabilities; reauthorizes and updates the SMART Prevention Program; reauthorizes the National Resource Center on Workplace Response; improves the medical response to instances of domestic violence and sexual assault, including expanding access to medical forensic examinations for survivors who live in rural communities; improves Tribal access to federal crime information databases and clarifies Tribal criminal jurisdiction; and authorizes a grant program to provide community-specific services for LGBT survivors of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. The most recent VAWA reauthorization lapsed in 2019.
Federal Judge Reverses Removal of Endangered Species Protections for Gray Wolves
Last week a federal district judge for the Northern District of California issued a ruling in a case challenging a rule by the Department of the Interior removing federal protections for the gray wolf population. Among the findings, the judge found that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) analysis relied on two core wolf populations to delist wolves nationally and failed to provide a reasonable interpretation of the ‘significant portion of its range’ standard. The ruling vacates and remands the rule, Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing the Gray Wolf from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and prohibits wolf hunting and trapping in states outside of the northern Rocky Mountains.
House Passes Bipartisan Postal Reform Bill
Last Tuesday the House voted 342-92 to approve H.R. 3076, the Postal Service Reform Act of 2022. The bill would require the Postal Service to deliver both mail and packages at least six days a week, would require the Postal Service to develop a public-facing, online dashboard with national and local level service performance data updated each week, eliminate the requirement that the Postal Service pre-fund retiree health benefits for all current and retired employees for 75 years in the future, require future retirees to enroll in Medicare, and allow the Postal Service to enter into agreements with state, local and Tribal governments to provide non-commercial property and services that provide enhanced value and do not detract from core postal services. The bill is now in the Senate for possible consideration and the administration has indicated support.
FEMA Updates Shelter Locator Texting Feature
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently updated its shelter locator texting feature, allowing the public to better access shelter addresses when needed. Users can text “shelter” and their ZIP code to 43362 to get a list of nearby shelter locations, with results from within 200 miles of their ZIP code using Geographic Information System capabilities. The update is the result of a collaboration with the American Red Cross and is available across all 50 states and U.S. territories.
FWS Announces $1.5 Billion to Support State Wildlife Conservation
On Friday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a record $1.5 billion in annual funding through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR) to support state and local outdoor recreational opportunities and wildlife and habitat conservation efforts. The WSFR Program (also known as Pittman-Robertson Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breaux) contains two funding sources: the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, which was reauthorized as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the Wildlife Restoration Program. Final apportionment tables were released for Wildlife Restoration and Sport Fish Restoration.
HHS Awards Nearly $55 Million to Increase Virtual Health Care Access
On Monday the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded $54.6 million to 29 health centers to increase health care access and quality for underserved populations through virtual care such as telehealth, remote patient monitoring, digital patient tools, and health information technology platforms. The number of health centers offering virtual visits grew from 592 in 2019 to 1,362 in 2022, an increase of 130 percent. These new awards will enable health centers to sustain an expanded level of virtual care and identify and implement new digital strategies. A list of award recipients can be found here.
For Your Information
DOL Releases Interest Rate Information on Title XII Advances During CY2022
The Department of Labor (DOL) released Training and Employment Notice No. 21-21, providing information on the interest rate that the Treasury Department will charge on Title XII advances during calendar year 2022. Interest on Title XII advances is due and payable each September 30 and may not be paid from the state’s unemployment fund or from federal funds.
ACF Releases FY2020 SSBG Annual Report
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) program annual report for fiscal year 2020. The report includes information on expenditures and recipients, high level service areas, and performance management while also including state profile pages and state data tables.
DOL Releases Fact Sheet on Federal Resources for Veterans and Careers in Trucking Industry
The Department of Labor (DOL) released a fact sheet on federal resources for transitioning service members and veterans pursuing careers in the trucking industry. The fact sheet highlights federal programs and resources across the Departments of Labor, Transportation, Defense, and Veterans Affairs as well as the Small Business Administration.
USDA Unveils Resource to Help Rural Entrepreneurs
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled a resource guide to assist rural entrepreneurs. The guide features information on how rural entrepreneurs can use USDA and other federal programs to access financing and other assistance to help start and expand their businesses. The guide also features first-hand stories from customers of USDA programs and services.
Recently Released Reports
State Challenges and Best Practices Implementing Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Requirements
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
State Individual Income Tax Rates and Brackets for 2022
Pandemic-Related Funding Boosts Federal Grants to States
The Pew Charitable Trusts
Unemployment Claims Reported for Week Ending February 5
The U.S. Department of Labor released unemployment insurance weekly claims data last Thursday that showed for the week ending February 5, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 223,000. This is a decrease of 16,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was revised up by 1,000 from 238,000 to 239,000. The 4-week moving average was 253,250, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week's revised average of 255,250. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.2 percent for the week ending January 29, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 228,909 in the week ending February 5, a decrease of 28,674 (or -11.1 percent) from the previous week.
Consumer Price Index Increased in January as Real Hourly Earnings Also Rose
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released new data on the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) for January, showing the CPI-U increased 0.6 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis. Over the last twelve months, the all items index increased 7.5 percent before seasonal adjustment, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending February 1982. The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.6 percent in January, while the energy index rose 0.9 percent and the food index also rose 0.9 percent. For the 12 months ending in January the index for all items less food and energy rose 6.0 percent, the largest 12-month change since the period ending August 1982. Meanwhile, real average hourly earnings for all employees increased 0.1 percent from December to January, seasonally adjusted. This result stems from an increase of 0.7 percent in average hourly earnings combined with a 0.6 percent increase in the CPI-U.