House Releases Transportation Reauthorization Proposal

Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Peter DeFazio (D-OR) released a transportation reauthorization proposal today called Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act (INVEST in America Act). This is an 853-page bill, so it will take some time to go through in detail. NARC will prepare a detailed analysis of the bill as it relates to MPOs, RPOs, and RTPOs, and get it out to members as soon as possible.

Committee Resources


A Very Quick Overview
In the meantime, a few things that we know:

  • This is a 5-year, $494 billion bill ($319B for highways, $105B for transit, $60B for rail, $10B for passenger and commercial vehicle safety)
  • The first year of the bill is an extension of FAST Act policy, with additional funding and flexibility to use the funds for a broader array of activities and at 100% federal share.
  • Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBGP) suballocation is not increased and remains at 55%. Areas with population 50,000-199,999 would have greater say in how STBGP funds are spent.
  • The bill intends to provide significant funding for local priorities through two new grant programs, one focused on community transportation priorities and the other on carbon reduction grants. This is in addition to a carbon apportionment program that would be state-directed.
  • The bill also creates a program to provide funding for high performing MPOs on a pilot basis; qualifying MPOs could be of any size and would have to demonstrate previous good stewardship of federal funds. The organizations chosen to participate would receive funds directly to spend on local priority projects.
  • Transportation Alternatives (TAP) is increased significantly and would be funded at 10% of STBGP. Suballocation of TAP would increase from 50% to 66%.
  • Planning funding (PL) is significantly increased, with additional responsibilities for MPOs on greenhouse gas emissions and accessibility issues.
  • The existing INFRA program is restructured to include transit, passenger rail, and freight rail and is more like a Projects of National and Regional Significance program.
  • Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) funding also increases significantly and additional requirements are placed upon states that have higher rates of cyclist and pedestrian deaths and injuries.

Questions? Contact Erich Zimmermann at erich@narc.org
202.618.5697

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:

Regions Help Move Earth Day Online

Happy Earth Day! And happy 50th birthday to Earth Day! Today marks fifty years since the first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22nd 1970.

While Earth Day in 1970 “brought 20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform,” this year’s Earth Day is being observed in a very different way.

Due to precautions against the coronavirus, Earth Day 2020 is not being celebrated as it usually is with large demonstrations, parades and in-person events. In accordance with social distancing guidelines, Earth Day has moved online with virtual events and posts taking the place of traditional celebrations.

The Earth Day Network, the official organizers of Earth Day is holding a 24 Hours of Action, providing an hourly call to action. They are also streaming performances and speeches throughout the day.

Regional councils have also joined in to celebrate the day online by spreading information on their environmental programs, and encouraging community members to engage in earth-friendly activities and head outside to enjoy nature (in safe and socially responsible ways!)

Check out the posts below to see how regional councils are celebrating:

Houston Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) – Earth Day Facts and Information About yourcommutesolution.org

H-GAC Earth Day Fact Tweet #3

H-GAC is tweeting throughout the day to share Earth Day facts. Did you know that Houston’s first light rail line was partly responsible for a 24 percent reduction in carbon monoxide, improving air quality in the two years following its opening? -We didn’t! To see more facts, check out their social media accounts. H-GAC is also taking the opportunity to share information about yourcommutesolution.org which provides options for residents of the region to improve their commutes and help to enhance the region’s air quality.

Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) – Blog: 50 Years of Celebrating Earth Day: Look How Far We’ve Come

A photo from SEMCOG’s blog shows kayakers on the Rouge River, one of the success stories of the region’s environmental efforts.

SEMCOG’s blog features an Earth Day post written by Katie Grantham, a planner with their Environment and Infrastructure group. The post celebrates some of the environmental progress that has been made in the region since the first Earth Day. (Last year marked the 50th Anniversary of when the Rouge River caught fire!) And highlights SEMCOG environmental programs like their Ozone Action program, and offers ideas for ways that community members can get engage with local Earth Day events like virtual cleanups.

Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) -Earth Day Recycling Survey

AACOG is reaching out today to community members today to encourage them to participate in an Earth Day recycling survey. Input from the survey will be used to better understand the region’s recycling and solid waste services needs to assist with short and long term planning. AACOG is the state-designated planning agency for solid waste management issues in the region and provides a range of planning and programmatic support that helps to ensure that solid waste is managed in responsible and earth-friendly ways.

Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) Virtual Earth Day Celebration With Calumet Collaborative

NIRPC partnered with the Calumet Collaborative, a regional community partnership group, to develop a virtual Earth Day celebration. The day-long event featured an array of live speakers and documentary watch-parties followed by discussion. The event highlighted local environmental programs and resources including regional water clean-up efforts, outdoor recreation opportunities at nearby parks, and community projects like the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Virtual Earth Day clean up.

Celebrating Earth Day at your regional council? Send your stories to eli.spang@narc.org or use the hashtag #RegionsLead on social media!

Small and Mid-Sized Communities Left Out of the Coronavirus Relief Fund

On March 27th, the president signed into law the third federal COVID-19 aid package: the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748). This legislation is the most substantial coronavirus relief package released so far, providing the country with $2.3 trillion of aid to counter the physical and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. One snag in this massive piece of legislation is a rule which leaves small and mid-sized communities across the country without direct access to funding.

The CARES Act created a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund to provide payments to states and local governments with populations over 500,000. Each state is guaranteed a payment of at least $1.25 billion from the fund, with money provided to local governments within their borders subtracted from the total that is allocated to them. The amount made available to each state will vary based on their population, and states are not obligated to disperse these funds to localities that are not eligible under the 500,000 population minimum. The Treasury Department has provided a full breakdown of each state’s allocation.

The legislation’s language concerning the 500,000 population threshold has led to a lack of consensus on which counties, cities, localities, and “other unit[s] of general government” are eligible to receive these funds and the Treasury Department has only recently provided further clarification. Both the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the National League of Cities (NLC) have submitted separate letters to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asking for more direct funding to local governments and clarification regarding the 500,000 rule.

Recent Clarification from the Treasury Regarding the 500,000 Rule.

Eligibility of Local Governments

According to the Treasury Department, a unit of local government eligible for receipt of direct payment includes a county, municipality, town, township, village, parish, borough, or other unit of general government below the State level with a population that exceeds 500,000. A local government must have a population in excess of 500,000 to provide a certification for payment. There is no further explicit clarification of what is and is not an “other unit of general government.”

Overlapping Jurisdictions

Some local governments, such as cities, may be entirely within the boundaries of a larger local government such as a county. The larger local government may include, for purposes of determining whether it meets the 500,000 threshold for eligibility, the population of the smaller, constituent local government.

  • If the smaller, constituent local government does not provide a certification for payment, the entire population of the larger local government (including the population of the smaller local government) will be used for purposes of calculating its payment amount.
  • If the smaller, constituent local government provides a certification for payment, the population of the smaller local government will be subtracted from the population of the larger local government for purposes of calculating its payment amount.

Listed Eligible Governments

The Treasury Department has distributed a list of 171 counties and cities/towns that have a population of more than 500,000 people according to Census data. According to the Treasury, consolidated cities and counties and city-counties may be listed twice. For example, Los Angeles County and Los Angeles city are both listed. The Treasury has not specified what happens in the event that a city and county both qualify under the 500,000 rule.  Some are concerned with double counting and its effect on the disbursement of payments. Governments eligible for payments must provide payment information and supporting documentation through the electronic form on the Treasury’s CARES Act assistance webpage. To ensure that payments are made within the 30 day period specified by the CARES Act, governments must submit completed payment materials not later than 11:59 p.m. EDT on April 17, 2020.

The Next Round of Funding Support

In response to small and medium local governments missing out on this massive funding opportunity, a group of House Democrats including U.S. House Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Andy Levin (D-MI), and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) have introduced the Coronavirus Community Relief Act to provide $250 billion in stabilization funds for localities with 500,000 people or less amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The congressmen pointed to the many towns, cities, and counties being left out of direct funding from the CARES Act, highlighting that some of these communities were in areas that had been hit hardest by COVID-19.

In addition to the bill they are proposing, Congressmembers Luján, Neguse, Levin, and Malinowski wrote a letter to Speaker Pelosi requesting that the 500,000 population cap be removed and additional funds be authorized for cities and towns in the next stimulus package from Congress. 

NARC has also weighed in on this issue, requesting that the federal government provide more funding to local governments and allow regional councils and metropolitan planning organizations with a collective population of greater than 500,000 to apply for direct funding on behalf of their member local governments. In a letter to Secretary Mnuchin, NARC expressed that many regional planning organizations are well positioned to work with the federal government to provide accountability for the expenditure of funds and to establish an equitable distribution of funds to local governments within their regions.

As authorities across the country have ordered nonessential operations and businesses to temporarily close, unemployment is skyrocketing and government revenues are expected to drop sharply compared to projected levels. Unfortunately, the CARES Act lacks sufficient funding and flexibility for states and localities to compensate for these revenue reductions. In the next funding package, federal lawmakers should deliver “unencumbered aid” for state and local governments regardless of population to ensure they have the resources needed to address the long-term health and economic concerns of their residents.

NARC will continue to track this situation and provide members with any updates or clarification from the Treasury Department.

Additional Resources

Treasury Department: A complete breakdown of eligibility can be found here.

Treasury Department: A full list of eligible counties and cities can be found here.

NLC Action Campaign to Co-sponsor the Coronavirus Community Relief Act here.

NLC/USCM CARES Act Fact Sheet here.

NLC/USCM Infographic here.

GFOA Letter to Congressional Leadership Requesting Direct Funding to Local Governments of all sizes in the next funding Package here.

NARC Analysis: CARES Act

This afternoon, the House of Representatives passed The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748) following an earlier vote this week by the Senate. The bill is intended to provide the country with $2.3 trillion of aid to counter the physical and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This legislation is the third COVID-19 bill to be developed by Congress, following the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 6074) and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201).

The CARES Act, the single largest economic stimulus package in American history, faced a brief challenge in the House when Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) attempted to force a recorded roll call vote on the bill. Congressmembers from both sides of aisle traveled quickly to Washington to establish a quorum, denying Massie’s attempt and passing the legislation with a voice vote.

Following the successful House vote, the bill will now be sent to the President, who is expected to quickly sign it into law.

Below are key items from the CARES Act, including a table of top-level figures, and summaries of the legislation’s primary areas of support, including support for state and local government, transportation, individuals, and businesses.

Top Level Funding Figures (~$2.3 Trillion Total)

SUPPORT FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT

State & Local Government Support (New Coronavirus Relief Fund) ($150 Billion)

The legislation provides $150 billion specifically for states, tribes, territories, and some local areas. And provides $8 billion for Tribes and $3 billion for territories (including, oddly, the District of Columbia, which is normally treated as a state for such purposes). Of the remaining $139 billion, funds are distributed to each state based on the state’s population relative to the population of the nation as a whole.

Of the amount each state receives, up to 45% of funds are available to “units of local governments,” which is defined as a county, municipality, town, township, village, parish, borough, or other unit of general government below the State level with a population of 500,000 or greater. A local area would qualify to receive a portion of funding that is equivalent to the proportion the local government’s population bears to the population of the state as a whole.

SNAP, Family Services and Housing ($42 Billion)

$25 billion in additional funding will be provided for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and for other child nutrition programs to support states and localities in meeting growing need for food assistance as a result of coronavirus.

$4 billion in Homelessness Assistance Grants would be provided to state and local governments to address coronavirus among the homeless population. 

CDBG ($5 Billion)

The bill provides $5 billion through the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) for services for senior citizens, the homeless, and public health services. This includes $2 billion distributed using the normal CDBG formula; $1 billion to states based on a formula developed by HUD for COVID-19; and $2 billion to states and localities based on a formula to be developed by HUD within 30 days.

FEMA Disaster Relief Funding ($45 Billion)

$45 billion is being provided in funding for FEMA with $25 billion going to areas with major disaster declarations, like Washington State and New York State. The remaining $15 billion will be used for all purposes allowed under the Stafford Act.

EDA Funding ($1.5 Billion)

The bill allocates $1.5 billion to the Economic Development Administration through September 30, 2022. This will help regions mitigate the local economic crisis and rebuild impacted industries such as tourism or manufacturing supply chains.

USDA-Rural Development Programs ($145.5 million)

The stimulus package provides an additional $20.5 million for the Rural Business Program under the Rural Business Cooperative Service to support loans for rural business development programs. It allocates $25 million for the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program which helps provide broadband services to rural communities to support vital distance learning and telemedicine. The bill also provides $100 million in grants to the ReConnect pilot program to provide broadband services to rural areas to meet the Federal Communications Commission speed standards of 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream.

Dislocated Workers National Reserve ($345 million)

The bill provides $345 million for dislocated workers (through September 30, 2022) to prepare for and respond to layoffs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Homeless Assistance Grants ($4 billion)

The stimulus package provides $4 billion to enable state and local governments to provide effective, targeted assistance to contain the spread of COVID-19 among homeless individuals. It will also provide homelessness prevention funding for individuals and families who would otherwise become homeless because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Project-Based and Tenant-Based Rental Assistance ($2.25 billion)

The package provides $1 billion for project-based rental assistance to make up for reduced tenant payments as a result of coronavirus. $1.25 billion for tenant-based rental assistance will be provided to preserve Section 8 vouchers for seniors, the disabled, and low-income working families.

Section 202 Housing for the Elderly ($50 million)

This $50 million in funds will help maintain housing stability and services for low-income seniors.

Section 811 Housing for Persons with Disabilities ($15 million)

The bill provides $15 million to make up for reduced tenant payments as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

SUPPORT FOR TRANSPORTATION

In total, the bill provides $114 billion for transportation-related purposes, $88 billion of which for aviation-related grants (as well as industry loans and loan guarantees). Of the remaining $26 billion, most of that goes to transit ($25 billion) and Amtrak ($1+ billion).

Transit ($25 Billion)

The bill provides $25 billion for “Transit Infrastructure Grants” to allow transit agencies to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” These funds are treated as if they are provided under 49 U.S.C. 5307 (Urbanized Area Formula Grants) and 49 U.S.C. 5311 (Formula Grants for Rural Areas), but are distributed in the same proportion as the funds in fiscal year 2020 appropriations under 5307, 5311, 5337 (State of Good Repair Grants) and 5340 (Apportionments based on growing States and high density States formula factors). Funds under 5337 are added to 5307 funds and administered under 5307.

The funds will be distributed in seven days based on FY2020 apportionment formulas. The limitation on the use of funds for operating expenses in urban areas is waved. All of the funds, regardless of which program the funds come through, is for “reimbursement for operating costs to maintain service and lost revenue due to the coronavirus public health emergency, including the purchase of personal protective equipment, and paying the administrative leave of operations personnel due to reductions in service.” These additional operating funds DO NOT need to appear in a TIP, STIP, or LRTP to quality.

Finally, the funds for this section are from General Treasury Funds, not the Highway Trust Fund, and they are not subject to any limitation on obligations. Eligible projects can be funded with 100% federal funds.

Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund

The bill contain a provision that impacts new receipts into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, treating these funds as mandatory spending not subject to spending caps (and therefore making the funds easier to spend; previously, these funds would require a spending offset). This provision does not affect the spending down of the current HMTF balance (which is $9 billion or so), but does prevent the balance from continuing to grow. This provision will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021 or upon passage of the next Water Resource Development Act (WRDA).

Amtrak ($1 Billion)

Just over $1 billion is provided for Amtrak, including $492 for Northeast Corridor grants and $526 million for National Network grants. Reduces required payment from states for “State-Supported Routes” and sets aside $239 million from National Network grants in lieu of an increase in a state’s payment.

Aviation ($42 Billion [Excluding Loans & Loan Guarantees])

Much of the transportation-related funding in the bill is provided for aviation purposes, including $32 billion in direct grants, $46 billion for loans and loan guarantees (out of the $500 billion loan and loan guarantees program), $10 billion for airport grants, and suspension of collection of Airport and Airway Trust Fund excise taxes for the remainder of the calendar year. In addition, an additional $56 million is provided for Essential Air Service.

General Highway Provision

The bill temporarily allows truck weight limits on the Interstate system to be exceeded for trucks carrying emergency supplies, to be in place through September 30, 2020 so long as the disaster declaration remains in effect.

SUPPORT FOR INDIVIDUALS

Unemployment Benefits ($260 Billion)

The bill changes unemployment insurance benefits in several dramatic ways. The bill provides unemployed workers with their basic state unemployment benefits (about $300 per week) plus a federal supplement of $600 per week for up to four months. The bill also extends state benefits for 13 weeks.  This results in up to 39 weeks of benefits for many workers. In addition, the bill provides incentives for states to waive their waiting periods, and makes unemployment compensation available to part-time, self-employed, and gig workers as well.

Notably, this bill does not contain an amendment which was requested by many local government partners to remove a provision that requires states, local governments and their political subdivisions and instrumentalities to provide paid sick leave, while prohibiting these governmental entities from receiving the tax credits available to private employers.

Stimulus Checks ($290 Billion)

Checks will be sent to Americans in amounts of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child. Check eligibility will be phased out above $75,000 of income for individuals and $150,000 of income for couples.

Tax Reductions for Individuals ($20 Billion)

The bill would provide several tax reduction avenues for individuals including allowing HSA purchases of menstrual Products and temporarily waiving retirement minimum distribution rules.

SUPPORT FOR EDUCATION SYSTEMS

Education Spending ($32 billion)

An education stabilization fund for states, school districts, & higher education institutions will be provided $31 billion. Other Department of Education programs will receive approximately another $1 billion in funding.

SUPPORT FOR HEALTH SYSTEMS

Hospitals and Health Care ($180 Billion)

$100 billion of funding in the bill is being put toward hospitals responding to COVID-19. Other funding will go to drug access; CDC, FDA, NIH, IHS, & other health-related agencies; care for veterans; and the replenishing of the nation’s stockpile of medical supplies.

SUPPORT FOR BUSINESSES

Small Business Support ($377 Billion)

Small business funding will be provided in three ways:

$10 billion of funding is being provided for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) for grants up to $10,000 to cover immediate operating costs for businesses.

$350 billion is allocated for the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide loans of up to $10 million per business. Use of that money is flexible as long as businesses keep their workers employed through the end of June.

Lastly, $17 billion will be for the SBA to cover 6 months of payments for small businesses with existing SBA loans.

Large Business Support ($510 Billion)

A large portion of the bill will be used to provide loans and loan guarantees for large companies, particularly for those industries hardest hit by COVID-19 such as airlines.

Tax Reductions for Businesses ($280 Billion)

The bill would loosen caps imposed by the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act on interest deductibility & operating losses, provide payroll tax credits for businesses who retain workers at a loss, and delay employer payroll tax payments from 2020 to 2021 & 2022       $12. The bill would also introduce a very COVID-19-specific provision allowing liquor distillers to make hand sanitizer tax-free.        

FURTHER READING

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

States and Regions are Exploring the Transition from Gas Taxes to Per-Mile Charges

“Every week is infrastructure week!”

That is the running joke in Washington, DC as Congress and the administration have been hard at work formulating a comprehensive infrastructure package since President Trump’s inauguration in January of 2017. The Trump Administration, House, and Senate have all released different funding priorities for a Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) reauthorization bill, which is set to expire in September.

Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan , the $760 billion House infrastructure plan, and the $287 billion Senate Highway bill (S.2302) all take different approaches to  providing funding to improve the dire transportation and infrastructure situation in the United States, but none offers a plan for how the legislation will be funded. The political near-impossibility of a gas tax increase has led some to consider new funding structures, including charging drivers for the miles they drive rather than the amount of fuel they consume. This approach, referred to as a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax, a road user charge (RUC), or a mile-based user fee (MBUF), is being considered by states as a supplement or a replacement for current per-gallon fuel charges.

As the funding debate plays out at the federal level several states have already implemented pilot or voluntary programs that charge users an annual flat fee to owners of cars using alternative fuels. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has collected data and information from various per-mile programs across the country. Below is a map that the Oregon DOT compiled indicating which states have completed RUC pilots, which states are considering or planning RUC pilots, and which states are actively monitoring the topic either via their department of transportation, state legislature or another agency.

NCSL has also gathered information on regional efforts and RUC coalition groups. Two regional groups of states, RUC West and the I-95 Corridor Coalition, have coordinated efforts and resources around RUC issues to leverage resources for educational opportunities and to focus funding efforts. Membership for both coalitions are below:

Significant concerns remain over issues such as privacy, how the fee would be collected and how efficient that collection would be, and concerns about the federal government’s capacity to roll-out a national program. Either program would require passenger vehicles to be tracked, whether through odometer reading, radio-frequency identification (RFID) readers, or onboard devices. Depending on the tax or fee structure, the time and location in addition to miles traveled may need to be captured. The idea that every location and mile traveled in your personal vehicle being tracked, recorded, and captured by the federal government may be unsettling for some.

These concerns will have to be addressed before a nationwide program becomes a political possibility, but regions and states are taking the lead in testing this important new technology. Below are four states that showcase different approaches to per-mile charges:

Oregon: Road Usage Charge Program – OReGO

Oregon began its RUC journey in 2017 and is now the only state with a permanent RUC program. Oregon drivers are highly encouraged to enroll in the state’s RUC program called OReGO. A typical electric or high-mpg vehicle driver pays two to four years’ worth of registration fees in advance when purchasing a car or renewing their registration. Oregon House Bill 2017, or “Keep Oregon Moving,” will be making increases to these fees in 2022 and 2023 to respond to expected increases in vehicle performance. This could lead to a combined up-front registration fee of hundreds of dollars. If these same drivers enroll in OReGO instead they would not have to pay these registration fee increases. They would only pay the base registration of $43 per year plus the road charge of 1.8 cents per mile.

Utah Road Usage Charge Program

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) began work on implementing their RUC in 2018 when two laws passed through the state legislature (SB 136 -2018 and SB 72 -2019) directing UDOT to implement a RUC process by 2020. SB 72 fiscal note appropriated $755,000 for the program’s initial setup and an additional $115,000 each year for employee operations. It is unclear when this funding will stop, but UDOT anticipates that RUC revenues will begin to fund the program by 2025.  In addition, the state received a $1.25 million federal grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives (STSFA) Program for a study on the program’s success over the next five years. Users will be charged 1.5 cents per mile driven until the accumulated total matches the annual flat fee. In 2020, the flat fee for electric vehicles will be $90. This is significantly less than the $187 average annual state gas tax payments vehicle owners paid in Utah in 2019.

California Road Charge

The California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) managed a road charge pilot program through the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) by working closely with the California Transportation Commission, the Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), and additional external stakeholders throughout California. From July 2016 through March 2017, 5,000 vehicles statewide reported in excess of 37 million miles, according to the program’s full report. California’s now completed road charge pilot program was a voluntary effort that relied heavily on Oregon’s experience. Unlike Oregon’s program, this pilot was conceptual in nature and no actual financial transactions took place.

Washington Road Usage Charge Pilot Project

In December 2019, the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) released  recommendations on how Washington can begin a gradual transition away from the state gas tax and toward a road usage charge system. The commission based its recommendations on extensive research, statewide public engagement and a detailed analysis of participant feedback and system performance of the 12-month Washington Road Usage Charge Pilot Project. The adopted recommendations were transmitted to the Washington State Legislature, Governor Jay Inslee and the Federal Highway Administration last month.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Resources for Regions

NARC COVID-19 Webinar for Regional Councils
NARC hosted a webinar yesterday examining the role that regional councils can play in addressing the COVID-19 epidemic. Leaders from the Puget Sound Regional Council (Seattle), Metropolitan Area Planning Council (Boston), and Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments (COG) spoke on their response to the COVID-19 epidemic and shared ideas for ways that regional councils can support efforts to contain the virus.

CARC Coronavirus Resource Page / Request for Resources and Policies
NARC has created a webpage to house regional resources for combatting coronavirus. If your region has developed resources or policy tools that you would like to share with other regions, please send them in to Jessica Routzahn at jessica@narc.org so that they can be incorporated into the resource page.

SUMMARY/BACKGROUND

The coronavirus disease of 2019, otherwise known as COVID-19, is a respiratory disease caused by a new strain of the coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are responding to the outbreak which has now been detected in more than 100 countries internationally, including in the United States. On January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.” Less than two months later WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

BY THE NUMBERS

In the United States at least 1,215 people have tested positive for coronavirus as of 10:00 AM March 13, according to the CDC, and at least 40 patients with the virus have died. The CDC updates their coronavirus page regularly at noon Mondays through Fridays. Numbers close out at 4 p.m. the day before reporting resulting in a possible lag of accurate reporting.

Other institutional and media sources are reporting a higher number of confirmed cases. As of Friday morning March 13th the New York Times (NYT) reported 1,663 cases of coronavirus in the United States confirmed by lab tests and 41 deaths, according to the New York Times database. The map below, created by the NYT, showcases the currently reported cases of coronavirus in the U.S.  

New York Times Map of reported Coronavirus Cases in the U.S.: This map was generated on 3/12/2020 at 10:00am.

According to Business Insider, more than half of US states have declared states of emergency in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, so far these 29 states include:  

Washington, Florida, California, Kentucky, New York, Maryland, Utah, Oregon, North Carolina, Colorado, Massachusetts, Indiana, New Jersey, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Arizona, Connecticut, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Virginia, Delaware, Montana, Nevada, Arkansas, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Tennessee.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Most recent information confirms that COVID-19 is spreading from person to person throughout the United States. Risk of infection with COVID-19 is higher for people who are close contacts of someone known to have COVID-19 such as healthcare workers or household members. Patients with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported on January 21, 2020 and there are now more than 1,000 cases. The following documents from the CDC provide more information on “what you need to know” (English, Simplified Chinese, Spanish), “what to do if you are sick” (English, Simplified Chinese, Spanish), and how to “stop the spread of germs” (English, Spanish).

People can help protect themselves from respiratory illness with these everyday preventive actions:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

If you are sick, you should do the following to keep from spreading respiratory illness to others:

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

FUNDING RESOURCES UPDATE

Congressional Spending Package:

Politico reported last Thursday March 6th President Trump signed the $8.3 billion emergency funding package Congress quickly cleared. The bipartisan package (H.R.6074/Public Law 116-123) provides a total of $7.7 billion in new discretionary spending and authorizes an additional $490 million in mandatory spending through a Medicare change. More than $400 million will be disbursed to states within the first 30 days of the law’s enactment with each state receiving no less than $4 million. The $8.3 billion new emergency supplemental funds encompass the following breakdown:

  • More than $3 billion for research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
  • $2.2 billion in public health funding for prevention, preparedness, and response.
    • $950 million of which is to support state & local health agencies.
  • $1 billion for procurement of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, to support healthcare preparedness and Community Health Centers, and to improve medical surge capacity.
  • $61 million to facilitate the development and review of medical countermeasures, devices, therapies, and vaccines, and to help mitigate potential supply chain interruptions.
  • $1.25 billion to address the coronavirus abroad to help keep Americans safe here at home.
  • Allows for an estimated $7 billion in low-interest loans to affected small businesses, to help cushion the economic blow of this public health emergency o $300 million so the government can purchase vaccines at a fair and reasonable price.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):

On March 4th the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced upcoming action to provide initial resources to a limited number of state and local jurisdictions in support of our nation’s response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

  • Initial $25 million cooperative agreement to the states and local jurisdictions who have borne the largest burden of response and preparedness activities to date.
  • Initial $10 million cooperative agreement to state and local jurisdictions to begin implementation of coronavirus surveillance across the U.S., building on existing influenza activities and other surveillance systems.

Coronavirus Response Package:

In a Bloomberg Government report individuals affected by the novel coronavirus could receive paid leave, food assistance and unemployment insurance would be expanded, and Medicaid funding to states would be increased under H.R. 6201 introduced in the House by Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY). The measure would also provide emergency funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, also known as WIC, as well as the Commodity Assistance Program. The measure would require insurers, Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health programs to fully cover tests for the virus. Under the legislation funds provided would be designated as emergency requirements and wouldn’t count against the discretionary spending cap for fiscal 2020.

Stafford Act and FEMA Disaster Relief Funds:

In a new letter, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Gary Peters (MI) led 36 senate democrats in urging President Trump to immediately consider a national disaster declaration  that would allow FEMA to utilize $40+ billion disaster relief funds to aid state and local governments  responding to the coronavirus outbreak. In the letter, the Senators note that were a disaster declaration granted, use of the Disaster Relief Fund would allow FEMA to provide emergency protective measures to the state at a 75% federal to 25% state cost share for a wide range of eligible expenses and activities.

As more information comes out about the coronavirus outbreak, we will provide updates on a NARC webpage that is currently being developed as this is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation and the CDC is providing updated information and guidance as it becomes available.

All information and resources provided in this blog should be paired with the frequent updates provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Executive Office of the President of the United States, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), among others.

Friendly Regional Competition: SEMCOG and MORPC Compete on Census Response Levels

The countdown for the 2020 Census is now reaching single digits as households begin receiving census packets in less than a week. With the clock ticking down, regional councils are making their final outreach pushes to ensure that as many residents as possible in their regions are counted. The stakes are high for the census, as each resident that is counted has a significant impact on the amount of federal dollars that their community will receive over the next ten years.

Two regional councils, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) and Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) have entered a friendly competition to see which region can receive the highest percentage of Census responses. “At SEMCOG, we’re making a successful census for Southeast Michigan fun. I’ve challenged our mid-Ohio peers – those Buckeyes from the Columbus region at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission – to see which region gets the highest percentage of responses. I issued this challenge the day after last year’s Michigan-Ohio State football game, and we really need to win this one.” said SEMCOG Executive Director, Kathleen Lomako, in a blog post on the competition.

To support a strong census response, SEMCOG has developed a Hard-to-Count Populations map and a media toolkit with materials in English, Spanish, and Arabic that can be used by the local governments in the Southeast Michigan region. The media toolkit includes a “Southeast Michigan Counts!” video which was produced by SEMCOG staff:

MORPC has also been active, chairing the government subcommittee and providing staff for other subcommittees in the Columbus and Franklin County Complete Count Committee. “MORPC has a unique role, because we have the ability to extend the work of the Columbus/Franklin County Complete Count Committee to the rest of Central Ohio,” said Aaron Schill, MORPC Director of Data & Mapping in a MORPC census post. This way we can help get every person in every corner of Central Ohio counted, including traditionally hard-to-count populations like ethnic and racial minorities, immigrants, children, and renters.”

Staff and board members of SEMCOG and MORPC pose with an Ohio State / Michigan Census banner.

Staff and board members of SEMCOG and MORPC posed for a picture at NARC’s National Conference of Regions in February. As the census gets underway, we will be looking forward to hearing the results of the competition. Regardless of who comes out on top, both regions are set to benefit from the energetic and creative effort that their regional councils are making to ensure that their communities are counted!

A Brief Update on SALT Deduction Cap Legislation

Just before leaving for their holiday recess, the House passed legislation that would suspend the $10,000 cap for state and local (SALT) tax deductions imposed by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017. The legislation, the Restoring Tax Fairness for States and Localities Act (HR 5377) would increase the cap for married, joint-filers to $20,000 for their 2019 taxes and eliminate the deduction cap entirely for 2020 and 2021.

The SALT deduction allows taxpayers to deduct the amount of state and local taxes that they have paid from their federal taxes. This allowance supports state and local authority to impose the taxes necessary to provide public services, following the longstanding U.S. system of fiscal federalism. The existing cap opens taxpayers to being taxed twice on the same income: once by states and localities and then again by the federal government.

Since removal of the deduction cap would result in reduced federal tax revenue, the House bill includes an increase to the top marginal income tax rate from 37% to 39.6%. The legislation would also reduce the dollar amount at which the increased tax rate begins. According to a Tax Foundation analysis, removing the SALT cap would reduce federal tax revenue by about $177 billion, and increasing the top individual income tax rate to 39.6 percent and widening the top bracket would raise about $162 billion. This would result in a net tax cut over 10 years, reducing federal revenue by $18.8 billion.

While this legislation has passed the House, a corresponding bill has not yet been introduced in the Senate. The tax rate increases and anticipated loss of federal tax revenue of HR 5377 are likely to create challenges to passage in the upper chamber. Additionally, the current impeachment situation can be expected to be a further impede all upcoming Senate legislative action, including a potential SALT deduction bill.

NARC will continue to follow SALT deduction legislation and will work to support solutions like HR 5377 that support local government efforts to raise the funds they need to provide public services to their communities.

2019: A Year in Review

Happy Holidays! 

On behalf of the NARC staff, thank you for all of your support during the past year. Here is a quick look back at all of our successes in 2019:

NARC Staff wishes you all a very happy holiday season!

Heading to the Hill on Behalf of Regions

NARC worked hard to engage with Congress and federal agencies to increase the profile of regions at the federal level. NARC brought members of key congressional committees to speak before members at the National Conference of Regions. NARC also coordinated a fly-in for the Major Metros Roundtable, bringing 16 regional councils together on Capitol Hill to advocate for regional solutions.

Attendees of the Major Metros Fly-in pictured in the Capitol Rotunda.

Rural Economic Development Innovation (REDI) Program

We continued our work with National Association of Councils (NACo) and USDA on the Rural Economic Development Innovation (REDI) grant. We had a successful kickoff event in Clark County, Nevada, where we brought the communities of the cohort together to share their regional obstacles and assets. NACo and NARC will work with the communities through summer of 2020 to help each develop their own regional economic development plan.

Boone County, Kentucky Judge/Executive Gary Moore and Southwest Colorado Council of Governments, Executive Director Miriam Gillow-Wiles speak at the REDI kickoff.
REDI Program kickoff attendees in Clark County, Nevada.

Conferences

National Conference of Regions held in Washington, DC in February featured a packed schedule of congressional and federal agency speakers, including a keynote by Dr. Ben Carson.

Left: 2018-2019 NARC President Geof Benson shakes hands with Secretary Carson.

Omaha, Nebraska, the home of the College World Series and four Fortune 500 headquarters,  was the location of our 53rd Annual Conference and Exhibition in June.

NARC’s Executive Directors Council gathers for a picture in Omaha.

Our Executive Directors Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona in October saw record attendance with several new directors meeting their peers for the first time.

Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Ty Warner leads a session in Scottsdale.

Membership Week

The last week of September was Membership Week at NARC. NARC staff reached out to each and every member to thank them for their continued support and leadership. Additionally, NARC staff used the week to promote the benefits of NARC membership, highlighting NARC’s federal advocacy efforts, program and policy resources, and opportunities for information sharing and networking.

Fiscal Officers Group

A new NARC working group was born in 2019: the Fiscal Officers Group. This group brings together financial professionals from regional councils to talk about fiscal and legal topics that impact all NARC members in their day-to-day activities. Along with holding quarterly calls, the Fiscal Officers Group met face-to-face during the National Conference of Regions and the Executive Directors Conference. 

Older Americans Act Advisory Group

NARC initiated a special working group of members and partner organizations to discuss the reauthorization process of the Older Americans Act. The working group was organized in early 2019 to discuss potential changes to OAA and has continued as the reauthorization has progressed. Work within the group will continue as the reauthorization process extends into 2020. 

New Association Management Software

Get ready for NARC’s new association management software (AMS) system coming to members in January 2020! This software will streamline NARC’s operations, including simplifying invoice procedures, improving member communications, and creating a new system for resource sharing and interaction among members.