July 27, 2020

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Senate Republicans to Introduce COVID-19 Relief Package

  • Today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is expected to introduce the Senate Republicans’ proposal for the next COVID-19 relief/recovery package;
  • The measure is expected to be around $1 trillion, in contrast to the $3 trillion bill (H.R. 6800) the House passed in May;
  • The Senate Majority package is said to be primarily focused on liability protections for businesses and schools, a continued but lesser unemployment payout, and increased funding for more COVID-19 testing;
  • H.R. 6800 proposes relief for local governments to assist with fiscal impacts caused by the coronavirus, hazard pay for essential workers, transportation, water resources, additional funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and COVID-19 related disaster declarations, as well as funding for workforce training and apprenticeships;
  • APWA Government Affairs has consistently weighed in on behalf of the association’s public policy priorities for infrastructure investment (April letter to Hill; June letter to Hill) as a key component of COVID-19 response and recovery efforts;
  • Be sure to check out APWA Advocacy Letters for full access to letters APWA has submitted to Congress with other state and local organizations.

 House Passes First Set of Spending Bills

  • Last week, the House voted to pass H.R. 7608, a package of four spending bills, including Agricultural-Rural Development and Interior (DOI)-Environment bills;
  • The remainder of the bills should receive floor time prior to the August recess;
  • All 12 Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Appropriations bills have been passed by the full House Committee on Appropriations;
  • The Interior, Environment, & Related Agencies bill includes the following provisions:
    • Funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reaches $9.38 billion, an increase of $318 million from FY 2020;
    • The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program receives $71 million, an $11 million increase over FY 2020;
      • An amendment to the bill preserved funding of 51 projects applying for EPA's Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan program;
      • Language initially inserted in the bill would have rescinded any unobligated balances from previous years, unless EPA complies with the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990;
    • The Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program receives $1.64 billion, commensurate with FY 2020 levels;
    • The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program is allocated $1.13 billion, on par with FY 2020 levels;
    • The bill also includes supplemental funding for both CWSRF ($6.35 billion) and DWSRF ($3.85 billion);
    • The DOI Wildland Fire Management program would see funding in the amount of $5.7 billion for FY 2021, an increase of $174 million from the FY 2020 figure;
    • The United States Geological Survey (USGS) would receive $1.2 billion, which keeps it relatively flat from FY 2020;
    • Several amendments were approved before the bill was passed, including:
  • The House package is mainly a messaging bill, as the White House has already stated the President would veto the bill;
  • It is also very unlikely the Senate would include any of the provisions in the House bill related to NEPA or other regulations;
  • This week, the House is scheduled to vote on FY 2021 appropriations for the Departments of Transportation, Homeland Security, Labor, and Education;
  • While the House has moved on the spending bills, the Senate has fallen behind;
  • After originally planning to have bills done by the July 4 recess, the Senate has yet to consider any of the 12 bills at the subcommittee level;
  • Senate leadership has expressed a desire to move bills prior to the August recess, however, individual senators have expressed doubt they will meet that schedule;
  • Additionally, the Senate would need to conference the bills together with the House versions, a difficult task given the likely differences between the bills;
  • There is also no guarantee that President Trump would sign all 12 merged spending bills;
  • The likely result of this situation is the need for a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government past September 30.

 House to Vote on Water Projects Bill this Week

 APWA Issues Action Alert to Support LOCAL Infrastructure Act

  • Last week, APWA sent an action alert to members to support S. 4129, the Lifting Our Communities through Advanced Liquidity for Infrastructure (LOCAL) Act;
  • This bipartisan legislation, introduced by Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), would restore state and local governments’ ability to use advance refunding to manage bond debt and reduce borrowing costs for public projects;
  • Advance refunding was eliminated as part of the 2017 tax reform law;
  • If you have not already sent a message supporting this critical bill, please click here to send a pre-written email to your senators urging them to cosponsor S. 4129.

 APWA Joins State DOTs in Requesting Relief Funding

  • On July 20, APWA joined the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and 38 additional national organizations to request Congress include $37 billion in the next COVID-19 recovery package for state departments of transportation (DOTs);
  • Due to the pandemic and much reduced travel across the country, tolls and fuel taxes have markedly declined;
  • This funding is relied upon for planned transportation projects and for maintaining a transportation workforce in both the public and private sectors.

 CISA Releases Public Safety Communications and Cyber Resiliency Toolkit

  • Last week, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released the “Public Safety Communications and Cyber Resiliency Toolkit;”
  • This toolkit provides guidance and resources designed to bolster the capacity of communications networks to withstand damage, as well as minimize the potential of a service outage;
  • The toolkit is intended to outline emergent trends and issues, consolidate resources, educate stakeholders at all levels of government, and propose mitigations to enable resilient public safety communications.