Capitol to Capitol | March 30, 2020


President Donald Trump last week enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion stimulus package to help battle the catastrophic economic and public health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act provides funding to states, territories, local and tribal governments through some 50-plus programs, including $150 billion in direct aid. Please visit COVID-19 Stimulus Bill: What It Means for States for more information. Federal agencies are expected to issue further implementation guidance over the next few weeks on what is now the third law passed to provide public health and financial resources to individuals, localities and businesses to ameliorate the outbreak’s impacts. Daily updates are provided on NCSL’s webpage, COVID-19: Daily Announcements From Federal Agencies. While the House is on an “extended” break and the Senate is on recess, discussions have already begun on a fourth stimulus package and will continue this week.



EPA to Ease Enforcement During Pandemic

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a memo stating it would allow industries like oil, gas and chemical companies to delay some regulatory compliance while the nation addresses the coronavirus pandemic. The administrator has stated that “if there is an acute risk or imminent threat, [the agency] will still enforce.” The memo also said the discretion the EPA is allowing is directed more toward “recordkeeping, monitoring requirements, [and] things of that sort,” as the agency is hearing that facilities “simply don’t have the necessary personnel.”

To date, the EPA only eased specific enforcement requirements related to the coronavirus for 11 pharmaceutical facilities in Puerto Rico still powered by generators due to electrical grid damage. Agency officials said it would also consider “more tailored short-term” help for facilities deemed essential critical infrastructure by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The EPA singled out public water system operators "to continue normal operations and maintenance as well as required sampling to ensure the safety of our drinking water supplies." The agency will not require companies to catch up on monitoring or reporting that happens quarterly or more often.

The policy will not apply to criminal violations and does not eliminate the responsibility of companies from responding to oil and chemical spills and pollution violations.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Stops Collection of Defaulted Federal Student Loans

The Department of Education has halted all collection actions and wage garnishment for federal student loan borrowers for at least 60 days starting retroactively on March 13. The secretary directed the department to refund approximately $1.8 billion in offsets that have occurred since March 13 to more than 830,000 borrowers.

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salgureo

Trump Signs Two Laws to Boost Broadband and 5G

Two significant 5G and broadband provisions were signed into law, including a bill that requires the president to ensure 5G and next generation mobile telecommunications systems infrastructure security with the goal to protect the competitiveness of U.S. companies, privacy of U.S. consumers, and integrity of standards-setting bodies. The second bill addresses improving broadband data maps and would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to update its rules governing the information it collects from providers on broadband availability. This includes disseminating granular broadband service availability data from wired, fixed-wireless, satellite and mobile broadband providers and establishing a geocoded dataset called the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric. The FCC will also create a challenge process to enable the submission of independent data challenging the accuracy of FCC broadband maps.

NCSL Contacts: Abbie Gruwell and Tres York

FCC Temporarily Suspends Robocall Regulations

The FCC has temporarily suspended some robocall regulations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the declaratory ruling, health providers will be able to send automated calls and texts during the outbreak without violating anti-robocall laws. The FCC acted in its emergency capacity under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

NCSL Contacts: Abbie Gruwell and Tres York

DOJ Argues Title IX Does Not Include Transgender Status of High School Student Athletes

Attorney General William Barr filed a 13-page statement of interest backing a federal civil rights lawsuit that seeks to block transgender athletes in Connecticut from competing as girls in interscholastic sports. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference allows athletes to compete as the gender with which they identify. The Department of Justice stated that Title IX “and its implementing regulations prohibit discrimination solely ‘on the basis of sex’ and not on the basis of transgender status.” The brief also states that Title IX “consistently uses ‘sex’ as a binary concept capturing only two categories: male and female.”

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salgureo

The Reading Room

Read the March 23 Capitol to Capitol.

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