Update on Allowable Uses of Coronavirus Relief Fund
Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department released an updated FAQ on the allowable uses of the $150 billion provided to the Coronavirus Relief Fund through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. While replacing funds for expected revenue shortfalls is still not an allowable use of the resources, Treasury has been more explicit in defining and expanding its applications.
House Approves Changes to the Paycheck Protection Program
In a 417-1 vote last week, the U.S. House approved a bill to extend from eight to 24 weeks, or the end of the year, whichever comes first, the amount of time a business has to spend funds received through the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program and still qualify for loan forgiveness. The bill also extends from two to five years the time to repay any money owed as a loan and allows for a greater percentage of funds be used for other non-payroll expenses. The Senate is expected to make changes to the bill and send it back to the House this week.
Senate to Vote on Great American Outdoors Act
The Senate is expected to vote on SB 3422, which would fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and provide federal funds to address the backlog of national parks maintenance projects. NCSL sent a letter last month to congressional leadership supporting the full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
NCSL Sends Letters to Census Bureau, Congress to Support States
NCSL sent letters to the Census Bureau and both houses of Congress outlining the difficulties states will encounter because of a proposed four-month delay in the census as well as problems states have discovered with the Census Bureau’s new differential privacy algorithm. The letters ask for enhanced communication between states and the Census Bureau, a staggered release of census data to states based on state statutory or constitutional deadlines and increased congressional oversight of the bureau’s data collection activities. See NCSL’s research on census delays and differential privacy.
Trump Signs Executive Order on Regulatory Relief to Economic Recovery
Last month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order asking federal agencies to identify possible deregulatory actions, including the use of temporary enforcement discretion, to help the economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Arguably the most meaningful provision in the order is the use of enforcement discretion, which will provide more immediate regulatory relief than permanently waiving requirements through the traditional notice-and-comment rulemaking process. The order also encourages agency leaders to “promote economic recovery through non-regulatory actions.”
At a White House event, Trump said the order will instruct federal agencies “to use any and all authority to waive, suspend and eliminate unnecessary regulations that impede economic recovery.”
Trump Administration Announces Testing Targets
The Trump administration released COVID-19 testing targets for May with an expansion that would include some states doubling or quadrupling the number of tests they conducted through April. The breakdown of the targets by states has been released as part of a testing plan outlined by the Department of Health and Human Services in a report to Congress. The plan asks for approximately 12.9 million tests this month, with states nearly two-thirds of the way to meeting that goal.
Trump Administration Extends National Guard Deployment
In a tweet, Trump announced he will extend the National Guards’ Title 32 orders beyond June 24. While a definitive date is unknown, the president has signaled that the federal government will fund the extended mission through mid-August. The president’s announcement comes only days after Senator Gary Peter (D-Mich.) sent a letter to the White House expressing concerns that deployment response efforts were ending prematurely and that any extension should include proper benefits to those on the front lines. Many of the guard troops would have ended their deployment with only 89 days of active duty, one day less than the 90-day threshold needed to receive education benefits and early retirement credits.
Rule on Expanded Telehealth Services for Medicare Released
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a new rule that will increase access to telehealth services, providing more coverage options for Medicare enrollees with kidney failure and offering wider benefits for others with chronic diseases. The rule implements changes passed under the 21st Century Cures Act and will save an estimated $3.65 billion over 10 years. It will also encourage private health insurance plans that cover Medicare beneficiaries to increase their telehealth offerings for those living in rural areas and allow those with end-stage renal disease to access coverage through Medicare Advantage plans.
CDC Announces Guidance for Reopening Schools During the Pandemic
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance, including a school decision tool, to assist administrators in reopening K-12 schools. The guidance is supplemental and does not replace any state and local health and safety laws, rules or regulations.
Foreclosure and Eviction Moratorium for Single-Family Homeowners Extended
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) announced the extension of its foreclosure and eviction moratorium through June 30, 2020. The moratorium applies to homeowners with FHA-insured single-family mortgages and supports new FHA-insured mortgage originations through an extension of temporary policy flexibilities for lenders and appraisers. The CARES Act allowed for a 60-day moratorium on foreclosures and evictions on federally backed mortgages.
Federal Court Rulings Will Slow Energy Infrastructure Projects
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that it will not freeze a previous decision by the Montana District Court prohibiting the Army Corps of Engineers from using a nationwide water permit for oil and natural gas infrastructure projects. The ruling means that without intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court, construction on such infrastructure projects, including the Keystone XL pipeline, will likely be suspended until the 9th Circuit rules on the full merits of the case in 2021. In related news, Chief Judge Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court in Montana ruled that a 2018 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) instruction memorandum violated a 2015 BLM rule concerning the recovery of sage grouse populations. The ruling, if not overturned, will require the BLM to reclaim 440 leases covering 336,000 acres in Montana and Wyoming with both the federal government and the states having to return funds to the companies that acquired the land as part of the leases. In a separate case, the 9th Circuit also ruled that local governments can continue seeking climate-related damages from oil companies in state court.
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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 and Human Services
- Austin Reid | 202-624-8678 | Education