Four Ways Regions Can Help Prepare for the Upcoming Census

Now that 2020 is nearly upon us, the U.S. Census Bureau has entered a critical stage of planning for the decennial census. The agency has been busy trying to hire nearly half a million temporary workers to help carry out the national headcount. A national 2020 census advertising campaign is expected to kick off in January. And census materials are continuing to be prepared and finalized to send via mail or hand-delivery to American households.

How can you help the Census Bureau prepare your region for the upcoming 2020 census? Please see the action items below:

Urge Congress to Provide Direct, Full-Year Funding for the 2020 Census

Congress is still working to finalize and pass the fiscal year (FY) 2020 federal appropriations bills. They are currently operating under the second continuing resolution (CR) of this new fiscal year, which provides funding to federal agencies through December 20, 2019. This most recent CR provided the Census Bureau a temporary spending rate of at least $6.7 billion for 2020 census as well as at least $90 million to implement a mobile Question Assistance Center program.

Although this was a much-appreciated addition to the CR, the Census Bureau needs the certainty of full-year FY 2020 appropriations now. Operating without funding certainty could force the agency to curtail or delay critical aspects of their final preparations, jeopardizing the ability of the federal government to be able to complete an accurate count. This could negatively impact the geographic distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funding annually and long-term regional planning decisions for years to come.

NARC and its census advocacy partners urge you to call your members of Congress, especially if they serve on congressional appropriations committees or in House or Senate leadership positions, and ask them to fully fund 2020 census activities for the entire fiscal year in the third CR or in a final FY 2020 Commerce/Justice/Science appropriations measure — whichever comes first. Talking points developed by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights can be found here.

Inform and Prepare Local Elected Officials Regarding the Implementation of the Executive Order on Citizenship Data

President Donald Trump issued an executive order in July 2019 directing the Census Bureau to compile federal and, where possible, state administrative records to produce data on citizens and noncitizens. In October, the Census Bureau issued a statement asking states to voluntarily share driver’s license records as a part of these efforts. Some states, such as Maine and Illinois, have already indicated that they will not comply with the request to participate in this data sharing agreement with the Census Bureau. Several organizations have filed a legal challenge stating the action is unconstitutional.

Whether their state has indicated they will participate in this voluntary data sharing agreement, local officials should remember:

  • A citizenship question will not be on the 2020 census questionnaire.
  • All data collected by the Census Bureau (including data collected via administrative record sharing agreements) are confidential and protected under federal law. The agency is not allowed to release individual data or personal responses to anyone, for any purpose — including to other government agencies or law enforcement.
  • It is critical to remind all residents early and often to participate in the decennial census. Communities missed in the census could potentially lose out on funding, resources, and equal political representation.

Promote Census Bureau Job Recruitment

The Census Bureau is hiring in regions across the United States. The decennial census could not operate at full capacity without a large team of temporary census workers. Job opportunities include census takers, recruiting assistants, office staff, and supervisory staff. These temporary jobs are a great opportunity for your residents to earn extra income, often on a flexible working schedule, while helping ensure that everyone in the region is counted.

Regional councils are encouraged to work with community leaders, businesses, and other workforce stakeholders to get the word out on these job opportunities. If your organization serves in the administrative role for your local workforce development board, make sure you are promoting this opportunity to jobseekers participating in your various workforce programs. Those interested in applying can visit the Census Bureau’s main job recruitment page to learn more.

Review Resources Regarding the Upcoming 2020 Census

Please use the following resources for reference as we near the official 2020 census kickoff. Feel free to share with your local and regional stakeholders working to help get the word out on the upcoming nationwide headcount!

Back to School: Preparing the Next Generation of Regional Leaders

With new backpacks and school supplies in tow, students across the country are heading back to school. They probably are not thinking about the regional planning that went into creating the transportation system that brought them to school. Nor the interjurisdictional trails that connect the parks that they will use for soccer practice. No, they are probably more focused on where their classes are at than knowing where their community’s natural disaster emergency evacuation routes are located.

Some regional councils are trying to teach the next generation that even being as young as they are, they can significantly impact their communities. Just as Mara Mintzer highlighted in her TedxMileHigh talk, children should be included in local planning efforts. After all, they may help regional planners find a blind spot in how we construct our built environment that we adults have not considered. The decisions being made today will impact their tomorrow, so it is imperative that they know how to be a part of the long-range planning process that may influence their way of life 20, 30, or even 50 years from now.

Below are some examples of how members are educating young leaders about regional planning and are involving them in ongoing efforts across their communities.

Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) – Think Like a Planner Program

Broward MPO has held several “Think Like a Planner” workshops in high schools across the region. During these workshops, teens get an introduction to transportation planning and potential careers in the industry. After a walk around the neighborhood surrounding Broward MPO offices, the students are tasked with coming up with ways to make the area safer for all modes of transportation. They then turn these ideas into a proposal, presenting to a three-judge panel of transportation professionals and Broward MPO Board Members. The organization has seen great success with the program and is looking forward to hosting more workshops this school year.

Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) – Future Leaders in Planning Program

For ten years, CMAP has organized Future Leaders in Planning (FLIP), a leadership development opportunity for high school students in Northeastern Illinois. Over the course of a week during the summer, the students learn about the issues that are shaping the Chicago region and come up with solutions for some of the challenges facing urban planners. Activities throughout the 5-day bootcamp include:

  • A scavenger hunt to find bus stops, LEED-certified buildings, and public art;
  • Negotiating a mock community development project;
  • Designing their own sample plan for the new Obama Foundation central plaza; and
  • Completing a final group project where they visualized the goals of CMAP’s ON TO 2050 plan across the different scales of urban planning.

Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) – Model Atlanta Regional Commission

Bringing together 10th and 11th graders from the Atlanta metro area, ARC’s Model Atlanta Regional Commission (MARC) provides experimental learning opportunities in critical issue areas such as transportation, sustainability, and community development. Participants take part in a six-month program to learn from subject-matter experts and community leaders, engaging in thoughtful conversations about challenges the region is facing. Students are taken on field trips and visits to various community partners to receive hands-on learning about the efforts of different stakeholders throughout their region. They also develop leadership, communication, and collaboration skills by creating actionable solutions to current regional issues. After participating in MARC, students have expressed a better understanding of the considerations that go into the different issue areas that ARC regional planners have to think about, as well as how their entire 10-county region is interconnected.       

Older Americans Month 2019: Connect, Create, Contribute

Each year, more older adults are making a positive impact across America. As volunteers, employees, employers, educators, mentors, advocates, and more, they offer insight and experience that benefit the entire community. That’s why Older Americans Month (OAM) has been recognizing the contributions of this growing population for 56 years.

Led by the Administration for Community Living (ACL) each May, OAM provides resources to help older Americans stay healthy and independent, and resources to help communities support and celebrate their diversity.

This year’s OAM theme, Connect, Create, Contribute, encourages older adults and their communities to:

  • Connect with friends, family, and local services and resources.
  • Create through activities that promote learning, health, and personal enrichment.
  • Contribute time, talent, and life experience to benefit others.

Along with regions all around the nation, NARC will celebrate OAM by promoting ways that community members of all ages can take part in helping the country thrive. Below are three great examples from our membership regarding how their current work highlights this year’s OAM theme:

Connect: The Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging (AAA) publishes an annual Senior Information and Assistance Directory, a resource guide connecting seniors and caregivers to many services of interest available throughout the region.

Create: The Rogue Valley Council of Governments Senior and Disability Services department holds six-week Living Well workshops, helping seniors build self-management skills to better deal with diabetes and chronic pain and conditions.

Contribute: The Atlanta Regional Commission Aging and Independence Services Group (the metro region’s AAA) provides senior volunteer opportunities through its empowerline program. Through a variety of activities, senior volunteers share important health, wellness, and preventative services information with the peers in their region that seek assistance.

Join NARC this month in recognizing the important role seniors play in our communities, as well as programming that is happening across our regions to engage and support older Americans. Visit the official OAM website for ideas and inspiration, and follow ACL on Twitter and Facebook.

Addressing Public Health Concerns Using Regional Solutions

Happy National Public Health Week! This annual week-long celebration, spearheaded by the American Public Health Association (APHA), celebrates the nation’s public health successes while calling attention to our most pressing health-related challenges.

In the words of APHA’s Executive Director Dr. Georges Benjamin: “We all have a responsibility to the health of our community and our country. We know our needs are as varied as our communities themselves.”

That is why the role of regional councils in public health is so critical. Their relationships with all the major stakeholders in their communities – local government officials, business executives, and nonprofit and community leaders – gives them a broad view of what the most pressing health concerns are today.

With their wide lense across communities, regional councils recognize that health intersects many areas of public life, including transportation, the economy, housing, energy, the rise of extreme weather events, and the environment. With their long-term planning strengths, these organizations can also identify and analyze what potential impacts that current public health issues could look like ten, twenty, and even thirty years from now.

As highlighted in NARC’s health one-pager, the work of regional councils around public health has been primarily driven by two considerations: 1) planning for future development to improve public health, and 2) mitigating the negative consequences of the existing built environment.

Many regional efforts overlap with this year’s themes for National Public Health Week: healthy communities, violence prevention, rural health, technology and public health, and climate change. Several more ways regional councils are improving health outcomes include:

  • Prioritizing transportation and pedestrian safety;
  • Improving air and water quality;
  • Increasing access to local, healthy food;
  • Providing safe, stable homes for families through affordable housing; and
  • Bringing community resources to those who need it most.

Here are just a few examples of the different ways regional councils are working to understand and address public health concerns in their communities:

  • The Metropolitan Area Planning Council works to integrate public health perspectives in all of their projects, from planning to data collection to policy development. Their public health work focuses on healthy community design; health and equity assessments; food systems and healthy food access; and local public health collaboration and shared services.

  • The Brazos Valley Council of Governments, supported in part by the Healthcare Connect Fund, has been deploying a private broadband network to connect rural hospitals, clinics, and schools that provide healthcare services. This will help drastically expand the healthcare options of the 62 percent of residents living in rural areas within the region. 

  • The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments recently published a report that aims to better understand health disparities in the region. They discovered that the health of a community is shaped less by healthcare and more by factors like income, education, housing, transportation, and the environment.

  • The Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission has launched several transportation safety campaigns to keep motorists, bicyclists, and the public safer during their commutes. They have also developed air quality awareness campaigns to share ways residents can help reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, improving the health of the region.

  • The South Florida Regional Planning Council – in conjunction with the Florida Institute for Health Innovation and the Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Environmental Studies – developed a report titled Health and Sea-Level Rise: Impacts on South Florida. The report mapped out zones most prone to sea level rise impacts, described associated public health risks, and identified the region’s most vulnerable communities to these sea level rise health effects.
  • The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments has developed the Green Infrastructure Vision for Southeast Michigan, which seeks to protect undisturbed areas, promote built infrastructure that improves water and air quality, and encourage outdoor physical activity and recreation. The plan highlights how green infrastructure improves not just the health of a region’s environment, but also the health of its residents.

Census Day is a Year Away!

We are officially one year away from the decennial census. By April 1, 2020 – National Census Day – the U.S. Census Bureau plans to send a letter or a door knocker to every U.S. household to conduct a constitutionally-mandated, nationwide headcount.

Each year, our regions continue to grow and increase in diversity. Because this opportunity comes around only once every 10 years, it is critical that regions do everything they can to ensure a fair and accurate count for all our communities. The decennial census determines:

  • How more than $600 billion in federal financial assistance is dispersed annually for state, regional, and local government programs and services.
  • How many representatives will represent each of our regions in the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Key decisions that regional leaders make regarding long-term planning initiatives.

The 2020 census is already facing significant challenges, including years of underfunding, the challenges of the first “high-tech” census count, and the potential inclusion of a citizenship question. So what can regional councils do to help make sure the hard-to-count communities – like people of color, low-income folks, LGBTQ people, immigrant communities, rural communities, and young children—are not missed?

Several regional councils are already ahead of the game, undertaking efforts in their communities to prepare local governments, private partners, nonprofit and community leaders, and the public for participation in the 2020 census. Some of our members’ regional initiatives are highlighted below:

Central Texas Council of Governments (CTCOG)

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Recognizing that they have been historically undercounted in the decennial census, they have continued with their critical efforts to validate mapping and local addresses with the U.S. Census Bureau for most of the entities in their region. To do this, CTCOG:

  1. Provided education to their member governments on the problems an undercount could cause.
  2. Offered to review member’s census materials for errors and omissions, using 911 address files the first cycle and adding digital map comparison in the second cycle.
  3. Convinced their board of directors that the initiative was in the best interest of the region and should be covered with in-house funds where possible. They also asked each entity to sign an Interlocal Agreement with a not-to-exceed amount for any cost beyond CTCOG’s ability to cover. 

Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG)

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AACOG served as their region’s local update of census addresses (LUCA) coordinator, informing their board of directors and membership governments of the opportunity to review and comment on the Census Bureau’s residential address list for jurisdictions prior to 2020 Census. AACOG was designated to conduct LUCA on behalf of four of their member counties, providing the service at no cost. The organization chose not to create their own Complete Count Committee (CCC) but is working closely with the U.S. Census Bureau in their outreach to their rural leaders, member governments, and their board of directors. AACOG is also the region’s coordinator for the Participant Statistical Area Program (PSAP). They are providing information on PSAP to their member governments and will assist counties and communities lacking capacity or resources with their participation.

Mid-America Regional Council (MARC)

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MARC is currently undergoing the process to form a regional CCC, which will bring together stakeholders to educate and motivate residents to participate in next year’s census. The organization continues to offer support to other local CCCs as well. MARC will spend the next few months developing a 2020 census communications and outreach plan and engage diverse community organizations in the effort. Later down the road, they will implement their communications plan on all fronts using social media, traditional media, and outreach from community partners. They will also identify locations for residents to obtain assistance with their census questions and look for ways that they can ease the region’s cybersecurity concerns through educational efforts. 

Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC)

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On the technical side, MORPC provided support to local governments in the region so they could participate in LUCA and the consolidated boundary and annexation survey (BAS). MORPC also serves as the lead agency for PSAP in the region; they are currently seeking input on potential tract and block group changes and will start undertaking related GIS analyses soon. The organization continues to build local awareness for the upcoming census by sharing the potential challenges and impacts with regional stakeholders, engaging with partners across sectors and communities. The City of Columbus and Franklin County have recently launched their own CCC with 29 subcommittees – MORPC will be chairing the local government subcommittee and staffing many others to get the work of this new CCC off the ground.

It is not too late to start getting involved in 2020 census activities! As you can see from the regional examples above, there are several ways that your organization and the stakeholders throughout your communities can help. We encourage you to take a look at our NARC census one-pager for ideas. You should also check out resources from organizations such as the National League of Cities, Census Counts, and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Appropriations FY 2019 Features Key Wins for Regions

After months of negotiations and a historic 35-day partial government shutdown, the federal government has finally wrapped up work on the fiscal year (FY) 2019 appropriations process.

President Trump recently signed into law a $333 billion, seven-bill appropriations package that funded the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, State, and Transportation. The package follows five appropriations passed in September 2018 that totaled $991 billion, providing funding for the legislative branch and the Departments of Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Labor, and Veterans Affairs.

Our initial analysis of the FY 2019 appropriations bills signals positive news for regions! The bills include level funding or additional appropriations for many of the priorities we have advocated for over the past year.

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BUILD Grants: The BUILD program was funded at $900 million, a decrease of $600 million from FY 2018 but still well above previous years funding (which ranged from $500 to $600 million). One major change is that half of that amount must go to projects in rural areas. Up to $15 million can be awarded in planning grants (though no such awards were made last year). Up to twenty percent of the funds can be used to pay for subsidy and administrative costs of Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) or Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) credit assistance.

STBGP: Of $3.5 billion in supplemental highway funding from the general fund, about $2.7 billion will be apportioned as Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBGP) funding (up from just under $2.0 billion last year).

CIG Program: The Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program received $2.6 billion, a decrease of $92.3 million. This includes $1.4 billion for “New Starts,” $530 million for “Core Capacity,” and $527 million for “Small Starts.”

Transit: Transit formula grants through the Highway Trust Fund increase by $206 million compared to last year, but supplemental funding for the Transit Infrastructure Grants Program was reduced by $134 million (to $700 million).

Rail: The Federal Railroad Administration received $2.9 billion. Amtrak received level funding at $1.9 billion, with $650 million allocated for capital projects along the Northeast Corridor. The bill also includes funding for State of Good Repair grants ($400 million) and consolidated rail infrastructure and safety improvement grants ($255 million).

FAA: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was funded at $17.5 billion – $549 million below the FY 2018 enacted level and $1.3 billion above the president’s request. Airport Improvement Program grants received an additional $500 million this year to make critical airport infrastructure investments and Essential Air Service (EAS) received an increase of more than $40 million.

Drones: The package provided $56 million for drone integration and $24 million for drone research. It also directed the FAA to expand the Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program without incurring additional costs.

Aging Programs

ACL: The Administration for Community Living (ACL) was funded at $2.2 billion, a $25 million increase from fiscal year 2018.

Senior Workforce: The Senior Community Service Employment Program remains level at $400 million, rejecting the Trump administration’s proposal to eliminate the program.

OAA, Title III: The Older Americans Act (OAA) Title III programs were either level funded or saw small increases:

  • Level funding for OAA Title III B Home and Community-Based Supportive Services
  • $10 million increase for Title III C Nutrition Services
  • Level funding for Title III D Preventative Health
  • $600,000 increase for Title III E Family Caregivers Support

Census Bureau

Boost to Census Funding: The Census Bureau is funded at $3.8 billion, an increase of more than $1 billion from fiscal year 2018. With about $1 billion in carry-over funding from the previous fiscal year, it’s a big step to ramp up activities related to the 2020 census.

Community and Economic Development

CDBG and HOME: The Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) received level funding at $3.3 billion. The HOME Investment Partnerships Program was funded at $1.250 billion, a decrease of $112 million. The Trump administration proposed to eliminate funding for both programs in fiscal years 2018 and 2019.

SSBG & CSBG: The Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) received level funding at $1.7 billion. The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) received a $10 million increase. The Trump Administration recommended that both programs be zeroed out in their FY 2019 budget request.

State Workforce Formula Grants: Title I – State Formula Grants of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) received level funding at $2.8 billion. The breakdown of each grant category is:

  • $845 million for WIOA Adult activities
  • $903 million for WIOA Youth activities
  • $1.04 million for WIOA Dislocated Worker activities

EDA: The Economic Development Administration (EDA) received a $2.5 million increase. This allocation ignores the Trump administration’s recommendation to eliminate funding for the agency.

Homeless Assistance Grants: The Homeless Assistance Grants were funded at $2.64 billion, a $12.3 million increase from last year. $80 million was also allocated by the appropriations package to programs addressing youth homelessness.

Housing Choice Vouchers: Housing Choice Vouchers received level funding at $22.6 billion.

Energy & Environment

Brownfields Program: The Brownfields Project Grant Program received a $7 million increase in FY 2019 for a total of $87 million.

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Program: The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Program is funded at $2.38 billion, an increase of $57 million from the last fiscal year and $1.68 billion above the president’s request.

LIHEAP: The package included a $50 million increase for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for a total of $3.69 billion. The Trump administration has recommended zeroing out funding for this program in fiscal years 2018 and 2019.

FEMA/Disaster Response and Recovery

FEMA: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) received $16.6 billion in net discretionary funding, an increase of $4.2 billion over last year. Also included in the package:

  • $12 billion for the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund to help states and communities respond to and recover from major domestic disasters and emergencies. This is an increase of over $4.6 billion from last year.
  • $3.1 billion for FEMA emergency grants, training, and other federal assistance (a $199.7 million decrease).
  • $250 million from the Disaster Relief Fund for the “National Public Infrastructure Predisaster Mitigation Fund, which was established by last year’s FAA reauthorization (Public Law 115-254).

Flood Insurance and Mapping: The Flood Hazard Mapping and Risk Analysis Program received $262.5 million, the same amount as last fiscal year. The National Flood Insurance Fund, which supports the National Flood Insurance Program, received $202 million (a decrease of $1 million).

Rural Development

Rural Development: Rural development programs received $3.01 billion, totaling $10.8 million more than the previous fiscal year and $1.21 billion more than the president’s request.

Rural Housing and Rental Assistance Programs: $1 billion in single family housing direct loans and $230 million in multi-family housing guarantees were provided. Rural Housing Assistance Grants received $45 million ($15 million for rural housing preservation and $30 million for very low-income housing repair). Congress provided $1.3 billion for the Rental Assistance Program, which is expected to fund all expiring FY 2018 contracts.  

Rural Community Facilities Program: This program received level funding at $2.8 billion for direct loans to help fund rural hospitals, schools, and health clinics.

New Broadband Loan and Grant Program: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Service received an additional $550 million for the Rural Development Broadband ReConnect Program, a new broadband loan and grant pilot program that was created in the FY 2018 omnibus.

Substance Abuse Crisis

Substance Abuse Crisis Relief: Congress provided enhanced support for treatment and prevention efforts across the U.S. tackling the substance abuse crisis. This included:

  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • $1.5 billion to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s State Opioid Response Grants
  • $120 million for the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program
  • $20 million for Regional Partnership Grants to improve the coordination of services for children and families affected by substance use disorders
  • Within the total provided for Substance Abuse Treatment Programs of Regional and National Significance in the conference exploratory statement, the conferees included $12 million for grants to prevent prescription drug/opioid overdose, $36 million for first responder training, and $89 million for the Medication-Assisted Treatment for Prescription Drug and Opioid Addiction Program
  • Department of Justice
    • $77 million for drug courts
    • $22 million for veterans’ treatment courts
    • $30 million for prescription drug monitoring programs
    • $157 million for the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program

Distance Learning & Telemedicine: $16 million was appropriated for Rural Development Distance Learning & Telemedicine Grants to help rural communities combat the crisis.

Water Infrastructure, Drinking Water, & Waste Disposal

Water State Revolving Funds: The Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Safe Drinking Water Revolving Fund programs were level funded, receiving $1.69 billion and $1.16 billion, respectively.

WIFIA Grants: The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) Grants program received a $5 million increase from FY 2018, totaling $68 million.

WRDA Grants: Congress provided $65 million in grants authorized by the 2016 Water Resources Development Act to improve drinking water in small, disadvantaged communities; schools and child care centers; and areas with lead in their drinking water.

Water and Waste Disposal Programs: The Rural Utilities Service Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program Account saw a mixed bag of funding amounts in FY 2019:

  • $1.4 billion for water and waste direct loans ($200 million increase)
  • $400 million for water and waste disposal grants (level funding)
  • $30 million for water and waste technical assistance grants ($10 million decrease)

Davis County Delegation Meets with the White House

Late last week, a delegation from Davis County, Utah – including County Commissioner and NARC Board Member Bret Millburn from Wasatch Front Regional Council – came to Washington to meet with White House administration staff. The afternoon meeting was a rapid-fire discussion, touching on a wide range of issues that impact Davis County and the region surrounding it. NARC hopes that the meeting developed stronger ties between Davis County and the administration as they work diligently to tackle their largest challenges on both county and regional levels.

House Approves Farm Bill Legislation

In a narrow vote of 213-211, the House passed its version of the Farm Bill (H.R. 2), which is estimated to spend $860 billion over the next 10 years. While Democrats unanimously opposed the bill due to stricter eligibility criteria and work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), eight conservative Freedom Caucus members flipped their positions from last month’s vote to ensure its passage on Thursday. The Senate is expected to vote on its version, which has wide bipartisan support, as early as this week. There are many expected points of contention between the bills, including the extent of SNAP reforms; changes to commodity subsidies; and the differences of approach to conservation programs, especially the elimination of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Conservation Stewardship Program proposed by the House.

House Appropriations Committee to Adopt Labor, Health, Education Funding Bill

Tomorrow, June 26, the House Appropriations Committee is expected to approve the FY 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education funding bill. The bill is likely to be adopted along party lines with essentially the same funding that Congress appropriated last year, which is greater than the amount requested by the administration.

The bill, if adopted into law, would appropriate more than $177 billion in discretionary funds, funding most programs at current levels. Small increases in funding were provided for substance abuse and mental health programs, including those that would address opioid and heroin abuse, health research at the National Institutes of Health, early childhood and Head Start programs, special education, and programs for seniors and veterans.

The committee is likely to recommend that programs like the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) be level funded, and workforce programs – a constant target of funding cuts – be reduced by a small amount, mostly due to the $200 million decrease in funding for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act dislocated worker program.