Capitol to Capitol | Jan. 11, 2021

1/11/2021

Additional Federal Stimulus Potential Renewed

With the new slim Democratic majority in the Senate, analysts have predicted that an additional stimulus in the range of $750 billion to $1 trillion could be provided on top of the $900 billion enacted last month. Economists have also predicted additional aid could include support for state and local governments, another extension of jobless benefits, and more direct stimulus payments. According to researchers, additional stimulus could increase economic growth by 2% to 5%. The slim majority, however, means that original proposals are likely to get whittled down. One potential area for bipartisan compromise is infrastructure, which could have a positive impact on the economy along with job creation.

NCSL Contacts: Erlinda Doherty and Jocelyn Salguero

New Democratic Majority Could Use Budget Reconciliation Process to Advance Biden Administration and Congressional Priorities

If reconciliation is used, it only requires a simple majority vote to pass in the Senate. What exactly is reconciliation? Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Erlinda Doherty and Jocelyn Salguero

DeVos Announces the Distribution of $54.3B in Pandemic Relief Aid for K-12 Schools and $4.1B in Emergency Education Grants for Governors

The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSA), was signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020, and provides an additional $54.3 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. Similar to the ESSER funds made available through the CARES Act, awards are made to states based on their proportional share of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Title I-A funds. This additional funding can be used to address learning loss, improve school facilities and infrastructure to reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus, and purchase education technology. How much each state will receive can be found here and the fact sheet on the new ESSER funding can be found here.

The legislation also provided an additional $4.1 billion for the Governors Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. Approximately $2.75 billion will be set aside by Congress to support disadvantaged students at non-public schools. Funds are limited to COVID-related needs and cannot be used for vouchers or scholarships for parents. Similar to the GEER funds made available through the CARES Act, funds may be used for pre-award costs dating back to March 13, 2020, when the national emergency was declared. Read the Department of Education’s fact sheet here.

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salguero

EPA Finalizes Updates to its Lead and Copper Rule

The updates, the first since 1991, aim to minimize lead and copper in drinking water by instituting a new trigger level requiring action as well as requiring the development of publicly available listings of lead service lines. NCSL has produced a detailed summary. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Jan. 12 Deadline for Emergency Rental Assistance Program

To receive a portion of $25 billion in rental assistance funds, a state or locality must submit completed payment information and a signed acceptance of award terms by 11:59 p.m. ET on Jan. 12, 2021. Meeting the deadline will ensure payments are made within the 30-day period specified by the statute.  Eligible grantees that miss the deadline may not receive a payment.  Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

Drug Pricing Rule Blocked

The blocked rule would have tied Medicare reimbursements for 50 drugs “to the lowest prices paid by certain other countries,” starting Jan. 1. U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake in Maryland blocked the rule, saying the administration rushed the process and did not give the public a chance to comment, which is in violation of federal law.  Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Guidance Issued

As required per the 2018 SUPPORT Act, state Medicaid programs must cover all drugs and biologicals approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat opioid use disorders, including methadone, along with related MAT and counseling services. The guidance includes information on the benefit and locations where MAT can be provided. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

FAA Finalizes New Drone Rules for Operations Over People, at Night, and Remote ID

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued two final rules for unmanned aerial systems, more commonly known as drones. The new rules pertain to flights over people, moving vehicles, and at night, as well as the remote identification of drones, commonly referred to as Remote ID. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth  

DOL Publishes Final Rule on Gig Workers

On Jan. 6, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) established a simpler legal standard for when employers may classify workers as independent contractors, rather than as employees, who are covered by federal minimum wage and overtime law. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

DOL Publishes FAQ on Paid Sick Leave, Expanded Family and Medical Leave for Coronavirus

The new guidance, in the form of Frequently Asked Questions, explains that workers who did not use their leave entitlement under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) in 2020 may use such leave after Dec. 31, 2020. It also explains how the Wage and Hour Division will maintain its enforcement authority over employers’ leave responsibilities while the FFCRA’s paid leave requirements were in effect. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

HUD Announces COVID-19 Waivers for Community Planning and Development (CPD) Grant Programs

The memorandum announces a simplified notification process for recipients of these programs to use this waiver flexibility to expedite the delivery of assistance. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

USDA Announces Continuation of Farmers to Families Food Box Program

The department will purchase an additional $1.5 billion worth of food for nationwide distribution through the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, thanks to funding included in the December-enacted COVID-19 relief package. It is the USDA’s fifth round of combination box purchases, which will ensure access to fresh produce, dairy products, fluid milk and meat products, as well as seafood products, which will be included in this round. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

In Every Edition

Read the Dec. 22 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
  • Margaret Wile | 202-624-8171 | Human Services
  • Austin Reid | 202-624-8678 | Education