New Transportation Reauthorization Bill Released

Overview
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee over the weekend released a new reauthorization bill that is very similar to the bill it passed two years ago, which died from inaction from other committees. This new bill provides $304 billion in contract authority, some 90% of which goes out through formula. Though some proposed programs were eliminated from the earlier version of the bill, several notable new programs remain, including new apportionment programs focused on carbon reduction and resilience.

What follows is a brief rundown of some of the more relevant items in the bill. If you want more detail relevant to MPOs and RTPOs on a section-by section-basis, please see NARC’s analysis. This is where you’ll find specific policy changes that the bill contains and other similar information.

Relevant Existing Programs
Surface Transportation Block Grant Program

  • $72B over five years (24% increase over FAST Act)
  • Percent suballocated by population remains at 55%
  • Share of apportionment decreased (from 29.3% to 28.7%) to create Carbon Reduction Program and PROTECT Program
  • Adds a fourth population band (50-200K), requiring states spend a relative portion in those areas and consult with their MPOs before doing so (and to ensure equitable division)
  • Off-system bridge set aside increased to 20% (15% in current law)
  • 10% set-aside for Transportation Alternatives
    • TAP suballocated increased to 59%
    • Funds come with obligation authority

Metropolitan Planning

  • $2.28B over five years (32% increase over FAST Act)
  • No major changes in this section specifically, but planning was impacted by other programs throughout the bill

Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality

  • $13.2B over five years (+10% over FAST Act)

Highway Safety Improvement Program

  • Share of apportionment decreased (from 7% to 6.7%) to create Carbon Reduction Program and PROTECT Program
  • $15.6B over five years (+34% over FAST Act)

Freight Program

  • $7.15B over five years (13% increase over FAST Act)

Safe Routes to Schools

  • Codifies the program

Relevant New Programs and Pilots
Carbon Reduction Program

  • New formula program to reduce transportation emissions
  • Eligible projects include establishing or operating a traffic monitoring, management, and control facility; public transportation projects; bicycle and pedestrian facilities; advance transportation and congestion management technologies; ITS capital improvements and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications equipment; efficient street lighting and traffic control devices; congestion pricing, mode shift, and TDM; projects to reduce environmental and community impacts of freight movement; alternative fuel vehicle deployment support; diesel retrofits; certain CMAQ-eligible projects; and port congestion reduction.
  • $6.4B over five years
    • 65% suballocated

PROTECT Program

  • Creates a program for resilience improvements
  • Formula funds are distributed to states; discretionary grants are for resilience planning, resilience improvement, community resilience and evacuation routes, and at-risk coastal infrastructure.
  • $7.3B over five years through formula; $1.4B over five years for grants

Bridge Investment Program

  • New competitive grant program to encourage bridge repair that will improve safety, efficiency, and reliability of people and freight movement, and leverages non-Federal contributions
  • $6.5B over five years (half from HTF, half from general funds)
  • TMAs eligible to receive grants

Congestion Relief Program

  • New competitive grant program to provide discretionary grants to “advance innovative, integrated, and multimodal solutions to congestion relief in the most congested metropolitan areas…”
  • Eligible projects include integrated congestion management system; HOV toll lanes, cordon price, parking pricing or congestion pricing; mobility services such as commuter buses and vans; and incentive programs to encourage carpooling.
  • MPOs in areas over 1M population are eligible
  • $250M over five years

Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program

  • New competitive grant program to “improve and expand the surface transportation infrastructure in rural areas”
  • $2B over five years
  • RTPOs are eligible recipients

Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Grants

  • New competitive grant program to “strategically deploy publicly accessible electric vehicle charging infrastructure and hydrogen fueling infrastructure, hydrogen fueling infrastructure, propane fueling infrastructure, and natural gas fueling infrastructure along designed alternative fuel corridors or in certain other locations that will be accessible to all drivers…”
  • $2.5B over five years
  • MPOs are eligible recipients

Healthy Streets Program

  • New competitive grant program to expand the use of cool pavement and porous pavement and expand tree cover
  • $500M over five years

Prioritization Process Pilot Program

  • Pilot program to “support data-driven approaches to planning that, on completion, can be evaluated for planning benefit”
  • $50M over 5 years, maximum awards of $2M
  • MPOs over 200K are eligible

Stopping Threats on Pedestrians

  • New competitive grant program to install bollards for pedestrian protection
  • $25M over five years

Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program

  • New pilot program to study the feasibility and impacts of removing an existing transportation facility that “creates a barrier to community activity” including mobility, economic development, and more
  • Planning grants can be awarded, up to $2M per recipient and federal share of 80%, including to MPOs or other units of local government, to perform the necessary planning functions to establish the feasibility and impacts and conduct public engagement. Allows for the provision of technical assistance.
  • Funding: Planning grants $50M over five years; capital construction grants $14M for each of fiscal years 2022-2026

 Transportation Access Pilot Program

  • New pilot program to develop or procure an accessibility data set and make it available to pilot participants to allow for improved planning by measuring access by different modes to delineated destinations and disaggregating the level of access by a variety of factors
  • Requires the establishment of measures that states, MPOs, and RTPOs may choose to adopt to assess the level of safe and convenient access to previously listed destinations
  • MPOs and RTPOs are eligible.

Strategic Innovation for Revenue Collection

  • New pilot program to “test the feasibility of a road usage fee and other user-based alternative revenue mechanisms to maintain the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund”
  • Provides for grants to a state or group of states, local governments or a group of local governments, or an MPO or group of MPOs to carry out pilot projects to: test design, acceptance, equity and implementation including among differing income groups and rural and urban drivers; provide recommendations; quantify administrative costs; test a variety of solutions for collection of data and fees; test solutions to ensure privacy and security of data; conduct public education; and evaluate the ease of compliance and enforcement
  • $75M over five years

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If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Erich Zimmermann at erich@narc.org.

Biden Infrastructure Plan Summary

Biden Announces American Jobs Plan
Yesterday afternoon President Biden introduced his American Jobs Plan in Pittsburgh. This wide-ranging proposal would invest in transportation infrastructure of all types, affordable housing, public schools, colleges and childcare facilities, VA hospitals, water, electricity transmission, electric vehicles, broadband, workforce development and more. 

Plan Overview:
According to the initial outline released by the administration, the plans seeks to: create millions of good jobs, rebuild our country’s infrastructure, and position the United States to out-compete China. The plan would put significant focus on targeting investment to traditionally underinvested areas, including neighborhoods bisected by interstate highway facilities, rural areas, and more. The plan also focuses heavily on revitalizing American manufacturing, research and development, and worker and workplace protections. 

The price tag for this initial proposal is estimated at $2 trillion, which represents an investment of approximately 1% of GDP per year for a period of eight years. This would be offset significantly by changes to the tax code, including increases in the taxes that businesses pay. 

An important note: the surface transportation funding contained in the bill is not for a reauthorization package but is above and beyond funding through the FAST Act authorization. In a call with stakeholders today, USDOT also indicated these funds would be performance-based and not distributed by formula. So the details on these proposals will be extremely important to understanding who might receive the funds and how they can be used. 

Below are the areas of focus of the plan and a brief outline of what the investment in each area would accomplish: 

Transportation: $571 billion 

  • Modernize 20,000 miles of highways, roads, and main-streets.  

  • Fix the ten most economically significant bridges in the country in need of reconstruction.

  • Repair the worst 10,000 smaller bridges.

  • Replace thousands of buses and rail cars, repair hundreds of stations, renew airports, and expand transit and rail into new communities.

  • Bridges, highways, roads and main streets: increase of $115 billion. These funds are in addition to and separate from FAST Act surface transportation authorization and likely will not be distributed by formula.

  • Road Safety: $20 billion, to improve road safety for all users, including increases to existing safety programs and a new Safe Streets for All program to fund state and local “vision zero” plans and other improvements to reduce crashes and fatalities, especially for cyclists and pedestrians. 

  • Transit: $85 billion, to modernize existing transit and help agencies expand their systems to meet rider demand.

  • Amtrak/Passenger Rail: $80 billion, to address Amtrak’s repair backlog; modernize the high traffic Northeast Corridor; improve existing corridors and connect new city pairs; and enhance grant and loan programs that support passenger and freight rail safety, efficiency, and electrification. 

  • Electric Vehicles: $174 billion, including for manufacturers, consumers, and state and local governments. Incentivizes the build-out of a national charging network and would replace 50,000 diesel transit vehicles and electrify at least 20 percent of our yellow school bus fleet through a new Clean Buses for Kids Program at the Environmental Protection Agency, with support from the Department of Energy.

  • Airports: $25 billion, including funding for the Airport Improvement Program, upgrades to FAA assets that ensure safe and efficient air travel, and a new program to support terminal renovations and multimodal connections for affordable, convenient, car-free access to air travel.

  • Inland waterways, coastal ports, land ports of entry, and ferries: $17 billion, including a Healthy Ports program to mitigate the cumulative impacts of air pollution on neighborhoods near ports.

  • Equity and Access: $20 billion, for a new program that will reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments and ensure new projects increase opportunity, advance racial equity and environmental justice, and promote affordable access.

  • Large Projects: $25 billion, for a dedicated fund to support ambitious projects that have tangible benefits to the regional or national economy but are too large or complex for existing funding programs.

Resilience: $50 billion 

  • Dedicated investments to improve infrastructure resilience, including investments in FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program, HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program and investments in nature-based infrastructure, climate-smart technologies, and water efficiency and recycling.

Water: $111 billion 

  • Replace 100 percent of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines and upgrade and modernize America’s drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems, tackle new contaminants, and support clean water infrastructure across rural America.

Broadband: $100 billion 

  • Build high-speed broadband infrastructure to reach 100 percent coverage and reduce the cost of broadband internet service and promote more widespread adoption.

Electric Grid: $100 billion  

  • Build a more resilient electric transmission system and incentivize investment in clean electricity.  

  • $16 billion for plugging orphan oil and gas wells and cleaning up abandoned mines.

  • $5 billion for remediation and redevelopment of Brownfield and Superfund sites.

  • $10 billion for public land conservation, including development of a Civilian Climate Corps.

  • Invests in Economic Development Agency’s Public Works program (while lifting the cap of $3 million on projects) and in “Main Street” revitalization efforts through HUD and USDA.

  • Specifically targets investments in the development of new markets and new industries. 

Affordable Housing: $213 billion 

  • Produce, preserve, and retrofit more than two million affordable and sustainable homes, including a plan to eliminating state and local exclusionary zoning laws; build and rehabilitate more than 500,000 homes for low- and middle-income homebuyers.

  • $20 billion in tax credits through the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act (NHIA).

  • $40 billion to improve the infrastructure of the public housing system in America.

  • Upgrade homes through block grant programs, the Weatherization Assistance Program, and by extending and expanding home and commercial efficiency tax credits.

  • $27 billion Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator to mobilize private investment into distributed energy resources; retrofits of residential, commercial and municipal buildings; and clean transportation.

Public schools: $100 billion 

  • Upgrade and build new public schools, through $50 billion in direct grants and an additional $50 billion leveraged through bonds.

Colleges: $12 billion 

  • Community college infrastructure.

Child Care Facilities: $25 billion 

  • Upgrade childcare facilities and increase the supply of childcare in areas that need it most.

  • Child Care Growth and Innovation Fund for states to build a supply of infant and toddler care in high-need areas.

  • Expanded tax credit to encourage businesses to build childcare facilities at places of work (employers receive 50 percent of the first $1 million of construction costs per facility).

VA Hospitals: $18 billion 

  • Modernization of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics.

Federal Buildings: $10 billion 

  • Modernization, sustainability, and resilience of federal buildings.

  • Federal Capital Revolving Fund to support investment in a major purchase, construction or renovation of Federal facilities.

Care Economy: $400 billion  

  • Expanding access to quality, affordable home- or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities by expanding access to long-term care services under Medicaid.

R&D and New Technologies: $180 billion 

  • $50 billion in the National Science Foundation (NSF), creating a technology directorate that will collaborate with and build on existing programs across the government.

  • $30 billion in additional funding for R&D that spurs innovation and job creation, including in rural areas.

  • $40 billion in upgrading research infrastructure in laboratories.

  • $35 billion for climate science innovations, including ARPA-C to develop new methods for reducing emissions and building climate resilience.

  • $5 billion increase in funding for other climate-focused research.

  • $15 billion in demonstration projects for climate R&D priorities.

  • $10 billion R&D investment at HBCUs and other MSI.

  • $15 billion in creating up to 200 centers of excellence that serve as research incubators at HBCUs and other MSIs.

Manufacturing and Small Businesses: $300 billion 

  • $50 billion to create a new office at the Department of Commerce dedicated to monitoring domestic industrial capacity and funding investments to support production of critical goods.

  • $50 billion in semiconductor manufacturing and research, as called for in the bipartisan CHIPS Act. 

  • $30 billion over 4 years to create U.S. jobs and prevent the severe job losses caused by pandemics through major new investments in medical countermeasures manufacturing; research and development; and related biopreparedness and biosecurity.

  • $46 billion to jumpstart clean energy manufacturing through federal procurement.

  • $20 billion in regional innovation hubs and a Community Revitalization Fund, including at least ten regional innovation hubs to leverage private investment to fuel technology development, link urban and rural economies, and create new businesses in regions beyond the current handful of high-growth centers. The Community Revitalization Fund will support innovative, community-led redevelopment projects that can spark new economic activity, provide services and amenities, build community wealth, and close the current gaps in access to the innovation economy for communities of color and rural communities that have suffered from years of disinvestment.

  • $14 billion for NIST to bring together industry, academia, and government to advance technologies and capabilities critical to future competitiveness.

  • Quadruple support for the Manufacturing Extensions Partnership.

  • $52 billion in domestic manufacturers.

  • $31 billion in programs that give small businesses access to credit, venture capital, and R&D dollars, including funding for community-based small business incubators and innovation hubs to support the growth of entrepreneurship in communities of color and underserved communities 

  • $5 billion for a new Rural Partnership Program to help rural regions, including Tribal Nations, build on their unique assets and realize their vision for inclusive community and economic development and will empower rural regions by supporting locally-led planning and capacity building efforts, and providing flexible funding to meet critical needs. 

Workforce Development: $100 billion 

  • $40 billion investment in a new Dislocated Workers Program and sector-based training.

  • $12 billion investment for workforce development opportunities in underserved communities.

  • $5 billion over eight years in support of evidence-based community violence prevention programs.

  • $48 billion in American workforce development infrastructure and worker protections, including registered apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships and strengthening the pipeline for more women and people of color to access these opportunities and supporting community college partnerships that build capacity to deliver job training programs based on in-demand skills.

  • Worker Protections: $10 billion for enforcement of provisions related to workplace safety and health rules.

NARC Letter Concerning Potential MSA Changes

In response to a Federal Register notice that proposes to raise the population threshold for the designation of a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), NARC has submitted comment to the Office of Management and budget opposing the change. Comments on this notice are due by March 19, 2021. NARC members are encouraged to utilize this language for their own purposes if that is helpful for you.

Read the letter here.

NARC Analysis: American Rescue Plan

NARC Analysis: American Rescue Plan

Last week, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into law. The $1.9 trillion bill will provide additional relief to address the continued impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy, public health, state and local governments, individuals, and businesses. NARC has created a PowerPoint presentation that summarizes some of the major pieces of this new bill. Feel free to share with your colleagues and membership and reach out to the NARC staff if you have any questions about the legislation.

Regional Councils Urge Congress to Include Relief for Transit in COVID-19 Stimulus Bill

Twenty-one NARC-member regional councils have written to congressional leadership requesting critical funding for transit agencies to maintain operations as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to strain their resources.

Click here to view the letter.

The agencies call for $32 Billion in emergency federal funds to be included in an upcoming stimulus package to be passed before the end of 2020. This figure has been identified by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) as what is needed to ensure that transit agencies “can survive and help our communities and the nation recover from the economic fallout of the pandemic.”

COVID-19 has caused massive drops in transit ridership and lost revenue has forced transit agencies across the country to consider service and personnel cuts. With relief funds from the CARES Act running out soon, transit agencies will be forced to make these proposed cuts and layoffs unless further funding is provided to cover the budget gaps created by this year’s lost revenues. 

In the letter, the agencies emphasize how important it will be to have a strong transportation network in order to recover from the shutdowns and other impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. They also highlight the danger presented by letting transit systems fail or face significant cutbacks; service and maintenance could take years to recover. 

Problem Solvers Caucus Release Language on New COVID-19 Relief Package

Late yesterday afternoon, the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus released the long-awaited bill text for their $908 billion coronavirus relief package. The legislation  is a two-part stimulus plan: a $748 billion package focusing on areas of agreement and a separate $160 billion bill that includes the most controversial provisions for lawmakers — additional funding for state and local government and liability protections. It’s important to keep in mind that while many lawmakers see this bill as the most concrete and realistic compromise on COVID-19 relief we have seen in months, House and Republican leadership see it as a marker for broader negotiations and not a final vehicle for aid. Critics of this two-part approach, especially those that are pushing for state and local-directed aid, have pointed out that it defeats the purpose of negotiations to pass contested legislation when it’s not tied to the un-controversial provisions. 

Here is a breakdown of the distribution formula for state, local, and tribal assistance in the proposed Bipartisan State and Local Support and Small Business Protection Act of 2020: 

  • $152 billion in state and local aid through the Coronavirus Relief Fund 
    • 1/3rd would be distributed based on state population in proportion to the U.S. population. 
    • 2/3rd would be distributed based on the proportion of each state’s revenue loss relative to the total revenue losses of all U.S. states. 
  • Each state will receive at least $500 million.  
  • $8 million in funding for Tribes, allocated by 60% population and 40% based on the number of employees for each Tribal entity. 
  • Governors must distribute 40% of the state’s funding to local government but choose how from the following: 
    • Proportional population 
    • Proportional revenue loss 
    • Combination of both. 
  • There are no population thresholds, so every county and municipality would be eligible for funding regardless of size.  
  • Extend the deadline for spending CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) aid on COVID-related expenses through December 31, 2021.  
  • State funding would be distributed in three tranches.  

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.

Read the NARC NADO and AMPO Request to Congressional Leaders for STBGP Funding in Next COVID-19 Aid Package

Read the NARC NADO and AMPO Request to Congressional Leaders for STBGP Funding in Next COVID-19 Aid Package

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