Capitol to Capitol | Aug. 10, 2020


NCSL Base Camp: Mapping the Way Forward for States

COVID-19, the economy, systemic racism, high-stakes elections. For a year unlike any other, you need a plan unlike any other. Welcome to NCSL Base Camp 2020, where national thought leaders and policy experts join with states to map the way forward. Join NCSL Sept. 15-17 for a three-day online experience like no other. Reserve your seat today.

Trump Takes Executive Action as Negotiations Stall

President Donald Trump issued four executive actions in an effort to extend unemployment benefits as well as suspend payroll taxes and offer federal eviction and student loan relief.

Memorandum on Unemployment Benefits—The president is directing the Department of Homeland Security to assist in providing benefits from the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF)—$44 billion from the DRF at the statutorily mandated 75% federal cost share—and calls on “the states to use their CRF [Coronavirus Relief Fund] allocation.” The president stated that “more than $80 billion of CRF dollars remain available.” A governor must request a grant for lost wages from the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator and agree to the cost-sharing requirements. The CRF and other funds used to support state unemployment may be applied as the state’s cost share with the federal DRF funds. States would need to identify funds to be spent without a federal match, should the total DRF balance reach $25 billion. The increased benefits ($300 paid by the federal government, $100 by the state) would end no later than Dec. 27, 2020.

Executive Order on Assistance to Renters and Homeowners—Directs Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to consider whether measures halting residential evictions are reasonably necessary to avoid further spread of COVID-19. Directs federal agencies to identify any and all funds to provide temporary financial assistance to renters and homeowners. Directs federal agencies to review all authorities and resources to prevent evictions and foreclosures for renters and homeowners resulting from hardships caused by COIVD-19.

Memorandum on Payroll Tax Obligations—Allows employees, whose biweekly wages pretax are less than $4,000, to defer federal payroll taxes between Sept. 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020, without penalties or interest.

Memorandum on Student Loan Payment ReliefContinues the temporary cessation of payments and the waiver of all interest on student loans held by the Department of Education until Dec. 31, 2020.

What is the difference between an executive order and a memorandum? Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Erlinda Doherty (CRF, payroll taxes); Jon Jukuri (unemployment insurance); Michael Quillen (housing); Austin Reid (student loans)

NCSL, Big 7 State and Local Partners Host Congressional Briefing on FMAP

The virtual briefing, hosted July 29 for members of Congress, highlighted the need for an additional 6.2 percentage point increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) in the next congressional COVID-19 response bill. The briefing was a follow-up to a letter the Big 7, joined by over 160 other groups, sent to congressional leadership earlier this summer advocating for an FMAP increase and requesting the Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Rule be rescinded. Watch.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicolson and Margaret Wile

House Transportation Chairman Says Short-Term Extension Likely

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio announced that Congress will likely need to pass a short-term extension of expiring surface transportation programs this fall. “Just being real frank with you: In all probability, we’re going to be negotiating an extension,” he said. The House passed its reauthorization bill earlier this year as part of a trillion-dollar infrastructure package, the INVEST Act, that included numerous other types of infrastructure beyond surface transportation. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last year approved its reauthorization bill, which focused only on expiring transportation programs. Read NCSL’s summaries of the House bill and Senate bill.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Two Child Care Bills Pass the House With Bipartisan Support

The Child Care Is Essential Act (HR 7027) and the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act (HR 7327) passed the House July 29 and await action in the Senate. The Child Care Is Essential Act creates a $50 billion Child Care Stabilization Fund within the Child Care Development Block Grant program, providing grant funding to child care providers. The Child Care for Economic Recovery Act includes provisions that would enhance the child and dependent care tax credit, create a refundable payroll tax credit for child care providers, increase funding for the Child Care Entitlement to States program and provide $10 billion to invest in infrastructure to improve child care safety.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicolson and Margaret Wile

Trump Signs Legislation to Provide Benefit Charging Procedure Relief

The new law provides relief to help reimbursing employers manage the required payments in lieu of contributions charged to their accounts for unemployment compensation. The CARES Act provided a 50% relief for reimbursing employers to help offset the costs of unemployment benefits. The U.S. Department of Labor’s guidance interpreted the CARES Act to require that states collect 100% of the amount owed by reimbursing employers up front before providing the 50% credit. The legislation clarifies that states may simply apply the 50% credit on the front end in charging reimbursing employer accounts. To be given the reimbursing status in a given state, an employer, which generally includes public entities, government agencies, nonprofits and educational institutions, must meet each state’s requirements. Once the status is met, reimbursing employers no longer pay an experience-rated tax rate on their taxable payroll into their state unemployment tax account.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

Senate Passes Pipeline Safety Reauthorization; Disagreement With House Clouds Likelihood of Enactment

The Senate passed, by unanimous consent, the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act (S. 2299), which would both reauthorize the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Agency (PHMSA) and make a number of changes to existing federal law. The changes would affect provisions on liquefied natural gas facilities, pipelines related to the 2018 explosion in Massachusetts, as well as language requiring companies to use leak detection technology and develop plans for minimizing releases of methane, though PHMSA may also develop rules on that issue. It remains unclear if Congress will enact a reauthorization, as the bill passed by the House (H.R. 3432), which also focuses on methane releases, is opposed by Republicans and the energy industry. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

President Signs Executive Order on Telehealth and Future Rural Health Initiatives

Last week the president signed an executive order to help expand several telehealth services while laying groundwork for changes to rural health care systems. The order expands access to medical services during COVID-19, extends the availability of telehealth services after the public health emergency ends, creates a new payment model for rural hospitals, and directs the federal government to improve the health care communication infrastructure and to expand rural health care services. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also released an op-ed on the initiatives in the order.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicolson and Margaret Wile

HHS Releases Secretary’s Report on Surprise Billing

The report was part of the implementation of President Donald Trump’s executive order “Improving Price and Quality Transparency in American Healthcare to Put Patients First,” which he signed June 24. The report provides recommendations for congressional action to implement the president’s principles on surprise billing. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicolson and Margaret Wile

In Every Edition

Read the Aug. 3 Capitol to Capitol.

NCSL’s Advocacy in Washington

NCSL’s Washington staff advocates on behalf of state legislatures before Congress, the White House and federal agencies in accord with the policy directives and resolutions that are recommended by the NCSL Standing Committees and adopted by the full conference at the annual NCSL Legislative Summit Business Meeting. As a result of the advocacy that is guided by these policies’ positions, NCSL is recognized as a formidable lobbying force in state-federal relations.

NCSL Staff in Washington, D.C.

  • Molly Ramsdell | 202-624-3584 | Director
  • Erlinda Doherty | 202-624-8698 | Budgets and Revenue
  • Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
  • Abbie Gruwell 202-624-3569 | Commerce and Financial Services
  • Ben Husch | 202-624-7779 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure 
  • Jon Jukuri  | 202-624-8663 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
  • Haley Nicholson | 202-624-8662 | Health and Human Services
  • Austin Reid | 202-624-8678 | Education