House Passed COVID Relief, Senate Begins Consideration
The House passed a $1.9 trillion relief proposal that includes $350 billion in state and local aid, $1,400 in direct payments to individuals and dependents, funding for schools, testing and vaccine distribution, mass transit systems, restaurants, and small businesses. The Senate is set to tackle the bill this week after the Senate parliamentarian ruled a $15 minimum wage could not be included in the reconciliation process, which can allow Democrats to pass the relief package with a simple majority. Democrats also shelved an amendment that sought to take tax deductions away from large corporations that do not pay above $15-an-hour wages in order to try and incorporate the wage increase. This removes a major obstacle for passage but lawmakers must still make cuts to the proposal as the Congressional Budget Office stated the package would trigger mandatory sequestration, including $36 billion in cuts to Medicare in fiscal year 2022, unless there is bipartisan support to waive the requirement. The Senate will send back an amended version of the bill, and the House will have to vote on the measure a second time. Democratic leadership hopes to get the package passed by March 14, when unemployment benefits are set to expire.
New Banking Landscape for the New Administration and 117th Congress
NCSL staff Tres York’s blog explores how banking and financial services policy could change with new leadership in Washington, D.C., and what that means for states. Read more.
DHS Launches Cyber Grant Initiative
Alejandro Mayorkas, the new secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the creation of eight grant programs totaling $1.87 billion. Funding includes the 2021 State Homeland Security Program and Urban Area Security Initiative, combating domestic violent extremism, supporting cybersecurity efforts, grants that will focus on the nation’s highest risk areas, and other regional preparedness and capabilities funding. Read more.
Treasury Publishes Updated FAQs on Emergency Rental Assistance
The U.S. Department of Treasury released a revised FAQ resource this week that provides applicants flexibility on required documentation when attesting eligibility for a variety of benefits; allows assistance to cover home internet costs to engage in distance learning, telework and telemedicine; and reduces the timeframe from 21 days to 10 days before programs can provide financial assistance directly to tenants. Read more.
FCC Announces Proposal to Set Rules to Allocate $3.2 billion in Emergency Relief Subsidies
Acting Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced proposed rules to allocate $3.2 billion in emergency relief to subsidize broadband for low-income Americans. The plan, establishing a new Emergency Broadband Benefit, calls for the federal government to provide a $50 monthly subsidy for broadband internet service for low-income households and a $75 monthly subsidy for those living on tribal lands. More than 14 million homes lack access to broadband, according to an FCC estimate. The funding was made available in the 2020 year-end COVID relief/omnibus appropriations bill. Read more.
ED Releases Guidance on 2020-21 Federal Assessment and Accountability Requirements
The new guidance does not offer waivers for spring statewide assessments but provides states additional flexibility on how and when to administer the tests. Such flexibility includes administering a shortened version of their assessments, offering the test remotely when feasible, and extending the testing window to the summer or fall. The Department of Education (ED) is also offering states the option to request a waiver for the accountability and school identification requirements.Read more.
Biden Approves Emergency Declaration for Texas
NCSL staffer Lucia Bragg details how the president’s approval allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to distribute much needed resources and assistance to Texans after widespread outages from a severe winter storm. 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 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