Capitol to Capitol
An Information Service of NCSL's Standing Committees

Volume 17    Issue 9 - March 4, 2010
 

DEBATE UNDERWAY ON SECOND SENATE “JOBS” BILL

A $149 billion tax and safety-net program extension bill that would give states an additional six months of enhanced Medicaid matching funds is now front and center on the Senate floor. The Senate’s version of H.R. 4213 would require a state’s governor to certify intent to request and use the additional Medicaid money, as it did in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The language was added to compel state chief executives who have questioned or criticized ARRA to establish a public record on the additional Medicaid funds. NCSL has urged adding a state’s legislature as an additional avenue for getting sign-off that a state intends to use the additional funds. H.R. 4213 would extend the supplemental jobless benefit, COBRA premium subsidy, national flood insurance and various small business programs through the end of calendar year 2010. Of the $149 billion package, $106 billion (Medicaid, unemployment benefits, COBRA) is declared an “emergency,” thereby steering it outside PAYGO provisions and negating the need for offsets. This emergency declaration survived its first procedural test yesterday when the Senate voted 60-39 (59 Democrats; Maine Senator Susan Collins) to overcome a budget point of order. More amendments are in order on a potpourri of topics as H.R. 4213 has become a magnet. (NCSL staff contacts: Molly Ramsdell, Jeff Hurley [jobs bill generally], Joy Johnson Wilson, Rachel Morgan [Medicaid], Diana Hinton Noel, Robert Strange [employment])


EXTENSION SOUGHT. BREAKING NEWS: KERRY AMENDMENT TO EXTEND THE TANF EMERGENCY CONTINGENCY FUND NOW ON FLOOR

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry has just offered an amendment (Number 3403) to extend the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund to H.R. 2413, tax legislation currently on the Senate Floor. The Kerry amendment, fully offset, extends the fund for an additional year and adds a new category—work supports—to permitted uses of the fund. State legislators should contact their U.S. senators and urge them to support the Kerry amendment. We expect a vote today or tomorrow. On Feb. 18, 2010, NCSL urged the U.S. Senate to allow states more time to draw down the $5 billion in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Funds made available in ARRA. NCSL’s letter, signed by Georgia Senator Renee Unterman and Washington Representative Ruth Kagi, calls for an extension of the program that NCSL policy suggests be through Sept. 30, 2011. Current law carries the program through September 2010 only. Representatives Unterman and Kagi, chair and past chair of the NCSL Human Services Committee, wrote that states have found the TANF ECF program is “essential in the rebuilding of our economy, especially by helping those who have lost their jobs in the recession to find new, stable employment.” The program reimburses states 80 percent of their expenses for subsidized employment, basic cash benefit increases or short-term nonrecurring benefits. Full text of the NCSL letter is available at http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?TabId=19768. (NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Lee Posey)


GAO OFFERS ARRA RECOMMENDATIONS TO FEDS

On March 3, the Government Accountability Office released the fifth in a series of reports on the review of the uses and accountability of recovery act funds in 16 selected states. The report notes that, to date, the federal government has paid out $88.7 billion of the estimated $282 billion of recovery act funds to be administered by state and local governments. GAO offers several recommendations to the federal government, including amending the Single Audit Act and providing Department of Transportation analysis on state’ progress in meeting maintenance-of-effort requirements. The full report can be viewed here http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10437.pdf. (NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley)