Capitol to Capitol | Aug. 31, 2020

8/31/2020

With Congress still in recess, little progress has been made on the next comprehensive COVID-19 response package. Capitol to Capitol will be on recess next week but will return on Monday, Sept. 14.

NCSL Letter to FEMA Administrator Details Concerns Over Proposed Change to PPE Coverage

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has indicated in recent weeks it intends to eliminate personal protective equipment and disinfectants as eligible reimbursable expenses under public assistance, authorized by the March 13 Coronavirus (COIVD-19) National Emergency Declaration. NCSL joined members of the Big 7 state and local associations to urge FEMA not to shift costs and responsibilities onto states when they can least afford it, and to avoid causing confusion around critical aid in the middle of a pandemic. The groups also reiterated a long-standing request that FEMA waive the state cost share for COVID-19 assistance. Read about the letter in the Washington Post and The Hill.

NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick and Lucia Bragg

Republicans Release Potential Counterproposal to House U.S. Postal Service Bill

Earlier this month, Senate Republicans circulated a pared down version of a COVID-19 stimulus package that would provide $300 a week in unemployment benefits, funding for schools, and a revision to funding for the U.S. Postal Service. Viewed as a response to the House’s $25 billion Postal Service legislation and known as a “skinny bill,” the yet-to-be introduced proposal does not provide assistance for state and local governments to address revenue shortfalls. Nor does it provide the $1,200 checks to individuals included in the $1 trillion the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools Act the Republicans proposed last month. It does, however, provide liability protections for businesses and hospitals—a top priority for Senate Republicans. Other provisions of interest include: $105 billion in education funds for public school grants and higher education institutions; $45 billion for vaccine development and production and virus tracing; $10 billion conversion of a loan to a grant for the Postal Service; and a replenishment of the Paycheck Protection Program’s loans to small businesses. This proposal is being viewed as a stopgap measure until Congress can revive broken-down negotiations on larger funding provisions for COVID-19 relief.

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

Judge Blocks DeVos’ Equitable Services Rule to Send Additional CARES Act Funds to Private Schools

The decision restricts Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from implementing or enforcing the rule in the plaintiff jurisdictions: California, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as public school districts in Chicago, Cleveland, New York City, and San Francisco. The Education Department's interim final rule directs school districts to reserve Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds for “equitable services” to all local private school students if the district makes funds available to all students in district. Read more

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salguero

Department of Education Issues New Distance Learning Rules for Higher Education

The regulations provide flexibility to distance education and competency-based education programs, clarify the distinction between distance education and correspondence courses, and simplify clock-to-credit hour conversions. The new rule also simplifies rules on “subscription-based programs” and includes provisions to ensure that students incarcerated in a juvenile justice facility continue their eligibility for Pell Grants. The regulations were developed by a negotiated rulemaking effort in 2019. The regulations will take effect July 1, 2021, but institutions can voluntarily employ the new flexibilities now. Read more

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salguero

HHS Issues Amendment under PREP Act

The agency issued a third amendment under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act to increase access to childhood vaccines. It will authorize state-licensed pharmacists to order and administer vaccines to individuals ages 3 through 18. The administration of the vaccines by pharmacists are subject to several requirements, which are consistent with those in many states that already permit licensed pharmacists to order and administer vaccines to children. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

HRSA Announces New Funding

Approximately $35 million has been awarded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to more than 50 rural organizations across 33 states to increase access to care in rural communities. Awards will be distributed in many areas, including telehealth, health workforce training and technical assistance. The agency also awarded $117 million in quality improvement awards to 1,318 health centers across states, territories and the District of Columbia. Awards recognize the highest performing health centers nationwide and those that have made significant quality improvements since last year.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

CMS Issues Regulatory Changes for Nursing Homes

The new regulatory changes for nursing homes require facilities to test staff, and offer testing to residents for COVID-19. This will also apply to laboratories and nursing homes using point-of-care testing devices to report diagnostic test results. Hospitals will also have to provide COVID-19 cases and related data to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Nursing homes not following the new testing requirements will be cited for non-compliance and could face penalties of $400 per day. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also announced expanded access to testing for Medicare enrollees and will pay for tests when ordered by a pharmacist or other health care professionals who are authorized under state law. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Says Alaska’s Pebble Mine “Cannot be Permitted”

In a reversal of previous indications, it appears the federal government is moving to block the Pebble Mine in Alaska. In a newly released statement, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) announced that the current proposal to build the Pebble Mine in Alaska "cannot be permitted” in its current form. The statement followed a letter from the Corps to the mine developers, which stated that they must undertake substantial environmental protection measures to offset "unavoidable adverse impacts ... that would result in significant degradation" to aquatic resources from the proposed copper and gold mine. A pressure campaign from a few people in communication with the president, including the president’s son, highlighted concerns that the mine threatens the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, which is commercially important and an increasingly popular destination for outdoor tourism. While a final decision is still forthcoming, the new mitigation requirements are seen as an early indication of the fate of the project. Further tipping the scales against the mine, both of Alaska's Republican Senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, said they support the Corps' conclusion that Pebble should not be issued its permits. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

30th Anniversary of Ryan White CARE Act

Resources Emergency (CARES) Act. It has been reauthorized four times and updated for new and emerging needs for those with HIV, as well as to address the disparities they face in getting care. HHS and HRSA administer the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which funds grants to state and local community-based organizations across the country. The program serves half of all Americans diagnosed with HIV in the United States, and is integral to the administration’s Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America

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.

NCSL Contact: Name

In Every Edition

Read the Aug. 17 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