July 20, 2020

APWA offers several advocacy tools to our members to voice your expertise and opinions to elected officials at the federal level.It is critical public works professionals use these advocacy tools to share your stories of continuing to provide essential services and facing new challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Your efforts will help ensure the resources you need are available and distributed appropriately. Access these tools and stay apprised of APWA Government Affairs by following @APWAGOVAFFAIRS on Twitter @APWAGovAffairs and checking out our website for daily updates to APWA Advocacy News,  Action Alerts, Advocacy Letters, InfoNow communities, public works research and our 116th Congress Public Policy Priorities.

Latest News

Congress Returns to Session to Work on Next COVID-19 Relief Package

  • Following the Independence Day holiday, both chambers will be back in session this week;
  • It remains to be seen whether the next COVID-19 relief and recovery package can be agreed upon between the House and Senate prior to the upcoming August recess;
  • The House has already passed a $3.5 trillion package, which includes broad infrastructure investment – surface transportation reauthorization, water infrastructure, broadband, electric grid, hospitals, schools, etc.;
  • The Senate Majority is not inclined to go along with the House package as passed and may propose at least a $1 trillion package focused on schools, jobs, and healthcare.

House Continues work on FY 2021 Spending Bills

  • The House is set to vote on a set of fiscal year (FY) 2021 appropriations bills this week;
  • The House will vote on H.R. 7608, a package of four spending bills that includes Agricultural-Rural Development and Interior-Environment bills;
  • The remainder of the bills should receive floor time prior to the August recess;
  • The full Appropriations Committee and Subcommittees worked to pass bills to the full House before the fiscal year ends on September 30, and all 12 bills were passed by the full Committee;
  • The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, & Related Agencies (T-HUD) bill was approved by the Subcommittee by voice vote on July 8, and by the full Committee on a 30-22 vote on July 14;
  • That bill includes the following provisions:
    • $75.9 billion in overall discretionary funding, a 2.2% increase over FY 2020;
    • $75 billion in emergency funding for FY 2021 in response to COVID-19;
    • $78.7 billion in funding for surface transportation programs, which lines up with the House passed INVEST Act, a broad infrastructure package passed by the House prior to the July 4th recess;
    • $1 billion for the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant program, plus an additional $3 billion in emergency funding;
    • $2.2 billion for the Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program;
    • $2.5 billion in emergency aid to airports for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA);
    • $500 million in supplemental funding to the Airport Improvement Program.
  • The Homeland Security bill was approved by a 30-22 vote by the full Committee on July 15;
  • That bill includes the following provisions:
    • The proposed DHS budget of approximately $50.7 billion in discretionary funds remains flat from FY 2020;
    • DHS funding includes $10.8 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is an overall reduction of $11.7 billion from FY 2020;
    • Also, within the FEMA budget, $3.66 billion would be targeted for grants and training, an increase of $1.1 billion from FY 2020;
    • $5.66 for the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF), a $12.2 billion decrease from FY 2020;
    • The DHS request also includes the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Agency (CISA), which would receive approximately $2.2 billion, an increase of approximately $239 million from FY 2020;
  • The Commerce, Justice, and Science bill was approved by a 30-22 vote by the full Committee on July 14;
  • That bill includes the following provision:
    • The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive approximately $5.4 billion for FY 2021, an increase of $101.9 million from FY 2020.
  • The Labor, Health, and Human Services, and Education bill was passed by a vote of 30-22 by the full Committee on July 13;
  • That bill includes the following provisions:
    • Funding for the Department of Labor (DOL) at $12.7 billion, a $254 million increase from the FY 2020 enacted level, including;
    • $10.2 billion for the Employment Training Administration, an increase of $187 million from FY 2020, which includes the following workforce development programs;
    • $2.9 billion for Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act State Grants, an increase of $50 million from FY 2020;
    • $185 million for Registered Apprenticeships, an increase of $10 million from FY 2020;
    • Funding for the Department of Education (DOE) at $73.5 billion, an increase of $716 million from FY 2020, including;
    • $2 billion for Career, Technical & Adult Education, an increase of $25 million from FY 2020.
  • The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies bill was passed by a vote of 30-19 by the full Committee on July 10;
  • That bill includes the following provisions:
    • Funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reaches $9.38 billion, an increase of $318 million from FY 2020;
    • $71 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program, an $11 million increase over FY 2020;
      • However, language inserted in the bill would rescind any unobligated balances from previous years unless EPA complies with the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990;
    • $1.64 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program, which is commensurate with FY 2020 levels;
    • $1.13 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program, which is on par with FY 2020 levels;
    • $5.7 billion for the DOI Wildland Fire Management program, an increase of $174 million from the FY 2020 figure;
    • $1.2 billion for the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which keeps it relatively flat from FY 2020 numbers.
  • While the House has moved on the spending bills, the Senate has not moved forward on its original plan to have its spending bills done by the July 4 recess, it has not considered any of the 12 bills at the subcommittee level;
  • Senate leadership has expressed a desire to move bills prior to the August recess, however, some individual senators have expressed doubt about that schedule being possible;
  • The Senate would need to conference its spending bills with the House versions, which will be difficult as there will likely be differences between the chambers;
  • There is also no guarantee that President Trump would sign all 12 merged spending bills;
  • A Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government past September 30 will likely be necessary.


White House Announces Major Revisions to Permitting Regulations

  • On July 15, President Trump announced his administration is scaling back requirements that agencies consider environmental consequences when approving new oil wells, pipelines, highways and other projects;
  • Revisions to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) will limit the scope of agency reviews, as well as what projects warrant the scrutiny;
  • According to the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the average length of a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is 645 pages, and the average time to conduct a full NEPA review on a project is 7.3 years;
  • Enacted in 1970, and with only minor changes since its inception, NEPA is the regulatory framework for protecting America's environment;
  • In recent years, members of Congress and presidential administrations of both parties have sought to make changes to the complex regulatory system;
  • APWA is supportive of previous efforts made to streamline regulations, including under the FAST Act and the “One Federal Decision” executive order;
  • The major change to NEPA under this final rule would be the removal of "cumulative impacts" as a consideration for review of infrastructure permits;
    • Under the current rules, a federal agency must analyze a project’s indirect or “cumulative” effects on the environment;
    • Under this final rule, the agency will only be required to analyze "reasonably foreseeable" impacts.
  • APWA submitted comments to CEQ in March regarding the proposed updates to the regulations implementing procedural provisions of NEPA, and APWA’s comments reiterate the need for streamlining environmental regulations wherever possible while still protecting the environment, and reinforce the need for state and local control in infrastructure projects;
  • Additionally, APWA members do not support inserting a “shot-clock” regarding permit review in any update of the NEPA regulations;
  • Finally, the comments make clear the need to keep “cumulative reviews” as a part of NEPA in order to accurately assess environmental impacts and resiliency of infrastructure.

House Committee Approves Water Resources Legislation

  • In an unanimous vote, the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure approved H.R. 7575, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020;
  • The bill authorizes projects to improve America’s ports and harbors, inland waterway navigation, flood and storm protection, and other water resources infrastructure;
  • H.R. 7575 authorizes construction of 34 projects studied and approved by the Chief of Engineers since WRDA 2018 was signed into law;
  • Additionally, the bill authorizes 35 new Corps of Engineers feasibility studies and directs the Corps to expedite the completion of 41 ongoing studies;
  • In recent years, WRDA legislation has grown to include drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater elements;, and this year, those elements were included in H.R. 2, the INVEST in America Act, which passed the House earlier this month;
  • That legislation includes $65 billion in funding over 10 years for water infrastructure, as part of a larger $1.5 trillion infrastructure investment package;
  • H.R. 7575 is expected to be considered on the House floor later this month;
  • In the Senate, the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works approved two bills, America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2020and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020, in early May;
    • The first bill includes roughly $17 billion to increase water storage, improve flood protection, deepen U.S. ports, and repair aging wastewater and irrigation systems;
    • The second bill proposes roughly $2.5 billion in federal authorizations for water projects, including those under the Safe Drinking Water Act, giving local communities additional technical assistance to improve water quality.
  • There has not been a schedule set for either of these bills to be considered on the floor of the Senate;
  • Once both the House and Senate pass the various pieces of legislation (H.R. 2, H.R. 7575, S. 3590, and S. 3591), the bills will be merged into a conference committee to encompass all the water related provisions;
  • Once completed, the unified bill will be sent back to the House and Senate for approval, and then to the president for his signature.

FEMA Releases Updated Individual Assistance Program and Policy Guide

  • Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced the Individual Assistance Program and Policy Guide (IAPPG) has been revised and is now open for public comment until August 24, 2020;
  • The IAPPG consolidates information on all of FEMA’s Individual Assistance (IA) programs and activities, and provides a comprehensive policy resource for state, local, tribal and territorial (SLTT) governments, non-governmental organization partners, and entities participating in or supporting the recovery of disaster survivors;
  • This updated edition will supersede the March 2019 version and apply to all Individual Assistance declarations on or after the date of publication serving as an interim version while FEMA undertakes a more detailed review and update of the IAPPG.

White House Launches “Find Something New” Ad Campaign

  • July 14, the White House’s American Workforce Policy Advisory Board launched an ad campaign and educational initiative focused on alternative career paths titled, “Find Something New;”
  • A collaboration with the nonprofit Ad Council, the goal of the campaign is to promote apprenticeships, career/technical education, short-term certification programs and other career pathways that do not involve a four-year college degree;
  • Ads will appear nationwide on digital, print and TV platforms, featuring stories from individuals who found careers through these programs.

CISA Hosts NECP Webinar

  • July 22 at 1:00 p.m. ET, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has scheduled a webinar on the implementation of the National Emergency Communication Plan(NECP);
  • The NECP was created to serve as the nation’s strategic plan to strengthen and enhance emergency communications capabilities;
  • Additionally, the NECP utilizes a unified approach for emergency communications and provide support for those who plan for, coordinate, invest in, and use operable and interoperable communications for response and recovery operations;
  • CISA is also planning to host a NECP webinar in August, and September.

On the Horizon