NARC HEALS Act Summary

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took to the Senate floor last week to introduce the HEALS Act, the Senate Republicans’ plan for a coronavirus relief package that would follow up the CARES Act passed earlier this year. “Our nation stands now at an important crossroads in this battle,” McConnell said. “We have one foot in the pandemic and one foot in the recovery. The American people need more help. They need it to be comprehensive. And they need it to be carefully tailored to this crossroads.”

The HEALS Act, an acronym that stands for Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools, would extend and modify several CARES Act provisions as well as provide new support for areas of critical need. The plan comes with a price tag around $1 trillion, noticeably smaller than the $3 trillion HEROES Act proposal passed by the House back in May.

Structurally, the plan is a composite of several different pieces of legislation, each targeting a different priority area, including unemployment benefits, liability protection, Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) continuation, funding for schools, and the development of “Rescue Committees,” among others. Below are links to the text of the individual bills that make up the HEALS Act plan:

The HEALS Act notably does not provide additional aid for state and local governments. However, it would provide some flexibility for previously allocated CARES Act dollars, allowing these funds to be spent past the original December 30, 2020 deadline and expanding allowable uses of relief payments to include lost revenue.

NARC will continue to advocate for regional priorities in upcoming coronavirus legislation. Most recently, NARC joined with local partners at the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO) and the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) on a letter urging congressional leaders to include local transportation funding needs in upcoming COVID-19 relief legislation. The full letter can be read here.

Below is a bill-by-bill summary highlighting the most significant items in each piece of the HEALS Act plan:

The American Workers, Families, And Employers Assistance Act

Key items: Unemployment extension, stimulus checks, and state and local funding flexibility

This bill, sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA), would extend the current unemployment supplement provided by the CARES Act but at a lower benefit level. The bill would reduce the previous $600-per-week supplement down to $200 per week while states work on implementing a new supplement system that would be calculated to provide workers with no more than 70% of their previous wages.

The bill would also provide another round of stimulus checks in a manner like those distributed following the CARES Act. Those with incomes under $75,000 per year would receive a $1,200 direct payment and couples making less than $150,000 per year would receive a $2,400 payment. Additionally, those with dependents would receive $500 for each dependent regardless of that dependent’s age. Payments for those with higher incomes would be reduced, with payments phasing out for those making more than $99,000 as individuals and $198,000 as couples. Phaseouts would be set higher for those with dependents.

The bill would also provide some flexibility for state and local governments to spend previously allocated funds provided through the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) in the CARES Act. The HEALS Act does not provide additional aid for state and local governments.The provisions for increased flexibility of CRF funds include extending the date for these funds to be spent from December 30, 2020 to 90 days after the last day of the governments’ fiscal year 2021 as well as expanding allowable uses of relief payments to include lost revenue (up to 25% of their CRF allocation.)

For more information, check out the full text of the bill as well as the section-by-section summary.

The Safeguarding America’s Frontline Employees To Offer Work Opportunities Required To Kickstart The Economy Act (SAFE TO WORK Act)

Key item: Liability protections

This bill, led by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), would provide businesses, schools, and healthcare providers that follow certain guidelines with a five-year liability shield against lawsuits regarding coronavirus. Republicans have indicated that they view liability protections as a critical inclusion in the next aid package while Democrats have voiced opposition on the grounds that this type of measure prioritizes protection for employers and corporations.

For more information, check out the bill text.

Continuing Small Business Recovery and Paycheck Protection Program Act

Key item: PPP continuation

Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) have introduced the Continuing Small Business Recovery and Paycheck Protection Program Act, which would permit some small businesses to receive another round of forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans. The bill would streamline the forgiveness process and would create a $60 billion working capital fund for the hardest hit businesses.

For more information, check out the bill’s full text and its section-by-section summary.

Safely Back to School and Back to Work Act 

Key item: Funding for schools and childcare

This bill from Senate Health and Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) would offer relief for some student loan borrowers (although it would not provide an extension for the student loan deferral provided by the CARES Act). Senator Alexander’s proposal also provides additional funding for schools and childcare providers including $105 billion for schools, $15 billion for childcare, $16 billion for testing, and $40 billion for vaccines and other health research. A section-by-section summary of the proposal can be found here.

Time to Rescue United States’ Trusts (TRUST) Act

Key item: Creation of Rescue Committees

This part of the HEALS Act comes from a bill that was initially proposed in 2019 by Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) and is now being resurrected with some minor changes. The legislation would create “Rescue Committees” to research changes needed to ensure the solvency of government trust funds with outlays greater than $20 billion, including those for highways, Medicare hospital insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, and Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance.

A note on the Highway Trust Fund: Since the Highway Trust Fund has more than $20 billion in outlays it would be a recipient of a “rescue committee.” The bipartisan committee would be comprised of 12 members of the House and Senate and would work to create a strategy and accompanying legislation to put the trust fund on a path to solvency by June 1, 2021.

A one pager of the legislation is available here, text of the legislation is available here, and a section-by-section of the legislation is available here.

The Coronavirus Response Additional Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020

Key item: Funding for a range of health and economic aid programs

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) sponsored this $306 billion spending proposal that would allocate funds for a variety of federal agencies and programs. There is some overlap between this funding proposal and some of the other elements of the HEALS Act plan, such as the $105 billion in funding for elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education.

Below are some of the largest funding recipients as well as other items of note for regions:

  • $105 billion for elementary, secondary and post-secondary education
  • $16 billion for COVID-19 testing
  • $25 billion for hospitals
  • $15 billion for childcare, including $5 billion through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and $10 billion in a new flexible grant program
  • $10 billion for airports
  • $1.5 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which is administered by county governments in 13 states
  • $2.2 billion for Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (Section 8 vouchers)

The Restoring Critical Supply Chains and Intellectual Property Act

Key item: Support for domestic PPP production

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced this proposal, which aims to move personal protection equipment (PPE) production to the United States from China using a $7.5 billion tax credit.

For more information read the full text of the bill.

Supporting America’s Restaurant Workers Act

Key item: Business meal tax deduction increase

This bill proposed by Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) would increase the tax deduction for business meals from 50% to 100%.

The bill’s full text can be found here.

Further Reading

For more reading on HEALS Act provisions regarding local government, check out the following resources from NARC and other local government partners:

Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) Update

Congress has managed to hold to a two-year reauthorization schedule for the last three Water Resource Development Acts (2014, 2016, and 2018) and it looks like they are on track to increase that streak to four this year. This past Wednesday, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee voted unanimously to move H.R. 7575 The Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (WRDA 2020) out of committee. The bill is now headed to the House floor.

WRDA bills provide authority for the U.S Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to conduct projects and studies. They have historically included (or been packaged with bills including) other water-related provisions such as drinking water programs and water infrastructure funding mechanisms.

This year’s House WRDA bill would provide around $8.6 billion in funding for 34 USACE projects. This is notably more than five times as many projects as were approved by WRDA 2018. The bill would authorize 35 new USACE studies and calls for 41 ongoing studies to be expedited. In addition to project authorizations, the bill includes three other significant provisions shared more in detail below:

Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund “Unlocked”

The House bill would “unlock” $10 billion in funds held in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), allowing that money to be spent on dredging and port projects. This has been a longtime aim of Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR). HMTF funds were partially unlocked earlier this year in the CARES Act, but annual expenditures from the fund were capped at the amount of the previous year’s HMTF revenue. WRDA 2020 would expand on this by allowing access to additional funds from the existing HMTF balance.

Inland Waterways Trust Fund Cost Share Reduced

WRDA 2020 would reduce the share drawn from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund to 35% from the current 50% for lock and dam projects on rivers. This would increase the Treasury’s general fund cost share for these projects from 50% to 65%. Theoretically this reduction of trust fund spending will allow trust fund dollars to fund more projects. This change notably is not permanent and would apply only to projects beginning before the end of 2027.

An Increasing Focus on Resilience and Environmental Justice

This year’s WRDA is crafted with an increasing focus on disaster resilience and consideration of communities impacted by flooding and other water-related dangers. Of the 34 projects approved for USACE work, seven are for flood management and two others are for flood reduction with ecosystem restoration components. The bill also reaffirms a commitment to using natural and nature-based solutions and authorizing projects and studies for communities facing repetitive flooding events. The bill also includes PFAS provisions, increases minority community and tribal input on projects, and aims to address affordability issues for disadvantaged communities.

What’s Happening in the Senate?

The Senate’s 2020 WRDA proposal has been voted through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee but has not yet received a floor vote. The Senate’s proposal comprises two bills: one for USACE entitled America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) of 2020, and another for drinking-water authorizations and provisions called the Drinking Water Act of 2020. The Senate proposal, like the House bill, was developed using a bipartisan approach and has broad support on both sides of the aisle.

What’s Next for WRDA?

With bipartisan proposals already out of committee in the House and Senate and plenty of pressure to stick to the two-year authorization cycle, the outlook looks bright for WRDA 2020. As broader infrastructure packages like the Moving Forward Act remain mired in partisan debate, WRDA presents an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to find common ground on infrastructure investment. Expect to hear more on WRDA once Congress returns from their August recess.

For further reading, check out the House bill text, fact sheet, and section-by-section summary; the Senate AWIA text, fact sheet, and section-by-section summary; and the Senate Drinking Water Act text and section-by-section summary.

Summer Federal Appropriations Update

As we approach the dog days of summer, the federal appropriations process is finally heating up. This follows several months of being on hold as Congress tried to address the growing coronavirus pandemic, the staggering drop in unemployment, and cries for action regarding racial injustice and police brutality.

With Election Day less than four months away, several critical questions remain. Will Congress finish its consideration of all twelve appropriations bills before the September 30th fiscal year (FY) 2021 deadline? What are the chances of a continuing resolution and what length will it be? And what impact will the election results have on how the appropriation process plays out? We will consider these questions and more below.

What is happening in the House?

After months on hold because of the focus on coronavirus and police reform packages, the House is now pushing through their appropriations markups at lightning speed. The full Committee passed their FY 2021 302(b) subcommittee allocations last week along with five appropriations bills: Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA, Interior-Environment, Military Construction-VA, Legislative Branch, and State-Foreign Operations. The Committee wrapped up their consideration and approval of the remaining seven bills this week: Commerce-Justice-Science, Defense, Energy-Water Development, Financial Services-General Government, Homeland Security, Labor-HHS-Education, Transportation-HUD.

Initial reports are saying that Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA, Interior-Environment, Military Construction-VA, and State-Foreign Operations bills will be combined into a minibus package and considered on the floor late next week. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) indicated that he wants the House to approve all twelve bills on the floor by the end of July. However, the Homeland Security bill might be held back because of concerns from progressive Democrats about funding levels for customs and border protection and immigrations and customs enforcement.

It is worth noting that these bills will probably be passed mostly or entirely along party lines. Since the Senate must reach a 60-vote threshold to end debate on appropriations bills, whereas the House only needs a majority vote, the Senate has to forge bills that are more bipartisan. This means that these more partisan House bills are likely to sit and not be taken up by the upper chamber for serious consideration.

What is happening in the Senate?

Unlike in the House, crickets can be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Committee has held just two hearings since March, and both were on issues unrelated to the FY 2021 appropriations process.

It was reported several weeks ago that partisan disagreements on police reform and COVID-19 spending is to blame for the delay of Senate appropriation bill markups. Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT), noting that offering amendments was a key concern for Democrats, said “There is bipartisan agreement that we need to address the COVID-19 pandemic. And if we want to truly address the issues of racial injustice that George Floyd’s tragic death has brought to the surface… we need to appropriate money for programs that advance these issues.” Committee Republicans, led by Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL), felt that these issues should be addressed outside of the appropriations process.

Markup notices for their appropriations bills were reportedly postponed due to these disagreements. While it is very likely that most of their bills are already drafted, we probably will not see any markups until the Committee leadership can agree to move forward in a bipartisan way.

What is going to happen next?

There is one thing that is all but guaranteed: there will be a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government open past the September 30th deadline. Between the upcoming August recess and the desire of members to be home to campaign for competitive races, there are not a lot of congressional workdays left on the calendar.

This continuing resolution will likely be a short-term, stopgap solution just to get Congress through the FY 2021 deadline and election season. Although a specific date is hard to determine, it would likely extend current federal funding levels to at least early to mid-December.

The election outcome is also likely to influence how the federal appropriations wraps up. History tells us that during an election year, lawmakers are likely to hold an average of seven appropriations bills over until the next calendar year. They say to the victor goes the spoils – as well as the incentive to shape the final bills once the winning party takes control. If the Democrats win the presidency and/or the Senate, we can certainly expect them to punt the bills into 2021 when they will have more influence over the process.  

Stay tuned to eRegions, Transportation Thursdays and the Regions Lead blog for the latest federal appropriations updates.

The Affordable Care Act Is More Important Now Than Ever

There is clear evidence that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is making a tremendous difference in the lives of tens of millions of Americans who are unemployed and in need of accessible quality health care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March the number of unemployed individuals rose sharply from 5.7 million to 23.1 million[1] and 17.1 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits[2] as state and local officials ordered bars and restaurants, offices, manufacturing plants, schools, gyms, and other public and private facilities to shut down in the wake of the sudden spread of the novel coronavirus. 

By May 2, more than 33 million people had filed for unemployment insurance.[3]  Of those, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) estimated that as many as 27 million unemployed workers had lost their health insurance.[4]  For many of those individuals, the only accessible or affordable health insurance was available through two federal programs: Medicaid (including Medicaid Expansion) and the ACA’s insurance marketplaces. 

According to KFF, more than 21 million, or 77 percent of all Americans who were laid off, were eligible for either Medicaid (12.7 million) or an ACA insurance plan (8.4 million). Without these programs, millions of Americans would have had no way of paying for or accessing quality healthcare.

Unfortunately, six million Americans are not able to access either no cost or low-cost health insurance, and there appears to be no easy fix. This gap was created by states that chose not to take advantage of the ACA’s Medicaid Expansion program, even though their share of the cost would be low. Under Medicare Expansion the federal government paid 100 percent of the cost of coverage from 2014 to 2016, 95 percent in 2017, 94 percent in 2018, and 90 percent in 2020 and every year thereafter.[5]

The Medicaid Expansion was designed to fill the gap between regular Medicaid and ACA marketplace insurance programs. This ongoing gap in coverage — especially for lower income individuals and their households — required a fix, according to Democrats. In late June the House of Representatives adopted H.R. 1425, the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act of 2020,” to help address this issue. 

If H.R. 1425 were to become law, it would address the Medicaid/ACA gap in coverage by making subsidized or free health insurance and care available to those who currently cannot obtain coverage through Medicaid, Medicaid Expansion, or the ACA marketplaces. However, the chances of that happening are next to nil. 

Republicans opposed the bill as another tax and spend effort by Democrats. Senate Republican leadership has indicated that they will not allow the bill to come to the Senate floor, while the White House issued a veto threat should the bill reach the president’s desk. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the ranking member of the House Education and Labor Committee, called the bill “misguided” and argued that it would “contribute to already skyrocketing healthcare costs, and double down on the many failures of the Affordable Care Act or ACA.”[6]

At the same time, the administration has asked the Supreme Court to strike down the ACA as unconstitutional. If the Supreme Court agrees with the administration, the 28 million Americans who are covered by Medicare, Medicare Expansion, and the ACA would lose their benefits.

Without the ACA, 28 million Americans would have to rely on emergency rooms and other urgent healthcare facilities that are extremely expensive and are generally not able to address their individual, long-term healthcare needs. States and counties, generally the healthcare providers of last resort, would be saddled with the cost of healthcare for these 28 million Americans, placing further financial burdens state and local budgets that are already stretched thin due to the pandemic. Additionally, the loss of these health insurance programs would have the most negative impact Black and Latinx communities. It would substantially increase the healthcare disparities that already exist between people of color and their white counterparts. It would also contribute directly to the disproportionate number of coronavirus cases and deaths among people of color because of their more limited access to healthcare options. 

Without the Affordable Care Act and its related programs, including Medicaid Expansion and health insurance through marketplaces, tens of millions of Americans would be without access to affordable insurance and quality healthcare. The failure to maintain or expand the ACA could have very negative consequences for all our communities.


[1] Bureau of Labor Statistics, February through July, 2020.

[2] Washington Post, U.S. now has 22 million unemployed, wiping out a decade of job gains, April 16, 2020.

[3] ABC News, 3.2 million more people file for unemployment, bringing coronavirus crisis total to over 33 million, May 7, 2020.

[4] Kaiser Family Foundation, Eligibility for ACA Health Coverage Following Job Losses, May 19, 2020.

[5] Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Medicaid Expansion Continues to Benefit State Budgets, Contrary to Critics’ Claims, October 9, 2018.

[6] Committee on Education and Labor Republicans, Press Release:  “Foxx Opposes Democrats’ Socialist Health Care Scheme,” June 29, 2020.

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

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:

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.