NARC’s Heroes Act Summary

This past Friday, the House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (Heroes Act). The 1,815-page legislation would provide a $3 trillion follow-up to the $2.2 trillion CARES Act aid passed into law in March.

The HEROES Act, developed by House Democrats, includes a variety of Democratic priority items and passed the House with only one Republican vote. While the bill has little chance at passage in the Republican-controlled Senate and has already drawn a veto threat from the White House, it creates a foundation for coronavirus-aid negotiations to move forward.

Particularly significant for regions is the focus that the bill puts on state and local funding, which was an advocacy priority for NARC and other local partners. The bill would provide $915 billion for state, local, tribal, and territorial funding, with $375 billion of that funding going to local governments.

The bill also includes a variety of other provisions including $435 billion for another round of direct payments to households and $100 billion to provide emergency assistance for low-income renters at risk of eviction.

Continue reading below for a further breakdown of the bill’s contents, with a focus on key items for regions including transportation and economic development provisions:

Local & State Budgetary Relief

SALT Deduction – Eliminates the limitation on the deduction for state and local taxes for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2020 and on or before December 31, 2021.

Local Fiscal Relief – $375 billion in funding to assist local governments with the fiscal impacts from the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus.

Tribal Fiscal Relief – $20 billion in funding to assist Tribal governments with the fiscal impacts from the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus.

CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund Repayment to DC – Provides an additional $755 million for the District of Columbia to assist with the fiscal impacts from the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus.

State Fiscal Relief – $500 billion in funding to assist state governments with the fiscal impacts from the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus.

Elections – $3.6 billion for grants to States for contingency planning, preparation, and resilience of elections for Federal office.

Transportation

  • Federal Highway Administration: $15 billion for Federal Highway Administration programs ($14.775B for States and District of Columbia, $150M for Tribal Transportation Program, $60M for Puerto Rico Highway Program, $15M for Territorial Highway Program) apportioned in the same ratio as under fiscal year 2020 appropriations legislation
    • Suballocation: A portion of funds to states are further suballocated to areas with population greater than 200,000 in the same ratio that funds were suballocated to these areas in fiscal year 2020 approprations
    • Eligible Uses: All funds (for States and the suballocated portion) can be used for:
      • Activities allowed under the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program;
      • administrative and operations expenses;
      • information technology needs; and
      • availability payments.
    • 100 Percent Federal Share: Funds obligated under this act and any funds subject to obligations limitations in the FY2020 transportation appropriations that are obligated after the date of passage of this legislation are eligible for a federal share of costs up to 100 percent.
  • Federal Transit Administration: $15.75 billion for Public Transportation Emergency Relief ($11.75B for grants to urbanized areas with population over 3M; $4.0B for grants to transit agencies that require significant additional assistance due to coronavirus)

Economic and Community Development

Community Development Block Grant –$5 billion for coronavirus response and to mitigate the impacts in our communities to be distributed by formula to current grantees.

Homeless Assistance Grants – $11.5 billion for Emergency Solutions Grants to address the impact of coronavirus among individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and to support additional homeless assistance, prevention, and diversion activities to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.

Emergency Rental Assistance – $100 billion to provide emergency assistance to help low income renters at risk of homelessness avoid eviction due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Housing for the Elderly – $500 million to maintain operations at properties providing affordable housing for low income seniors and to ensure housing providers can take the necessary actions to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic. To ensure access to supportive services for this vulnerable population, this includes $300 million for service coordinators and the continuation of existing congregate service grants for residents of assisted housing projects.

Housing for Persons with Disabilities – $200 million to maintain operations at properties providing affordable housing for low income persons with disabilities, and to ensure housing providers can take the necessary actions to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Census Bureau, Periodic Censuses, and Programs – $400 million for expenses due to delays in the 2020 Decennial Census in response to the coronavirus.

Census Bureau, Current Surveys, and Programs – $10 million for expenses incurred as a result of the coronavirus.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – Provides $10 billion to support anticipated increases in participation and to cover program cost increases related to flexibilities provided to SNAP by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Broadband – $1.5 billion to close the homework gap by providing funding for WiFi hotspots and connected devices for students and library patrons, and $4 billion for emergency home connectivity needs.

Assisting Small Businesses – $10 billion in grants to small businesses that have suffered financial losses as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Indian Health Service – $2.1 billion to address health care needs related to coronavirus for Native Americans.

Department of Labor – $3.1 billion to support workforce training and worker protection activities related to coronavirus, including:

  • $2 billion to support worker training;
  • $25 million for migrant and seasonal farmworkers, including emergency supportive services;
  • $925 million to assist States in processing unemployment insurance claims;
  • $15 million for the federal administration of unemployment insurance activities;
  • $100 million for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for workplace protection and enforcement activities in response to coronavirus, including $25 million for Susan Harwood training grants that protect and educate workers;
  • $6.5 million for the Wage and Hour Division to support enforcement and outreach activities for paid leave benefits; and
  • $5 million for the Office of the Inspector General.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – $2.1 billion to support federal, state, and local public health agencies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus, including:

  • $2 billion for State, local, Territorial, and Tribal Public Health Departments; and
  • $130 million for public health data surveillance and analytics infrastructure modernization.

Administration for Children and Families – $10.1 billion to provide supportive and social services for families and children through programs including:

  • $7 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grants;
  • $1.5 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP);
  • $1.5 billion to support paying water bills for low income families$50 million for Family Violence Prevention and Services;
  • $20 million for Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) State Grants; and
  • $20 million for Community Based Child Abuse Prevention Grants.

Administration for Community Living – $100 million to provide direct services such as home delivered and prepackaged meals, and supportive services for seniors and disabled individuals, and their caregivers.

Economic Development Administration:

  • Application of Law: Temporarily waives prohibition on using federal funds to pay for consultants or counsel to allow EDA grantees to pay consultants to help develop grant applications for funds under the CARES Act.
  • Federal Share: Temporarily waives matching fund requirements due to plummeting local government revenues for grants funded under the FY 19 disaster supplemental, CARES Act supplemental funding, and FY 20 appropriations.
  • Disaster Recovery Office: Grants EDA disaster hiring authority, which it currently does not have, and defederalizes the EDA revolving loan funds, which are vital lifelines to small, family owned businesses.

Additional Recovery Rebates to Individuals & Families

Provides a $1,200 refundable tax credit for each family member that shall be paid out in advance payments, similar to the Economic Impact Payments in the CARES Act. The credit is $1,200 for a single taxpayer ($2,400 for joint filers), in addition to $1,200 per dependent up to a maximum of 3 dependents. The credit phases out starting at $75,000 of modified adjusted gross income ($112,500 for head of household filers and $150,000 for joint filers) at a rate of $5 per $100 of income.

FURTHER READING

For more information on the CARES Act check out these other resources:

How Can Regional Councils Help Increase Affordable Housing?

A March 2018 report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that the U.S. has a shortfall of more than 7.2 million affordable and available rental homes for low-income households. Despite government attempts bridge the gap, three out of four low income households in need of housing assistance are denied federal help with their housing, primarily due to chronic underfunding.

As housing affordability has developed into a national crisis, communities have been looking for more ways to become more actively engaged in increasing affordable housing options for low and moderate-income individuals and families. Many communities have already implemented solutions including rent control, inclusionary housing, tax incentives and trust funds, but more efforts are needed.

Housing is a regional issue and regional coordination, information sharing, and funding generation can make a large impact, particularly in metropolitan areas.

Here are a few examples of the activities and programs that regional councils are carrying out across the US to help tackle the impacts of the affordable housing crisis in their regions.

Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG)

MWCOG plays a variety of roles in the Washington D.C. region, working with local governments on plans for residential growth. In September 2018, MWCOG identified a long-term goal of creating 100,000 additional homes in the region by 2045. Some of their recent activities to further this goal include:

  • Partnering with Urban Institute to conduct a research study entitled Housing Security in the Washington Region. This study was influential for local government officials and the community by outlining critical gaps in the region’s affordable housing for a wide range of household incomes. It also outlines specific housing policies and programs which are funded by local governments and philanthropic support. Much of their research is also being shared to community members and government officials through forums and conferences.
  • MWCOG is targeting housing preservation alongside production. They have been working with the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington to create the Capital Area Foreclosure Network (CAFN), which was designed to combat the region’s foreclosure crisis. The network provides grants and technical assistance, while counseling and organizing stakeholders, non-profits, banks and state agencies as they work towards solutions.

Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP)

In CMAP’s GO TO 2040 and ON TO 2050 long-term regional plans, they have outlined goals and steps to sustain and rebuild their region’s infrastructure. Their priorities include affordable housing and inclusionary housing to create more opportunities throughout every community. One of the specific goals of the GO TO 2040 plan is to increase housing options by lowering prices, which is being tackled by their Regional Housing Initiative (RHI). With RHI, CMAP has partnered with various groups to increase collaboration between organizations such as the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), and ten housing authorities in the region. Their objective is to support affordable and mixed-income housing developments in opportunity zone areas that they have found to be the most in need.

Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC)

ARC has taken an innovative approach toward finding solutions for affordable housing via social media. By joining Enterprise Community Partner’s 100 Great Ideas Facebook Campaign as part of the host committee and one of the event’s moderators, they were able to virtually unite residents within the Atlanta Metro Region for five days of brainstorming and exchanging ideas that could improve housing affordability. The forum was open to anyone in the region to participate and generated over 3,400 posts, comments and reactions. ARC is currently working with Enterprise Community Partners and the other local agencies involved in the campaign to synthesize ideas into a final report that can be presented to local officials for implementation.

Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG)

Being the fastest growing region in their state, GPCOG provides a wide range of planning services for affordable housing, including comprehensive planning, neighborhood master planning, ordinance development, workshop facilitation and advocacy. They act as a resource to other governing agencies as they help communities assess their needs and develop a personalized plan for the future. A recent example of this work includes the South Portland West End Neighborhood Master Plan, which looks at how South Portland’s West End neighborhood can preserve housing affordability for current and future residents as demand rises in the region.

Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC)

PVPC assists its region by helping members identify and plan ways to meet their current and future housing needs. Their team helps people create Housing Production Plans and Housing Needs Assessments and Action Plans that are compliant with the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development guidelines. They are also the convener for the Pioneer Valley Regional Housing Committee, bringing together regional stakeholders on a quarterly basis to discuss housing successes and challenges and work towards achieving the goals outlined in PVPC’s Pioneer Valley Regional Housing Plan.

Hearing Analysis: Aligning Federal Surface Transportation Policy to Meet 21st Century Needs

Hearing Analysis: Aligning Federal Surface Transportation Policy to Meet 21st Century Needs

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On March 12th, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit convened to discuss prioritizing the reauthorization of highway and transit programs before they expire next year. Regions and local communities require continued federal infrastructure investment to provide regional connectivity and modern mobility through efficient multi-modal systems. For detailed notes, see NARC’s analysis from the hearing.

House Ways and Means Hearing: Our Nation’s Crumbling Infrastructure and The Need for Immediate Action

House Ways and Means Hearing: Our Nation’s Crumbling Infrastructure and The Need for Immediate Action

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Taking a vital step toward a robust transportation package this Congress, the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday held a hearing to discuss the need for more money to maintain and improve the nation’s infrastructure. The Highway Trust Fund needs immediate cash flow before it runs to zero in 2021. In addition, roads, bridges and highways in poor conditions cost individuals and businesses in measurable financial ways. At the hearing, funding models for investment were discussed in depth as members debated the use of a gas tax, VMT-based fee, and public-private partnerships as tools for creating revenue. The rural-urban divide was also discussed throughout. There were also conversations about creating stronger broadband infrastructure, water systems, disaster resilient communities and affordable housing while also addressing the effects of climate change. For detailed notes, see NARC’s analysis from the hearing.

2018 End of Year Summary

In 2018, NARC advocated on your behalf on Capitol Hill and with the Administration, fostered innovative partnerships between members and with national organizations, and highlighted your daily successes. With active support from members like you, NARC has fostered better connections between members, increased our programming, and expanded our scope throughout the country.

The political landscape is more divided than ever, but NARC will continue to bridge divides with a regional perspective in 2019. The coming year will be another important opportunity to expand the role of regions in transportation, infrastructure, environment, public safety, and human services.

As we prepare for what lies ahead, we took a look back at a few of NARC’s many successes in 2018, successes that were only possible as a result of your generous and ongoing support.

Federal Advocacy
NARC continued to engage and connect with congressional staff as the go-to organization to address concerns that cross jurisdictional boundaries. NARC established relationships with federal agencies and acted as a resource on issues ranging from alternative fuel vehicles to broadband. NARC held a series of summer legislative briefings to keep you up to date on federal issues, including automated vehicles, the Farm Bill, the Federal Communications Commission, and integrated planning.

Rural Economic Development Innovation (REDI) Program
Emphasizing partnerships and innovation, NARC collaborated with the National Association of Counties Research Foundation (NACo) on a USDA grant supporting rural economic development. In October, NARC and NACo were awarded $139,000 to implement economic development plans and projects. We will steward applicants through capacity-building workshops, mentorships, and webinars.

Fleets for the Future
In 2018, NARC wrapped up our Department of Energy-funded Fleets for the Future (F4F) project. F4F harbored many successes in its 2.5 years, including the creation of best practices guides and templates for alternative fuel vehicle procurement and the development of several regional and national cooperative procurement contracts. Read more about the project and its accomplishments in our condensed F4F Final Report.

Membership Committee
This year, NARC established a membership committee to recruit new members and improve engagement with current members. This member-driven committee encouraged new regional voices to share their ideas, challenges, and best practices amongst the NARC membership. Since the committee was formed, at least eight regional councils have become NARC members.

Major Metros Roundtable
NARC continued to work with the Major Metros Roundtable (MMR), a member-directed and member-supported group that meets regularly to discuss challenges and solutions that are particular to regional councils in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. In 2018, MMR held three in-person half-day meetings in conjunction with NARC’s three conferences in addition to monthly hour-long conference calls which highlighted an individual issue on each call – including transportation, public safety, resiliency, and more.

Sharing Best Practices
To highlight your groundbreaking work, NARC featured best practices, innovations, and creative solutions during our three conferences, in our weekly newsletters, and through monthly webinars. NARC continued to update the repository of best practices from the Rapid-Fire Innovation session at the Executive Directors Conference. Transportation Thursdays and eRegions provided updates on regional council activities and accomplishments across the country. Our webinars and conferences invited members to share their work firsthand and encouraged others to ask questions and bring these ideas back to their own regions.

2018 NARC Achievement Awards Winners

At every Annual Conference and Exhibition, NARC celebrates membership achievements of regional excellence and cooperation across the nation. This year’s winners exemplify many qualities that a 21st-century regional council needs to be successful, including innovation, adaptability, collaboration, and hard work. Read more about our 2018 NARC Major Metro, Medium Metro, and Rural Achievement Awards Winners below:

Major Metro Winner: Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG)
Headquarters: Detroit, Michigan
Project: Water Resources Plan

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) won the 2018 Major Metro Achievement Award for their Water Resources Plan. The plan focuses on three major pillars of water planning in the region: “Blue Economy,” Natural Resources, and Infrastructure. “Blue Economy” recognizes the importance of the region’s water assets and supports water placemaking efforts to enhance water recreation opportunities and support the economic development of water-dependent industries. The Natural Resources pillar highlights threats to natural resources such as invasive species and prioritizes strategies to eliminate them, as well as protect wetlands, riparian corridors, and aquatic habitats. Finally, the Infrastructure pillar addresses the region’s drinking water, wastewater, storm water, dams, and transportation infrastructure.

The plan’s breadth and depth make it a very useful part of the region’s toolkit for addressing water infrastructure needs. It outlines specific policy recommendations and actions related to protecting water resources in Southeast Michigan, many of which will be incorporated into SEMCOG’s planning efforts, like their 2045 Regional Transportation Plan. Implementation of the innovative Water Resources Plan is already underway through several projects. Looking forward, SEMCOG will work with the state to map and inventory all existing and historical wetlands, helping inform decisions made about wetland restoration and protection. Congratulations to SEMCOG on their excellent Water Resources Plan!

Medium Metro Winner: Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG)
Headquarters: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Project: Regional Advocacy Program

INCOG’s 2018 Medium Metro Achievement Award-winning advocacy program exemplifies regional cooperation and proves that unifying a regional message is more effective than individual efforts to pass legislation. This INCOG program is unique in its four-pronged approach to regional advocacy:

  • Hosting the Coalition of Tulsa Area Governments (CTAC), an active group of county and municipal governments who advocate for issues that directly affect their member governments;
  • Developing an annual federal policy issue agenda that identifies issues important to the region, which then informs the development of their Congressional Delegation Information Packet and conversations with Oklahoma’s federal representatives;
  • Holding an annual reception and orientation meetings to start building relationships with newly-elected state and federal officials; and
  • Working through their OneVoice Legislative Program with the Tulsa Regional Chamber to develop an annual state and federal legislative agenda embraced by public and private partners alike.

Since 2000, more than 65 CTAC bills have been signed by the governor, with countless more bills killed that harm local governments. CTAC’s slate of issues require unanimous support from all members to initiate or oppose a legislative change, creating an expectation that disagreements will be resolved in favor of the larger group and the greater good. The OneVoice agenda is also a product of more than 400 individuals – which 70 organizations, including INCOG, routinely endorse – that governors and legislators find invaluable as an indication of regional consensus on significant legislative issues. Congratulations to INCOG on their inspiring Regional Advocacy Program!

Medium Metro Winner: Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC)
Headquarters: Portage, Indiana
Project: Greenways + Blueways 2020 Plan

NIRPC’s Greenways + Blueways 2020 Plan, which won them the Medium Metro Achievement Award, highlights the benefits and relationships of both environmental and non-motorized transportation planning through three main topics: conservation, recreation, and transportation. The plan is the product of a significant public engagement process and cooperation among governmental, advocate, and corporate stakeholders. It merges typically distinct planning focus areas to highlight opportunities for integration. The plan identifies conservation corridors along waterways and large but fragmented patches of conservation land, and highlights over 160 miles of land-based, multi-use recreation trails across the Northwest Indiana landscape. The plan includes a chapter on merging these focus areas and a chapter on implementation that identifies performance measures and outlines eight stakeholder groups that can help put them into practice. The Greenways + Blueways Plan is an ambitious vision for tying together mutually beneficial focus areas to advance regional priorities of conservation and non-motorized transportation planning. Congratulations to NIRPC on their impressive G&B 2020 Plan!

Rural Achievement Award Winner: Heartland Regional Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO) Headquarters: Bartow, Florida
Project: Highlands Transit Plan

HRTPO developed the Highlands Transit Plan through a collaborative planning process, engaging thousands of citizens over a 10-month study period and winning them the 2018 Rural Achievement Award. It is the first adopted transit development plan for Highlands County, Florida, which has no existing public transit system. Because of its successful campaign, HRTPO can confidently use their results to inform their strategic vision, which will guide the planning, development, and implementation of future public transportation services.

HRTPO used several approaches to gather feedback from their residents on their plan. Rather than focusing on public meetings, they placed an emphasis on education and participation where they knew people were – online, at work, civic activities, and community events. An informal “street team” of volunteers distributed surveys to their neighbors, co-workers, church members, and friends to help expand their reach, resulting in the collection of over 900 survey responses. The first public involvement phase identified the community’s public transportation and potential service options by conducting 27 stakeholder interviews, collecting 771 transportation needs survey responses, putting out a PSA on a Spanish language radio station, producing a one-hour segment on local talk radio, and hosting a booth at the Highlands County Fair for 10 days. Outreach strategies for the second phase, proposing service options for public input and prioritization, included: 100+ engagements at the Blueberry Festival, 156 service options surveys collected, two newspaper articles on plan development, and 20 attendees at a transit forum. Congratulations to HRTPO on their impressive outreach efforts that informed their Highlands Transit Plan!

Harvard Releases State of the Nation’s Housing Report

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies recently released its 3oth annual housing report, The State of the Nation’s Housing 2018. Managing Director Chris Hebert said, “By many metrics, the U.S. housing market in 2018 is on sound footing. But a number of challenges highlighted in the first State of the Nation’s Housing report 30 years ago persist today, and in many respects, the situation has worsened for both the lowest-income Americans and those higher up the income latter.” Long-term challenges that the report has identified include: an increase in cost-burdened households, constraints in the supply of new housing, more expensive land prices and housing construction costs, and decreased rates of homeownership among young adults and black households. See this recorded webcast for a discussion about the implications of the report’s findings.

EPA Seeks Nominees for Advisory Council

On Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice in the Federal Register seeking nominations to fill vacancies on EPA’s National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC). EPA requests nominations of qualified candidates to be considered for a three-year appointment. The 15-member NDWAC was established by the Safe Drinking Water Act to provide practical and independent advice, consultation, and recommendations to the EPA’s Administrator on the activities, functions, policies, and regulations required by the bill. EPA’s notice solicits nominations to fill four vacancies from August 2018 through December 2020, and five vacancies from December 2018 through December 2021. To maintain the representation required by statute, nominees will be selected to represent state and local agencies concerned with water hygiene and public water supply (two vacancies) and the general public (two vacancies). Nominations are due by May 31, 2018.

Energy Secretary Perry Announces Funding for Advanced Vehicle Technologies Research

Energy Secretary Rick Perry recently announced $68.5 million in funding through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for early-stage research of advanced vehicle technologies. Projects selected through this Vehicle Technologies Office funding opportunity will address one of five topics, including batteries and electrification, technology integration, and co-optimization of engines and fuels. The goals of this opportunity are to improve transportation efficiency and reliability by enhancing economic growth and enabling affordable mobility.

The Heartland 2050 Winter Summit Held in MAPA Region

The Heartland 2050 Winter Summit Held in MAPA Region
Heartland 2050 is a community-driven initiative by the Omaha-Council Bluffs Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA) to pull in stakeholders across the region to think big picture and work toward a common vision for the metro area. This past week Heartland 2050 held its winter summit, where stories were shared about how communities have come together to solve seemingly intractable problems through a new form of collaboration called Collective Impact. Paul Schmitz, CEO of Leading Inside Out and Senior Advisor at The Collective Impact Forum, explains the Collective Impact as “when you align all of the organizations that work on an issue, so they no longer do their work on their own serving people here and there, but rather collectively move to a population level result.”