Capitol to Capitol | Dec. 14, 2020


Stimulus Talks Continue as One-Week Stopgap Funding Measure Passed

Lawmakers mustered to pass a stopgap measure extending fiscal year 2020 funding levels to Dec. 18, providing some cushion to strike a deal on fiscal 2021 appropriations and agree on a coronavirus relief package before the end of the year. But stimulus talks remain at an impasse over critical sticking points, creating uncertainty over whether an agreement can be reached. The Trump administration released a $916 billion stimulus proposal that includes money for state and local governments, and liability protections for businesses, schools and universities. Those issues have been key roadblocks to passing additional relief. The administration’s plan does not include a revival of the $300 weekly unemployment benefits, though it would extend other federal unemployment programs set to expire in the coming weeks. It would also include $600 in direct payments to Americans. Senate Republicans are said to be on board with the White House proposal, while Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) believes the $908 billion framework, which was circulated by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus earlier this month, is the best path to compromise. This bipartisan group of lawmakers released its proposal Monday in two bills—one containing the controversial liability protections and aid for state and local governments, the other including all the other non-controversial provisions, including aid for small businesses.

NCSL Contacts: Erlinda Doherty and Jocelyn Salguero

NCSL Participates in Congressional Briefing on Coronavirus Relief Funds

NCSL, National Governors Association, the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties joined forces in a virtual Capitol Hill briefing last week to highlight the use of the Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) by state and local governments and the need for additional flexible funding. Senator Bo Watson (R) (chair of the Tennessee Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee) shared how Tennessee allocated its share of the CRF to provide unemployment relief, workforce development and PPE supplies. Watch here.

NCSL Contacts: Erlinda Doherty and Susan Frederick

NCSL Participates in Congressional Briefing on Unemployment Insurance

Last week, NCSL, along with the National Governors Association and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, organized a congressional briefing discussing the importance of addressing unemployment insurance and trust fund solvency in a new stimulus package. Senator Blake Tillery (R) (chair of the Georgia Senate Appropriations Committee) was a featured speaker along with Bill McCamley (secretary of New Mexico Workforce Solutions). The briefing also provided further discussion around the federal pandemic unemployment programs that were established under the CARES Act, which are set to expire at the end of this year. Watch here.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

NCSL Releases GEER Fund Tracker

Governors have obligated at least 88.7% of the $3 billion in education relief to states through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. NCSL, with assistance from the National Governor’s Association, will continue to update its state-by-state tracker. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salguero

House Passes NDAA with Veto-Proof Majority

The House overwhelmingly passed the annual defense bill by a 335-78 vote, teeing up the Senate to take into consideration. The House vote signifies it has more than enough support to override a possible veto from President Donald Trump, who has said recently he does not support the legislation because of Section 230 provisions. The White House Office of Management and Budget released a formal Statement of Administration Policy recommending the president veto the bill. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

U.S. House will Allow Earmarks in 2021; Senate Plans Remain Unclear

Democratic leadership, including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter Defazio (D-Ore.), announced the return of earmakrs in the upcoming 117th Congress. The two noted their hope that earmarks would increase support for a large-scale infrastructure bill expected to be a focal point in the first half of 2021. The total amount of funding for earmarks will be capped as well as include a ban on benefits for for-profit companies and requirements to post the requests online. It is unclear if Republicans in the Senate or House will agree to their inclusion.

NCSL Contacts:Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

CMS Announces New Voluntary Payment Model for Medicare

The Geographic Direct Contracting Model will test approaches to improving health outcomes and reducing the cost of health care for Medicare beneficiaries in multiple regions and communities across the U.S. Organizations working in risk-sharing arrangements and population health will partner with health care providers and community organizations to coordinate patient care while maintaining all existing Medicare benefits. Beneficiaries can now receive enhanced benefits, including telehealth services, easier access to home care and skilled nursing care, and concurrent hospice and curative care. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

HUD Issuing Millions in Rental Assistance for Veterans

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it is awarding $46 million in rental assistance and housing vouchers to assist veterans at risk or who are currently experiencing homelessness. The vouchers will be given through the HUD-VASH program, which combines rental assistance from HUD and case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

College Enrollment Falls Among High School Graduates

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported that high school graduates who went straight to college declined by 21.7% compared to 2019. Public college enrollment among high school graduates of low-income high schools declined at disproportionately higher rates (29%). Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salguero

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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
  • Margaret Wile | 202-624-8171 | Human Services
  • Austin Reid | 202-624-8678 | Education