Army Corps of Engineers Announces Billions in New Projects
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced its fiscal year 2022 spending plan totaling $22.8 billion provided from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the 2022 Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. IIJA included $17 billion to fund existing infrastructure maintenance and to repair ship channels in response to floods and coastal storms, as well as over $5 billion to improve resilience, $4 billion for improvements for coastal ports and inland waterways, and $1 billion for the South Florida Ecosystem (Everglades) Restoration program. Additionally, the Corps directs $5.7 billion in disaster relief funding to repair the impacts of major disasters from FY 2021, as well as to construct flood and storm damage reduction projects, including shore protection. Read the full list of infrastructure projects funded here. Read the full list of disaster relief projects funded here.
USDA Announces Increases for School Meal Programs and Meal Reimbursement Rate
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service will provide $1 billion to states in Supply Chain Assistance funds school districts can use to purchase food for meal programs. States have the option of using up to 10% of the funds to make bulk purchases of local food on behalf of school meal programs or targeting the funds to districts where at least a quarter of students are from low-income households. The USDA will also award $200 million to states to buy domestic local foods for distribution to schools through the Agricultural Marketing Service’s new Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program. Additionally, the USDA Foods in Schools program will purchase $300 million of domestic food products for distribution to schools. Read more.
The department also announced the reimbursement rate per school lunch will increase by 25 cents, which will result in an estimated $750 million increase for school meal programs across the nation this year. Read more.
White House Announces Increased COVID-19 Testing Support for Schools
The administration plans to distribute 5 million rapid tests and 5 million PCR lab tests to schools each month. States will begin receiving rapid tests shipments through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity program at the end of January. Schools can immediately access the additional PCR tests through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Operation Expanded Testing program. The federal government will also deploy additional testing units, connect schools with testing providers and provide new training resources for implementing testing in schools. Read more
Department of Education Announces Additional Support for Colleges and Universities
New grants will be made through the $198 million Supplemental Support Under the American Rescue Plan program to support colleges and universities with the greatest unmet needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The department will prioritize community colleges and rural institutions that serve a high percentage of low-income students and have experienced enrollment declines since the start of the pandemic. Funds will be awarded in late spring. The department also published new guidance on how colleges can use these new and existing federal funds to meet students’ basic needs. Additionally, the department awarded $5 million in grants to meet students’ basic needs at six community colleges in California, Maryland, New Jersey and Texas. Read more.
Supreme Court Blocks Administration’s COVID Vaccine-or-Test Mandate for Large Private Employers
On Jan. 13, the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its vaccine-or-test requirements for large private companies, while allowing a similar yet more modest vaccine mandate to stand for medical facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid. The vote in the employer mandate case was 6-3, and the vote in the health care case was 5-4.
The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandate required workers at businesses with 100 or more employees to get vaccinated or submit weekly negative tests to enter the workplace. It also required unvaccinated workers to wear masks indoors. Parts of the mandate concerning record-keeping and masks were scheduled to take effect on Jan. 17, while the testing requirement would not have been enforced until Feb. 9. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld state vaccine mandates in various settings against constitutional challenges. The OSHA mandate was different, the court said, primarily presenting the question of whether Congress has authorized the executive branch to institute the requirements. Read more.
IN OTHER NEWS
Navient Reaches Nearly $2 Billion Settlement With Bipartisan Group of 40 State Attorneys General
The settlement resolves allegations that Navient made predatory private student loans and illegally pushed federal student loan borrowers into higher-cost repayment plans. Under the settlement, Navient will be required to cancel $1.5 billion owed by almost 66,000 private loan holders and pay $95 million in restitution to about 350,000 federal student loan borrowers, who were denied access to income-driven repayment plans. Additionally, Navient will pay $145 million in restitution to the 40 states involved in the litigation. Read more.
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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 policy 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
- Ben Husch | 202-624-7779 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure
- Kristen Hildreth | 202-624-3597 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure
- Jon Jukuri | 202-624-8663 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
- Austin Reid | 202-624-8678 | Education
- Tres York | 202-624-8686 | Commerce and Financial Services