Capitol to Capitol | March 23, 2020


All of us at NCSL hope this edition of Capitol to Capitol finds you and your loved ones well.

NCSL is working closely with Congress, the White House, federal agencies, and our state and local partner associations to advocate for legislatures and discuss new guidance being issued (find links to recent guidance). We strive to be a resource for you and urge you to continue to contact us with any questions or concerns about activities in Washington that relate to the states. 

Over the weekend, NCSL joined NGA in requesting $150 billion in flexible aid to states as well as an additional increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP), above the 6.2% provided for the in Families First Coronavirus Response Act. If you can contact your colleagues in Congress and make the case for direct, flexible aid to states and an additional FMAP increase, that would be incredibly helpful.

Together, as a nation we will battle the catastrophic effects of COVID-19. Again, NCSL wishes you and your families good health and safety.

Molly Ramsdell, Director

NCSL, Washington, D.C., Office

NCSL in D.C.


Announcements and Bill Summaries


COVID-19 Resources

NCSL Urges Congress to Provide Increased Funding for States to Stabilize Local Economies, Critical Citizen Services, Flexible Resources for Elections

As the potential negative economic and societal effects of the pandemic outbreak become more apparent, NCSL urged Congress to provide funding to help stabilize overall state economies, ensure critical citizen services, and support the safe and uninterrupted continuity of democratic processes. NCSL is actively engaged with lawmakers to ensure states’ financial needs—including $150 billion in flexible, direct aid are addressed as Congress continues to debate the larger $2 trillion stimulus package. State revenues are expected to fall significantly as a result of this crisis, as well as the extended deadline for filing taxes. Prioritizing and advocating for the needs of states during this crisis, NCSL also requested increased funding for Federal Medical Assistance Percentages and flexible resources for election administration. In a letter sent to congressional leaders, NCSL argued that with expected double-digit unemployment figures and the risk of recession looming, Congress should “provide states immediate flexible aid to assist them in managing through this crisis.”

NCSL Contacts: Erlinda Doherty (fiscal), Haley Nicholson (health and human services), Susan Frederick (elections)

Second COVID-19 Response Package Enacted, Third Stimulus Still Being Debated

Legislation was enacted last week that grants paid sick leave to hourly employees and expands unemployment in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act is considered “phase two” of the federal government’s efforts to provide immediate relief to those most affected, as well as resources to states to implement strategies to deal with the pandemic on the front lines. A thorough analysis of the law is provided by NCSL staff.

Congress continues to negotiate—with the hope of passing quickly—the third phase of legislation that would provide more expansive economic stimulus to individuals and businesses. Attempting to stave off a potential recession, the now almost $2 trillion plan as proposed by the Senate would provide direct payments to Americans starting April 6. It would make payments to small businesses, provide loans to industries severely impacted by the virus and increase funding to the health care industry. The House version—currently in draft form—contains $200 billion in state economic stabilization funds expanded Medicaid funding and unemployment insurance, expanded paid leave, increased cash payments, a ban on stock buybacks, and limited executive compensation for firms receiving help. Major contentions still exist, including the Senate proposed $500 billion fund for loans to businesses that would be backed by the Treasury. If a bipartisan negotiation can be reached, Congress and the administration are expected to enact the stimulus package this week.

Track these minute-by-minute developments on NCSL’s COVID-19 resources page.

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

CDC to Award Over $560 Million to State and Local Governments in Support of COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on March 11 announced awards totaling $560 million to state and local jurisdictions to address COVID-19. This funding was appropriated through HR 6074, which was signed into law a little over a week ago. For a full list of what state and local jurisdictions will be receiving, visit the Health and Human Services website.

NCSL Contact: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

CMS Plans for 1135 Blanket Waivers

Under the emergency declaration, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is explaining how it will handle 1135 blanket waivers that will allow states to waive Medicaid and Medicare provisions without specifically having to apply for the waiver. These blanket waivers will apply to different medical services and types of facilities, including:

  • Allowing out-of-state providers and non-enrolled providers to provide services without background checks, sites visits or licensing in the state where the services are provided, allowing health care to be provided in alternate settings.
  • Allowing patient admission to a skilled nursing facility without the usual requirement of a three-day prior inpatient hospital stay including directly from the community.
  • Allowing hospitals to use distinct units for acute care patients.

The waivers are in effect.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

DeVos Waives Interest on Student Loans, Offers Deferred Loan Payments

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on March 20 announced that all borrowers with federally held student loans will automatically have their interest rates set to 0% for a period of at least 60 days. In addition, each of these borrowers will have the option to suspend their payments for at least two months. DeVos also directed all federal student loan servicers to grant an administrative forbearance to any borrower with a federally held loan who requests one. The forbearance will be in effect for a period of at least 60 days, beginning on March 13, 2020. 

NCSL Contact: Austin Reid

DeVos Offers Assessment Waivers for States

On March 20, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced the Department of Education will grant a waiver to any state that is unable to assess its students due to the ongoing national emergency, providing relief from federally mandated testing requirements for this school year. Any state that receives this waiver may also receive a waiver from the requirement that this testing data be used in the statewide accountability system.

NCSL Contact: Austin Reid

CISA Release Guidelines on ‘Essential’ Critical Infrastructure

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has released an advisory list of essential critical infrastructure functions for states and localities to consider as they impose restrictions on workers. The memo is intended to help states identify essential critical infrastructure workers necessary for continuity of operations and incident response as part of their determinations about which sectors should maintain normal operations.

NCSL Contacts: : Abbie Gruwell and Tres York (communications), Susan Frederick and Lucia Bragg (national emergency), Ben Husch (infrastructure)

HUD Provides Relief to Homeowners Amid Coronavirus Response

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) authorized the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to implement an immediate foreclosure and eviction moratorium for single-family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages for the next 60 days. This follows increasing concern about the economic consequences of the coronavirus. The moratorium is part of a larger, continued effort by the Trump administration to address the effects on the well-being of individuals, families and businesses. Specifically, under the guidance of HUD Secretary Ben Carson, the moratorium is for homeowners with FHA-insured Title II Single Family Forward and Home Equity Conversion (reverse) mortgages, and directs mortgage servicers to:

  1. Halt all new foreclosure actions and subsequently suspend all foreclosure actions currently in process.
  2. Cease all evictions of individuals and families from FHA-insured single-family properties.
NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

Federal Officials and Tech Groups Explore Using Cellphone Location Data to Track Coronavirus

Tech company leaders and the federal government are discussing using consumer location data to map the outbreak of COVID-19. Company leaders believe the aggregated data could help predict the next hot spot and show whether people are maintaining distance from each other.

NCSL Contacts: Abbie Gruwell and Tres York

Broadband Providers Respond to FCC With a Pledge to Keep Americans Connected

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) called for a pledge from broadband and telephone service providers to keep Americans connected during crisis. Almost 400 providers have signed the Keep America Connected Pledge, under which providers agree for the next 60 days to 1) not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, 2) waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic and 3) open its Wi-Fi hot spots to any American who needs them. 

NCSL Contacts: Abbie Gruwell and Tres York

FCC Waives Rural Health Care Rules to Boost Broadband for Hospitals and Remote Learning

The FCC has waived certain rules under the Rural Health Care and E-Rate programs to enable broadband providers to support telehealth and remote learning efforts. The waiver will allow improved connections or additional equipment for telemedicine or remote learning during the coronavirus outbreak. 

NCSL Contacts: Abbie Gruwell and Tres York

MACPAC Releases Report to Congress on Medicaid and CHIP Policy Issues

The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) released a report to Congress on Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) highlighting several areas of interest to Congress. These include payment to safety-net hospitals, the quality of behavioral health care and care provided to children who are enrolled Medicaid or the state CHIP program, and the timeliness and quality of evaluations of Medicaid demonstrations.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

New Health Warnings Released for Cigarette Packages and Ads

Last week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finalized a rule that will require new health warnings on cigarette packages and advertisements. Warnings on packages will include statements with realistic images depicting some of the lesser-known but serious health risks of smoking. The changes will begin on June 18, 2021, and the warnings will be required to appear prominently on cigarette packages and in ads, taking up the top 50% of the front and rear parts of cigarette packages and at least 20% of the top of cigarette ads.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

The Reading Room

NCSL's Advocacy in Washington

NCSL's Washington staff advocate Congress, the White House and federal agencies on behalf of state legislatures 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