Capitol to Capitol | Aug. 17, 2020

8/17/2020

House Called Back to D.C, Senate Not Likely to Return Until September

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the House back into session for a Saturday vote on legislation that would prohibit operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service amid concerns that recent changes will adversely impact mail-in voting. The Senate is in recess until September.  Negotiations are currently stalled on the next round of stimulus funding to respond to COVID-19. Either chamber can call members back on 24 hours’ notice if a deal is struck. NCSL’s Capitol to Capitol will continue to provide updates during August.

NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick and Erlinda Doherty

White House Holds Briefing Call to Discuss Supplemental Unemployment Benefits

Senior administration and agency officials held a briefing call to discuss the supplemental unemployment benefits that will be provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Department of Labor. Specifically, the program will be authorized under FEMA to use Stafford Act disaster relief funds (DRF) to provide supplemental payments for lost wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. FEMA will administer the lost wages assistance program that authorizes states to provide a $400 weekly payment. The federal contribution from the DRF will be $300 per person per week. States’ 25% cost share, required under DRF, can be met by their aggregate state unemployment insurance benefit. If a state chooses, it can provide an additional $100 per person per week using Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) or other state funds, bringing the total amount to $400 for eligible recipients. States must apply through Grants.gov by Sept. 10, 2020. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

DOL Releases Unemployment Insurance Guidance

The U.S. Department of Labor has released an unemployment insurance (UI) program letter to further clarify the administration’s intentions on expanding UI benefits to individuals. The letter maintains that FEMA will not be administering the payments directly to individuals; rather, the states and territories will supply and distribute the funds through their UI systems. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

Trump Signs Two Veteran Bills

The Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act directs the Justice Department to support the development and establishment of veteran treatment courts at the state, local and tribal levels. The second bill expands on the Ryan Kules and Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Improvement Act of 2019 to include blind veterans and increase funding for disabled veterans from $83,000 to approximately $98,000. The bill would allow veterans to access the funds six times, rather than three, and give access to the full amount every 10 years. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

Senators Announce College Athlete Bill of Rights Proposal

A group of 10 senators announced principles for upcoming federal legislation that would affect compensation, health care, scholarships and eligibility for collegiate athletes. The NCAA has been pushing Congress to pass legislation that would preempt state laws on student athlete compensation, but some members of Congress are calling for reform beyond the name, image and likeness debate. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Abbie Gruwell and Tres York

Executive Order Signed on Essential Medicines

President Donald Trump signed an executive order requiring the federal government to buy essential prescription drugs and certain medical supplies exclusively from U.S. manufacturing plants. The order requires the Food and Drug Administration to make a list within 30 days of the medications, drug ingredients and medical devices that federal agencies would have to purchase from U.S. facilities. This will not apply to drugs and supplies not already made in the U.S. The order has been met by opposition from drugmakers and other  organizations. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

EPA Reboots Obama-Era Methane Rules for Oil and Gas Industry

The Environmental Protection Agency unveiled final rules significantly revising the 2012 and 2016 rules intended to restrict the emissions of heat-trapping methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas wells. The rulemakings not only replace the Obama-era standards for new petroleum infrastructure with less stringent rules for monitoring and preforming repairs to prevent leaks, but also eliminate direct federal methane restrictions that target volatile organic compounds, which are a precursor to smog. The action is guaranteed to face litigation from environmental organizations. Read more.

NCSL Contacts:Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

New Rural CHART Model Announced

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the Community Health Access and Rural Transformation (CHART) Model aimed to address health disparities in rural communities through many financial arrangements and regulatory flexibilities. These include reimbursing rural providers that furnish up-front investments and capitated payments for quality and patient outcomes, providing waivers to increase operational and regulatory flexibility for rural providers, and ensuring beneficiaries health care services can include food and housing, among other initiatives.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

The Department of Education Grants $3.9 Million to 17 HBCUs and MSIs to Expand STEM Education

The grant is part of the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program, which supports expanding scientific and technological capacity by increasing the number of minority graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salguero

HRSA Releases Funds for Substance Use Disorders

The Department of Health and Human Services and Health Resources and Services Administration collectively awarded over $101 million to combat substance use disorders and opioid use disorders. The awards will support 116 organizations in 42 states and the District of Columbia with funds focusing on high-risk rural communities.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

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 us Sept. 15-17 for a three-day online experience like no other. Reserve your seat today.

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Read the Aug. 10 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