August 11, 2020

 
**Due to the traditional August Congressional district work period, the next edition of the APWA Washington Report will be sent on September 14, 2020.
 
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LATEST NEWS

Update on Next COVID-19 Package

  • Negotiations have collapsed on Capitol Hill over a new relief/recovery package to address the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Over the weekend, President Trump signed 4 executive orders seeking to address some of the needs, and to allow time for negotiations to hopefully continue:
  • The executive orders accomplish the following:
    • Defer payroll tax collections for those earning under $100,000;
    • Renew unemployment benefits at $400 a week, with the federal government providing $300 in supplemental benefits and the states paying $100 of that total--previously it was $600 a week from the initial CARES Act passed in March;
    • Defers student loan payments and forgives interest;
    • Renews a moratorium on housing evictions.
  • These executive orders have been criticized by some in Congress, but whether legal challenges arise remains to be seen;
  • Two weeks ago, Senate Republicans introduced a $1 trillion COVID-19 relief/recovery package, the HEALS (Health, Economic Assistance, Liability protection, and Schools) Act;
  • In May, the House passed a $3.5 trillion package (H.R. 6800);
  • Over the past two weeks, negotiations have been ongoing between Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and House and Senate leadership, and at this time, no compromise has been reached;
  • No formal legislative business is scheduled for this week in either chamber, and members can be called back to DC should compromise legislation be drafted and require voting;
  • APWA Government Affairs has consistently weighed in on behalf of the Association’s Public Policy Priorities for infrastructure investment (April letter to HillJune letter to Hill) as a key component of COVID-19 response and recovery efforts;
  • Check out APWA Advocacy Letters for full access to letters APWA has submitted to Congress with other state and local organizations, as well as @APWAGOVAFFAIRS on Twitter to stay apprised of legislative developments;
  • Your voice needs to be heard, so take a few minutes to reach out to your U.S. Senators and Representatives and share how COVID-19 is impacting public works by using the APWA Legislative Action Center.

Ask Your Representative to Join the House Public Works and Infrastructure Caucus

  • This week, APWA is issuing an action alert asking members to urge their representatives to join the House Public Works and Infrastructure Caucus;
  • The bipartisan caucus is a proven, valuable tool to educate members of Congress and congressional staff on public works issues;
  • Please check if your representative is a member, and if not, send them a pre-generated email asking them to join.

FAST Act Extension Likely

  • Last week, some in Congress raised the issue that an extension of the current surface transportation law, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, will be necessary;
  • The FAST Act was signed into law in December 2015 and is scheduled to expire on September 30, 2020;
  • Reauthorization legislation S. 2302 was passed by the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works in July 2019, but the full chamber has not yet considered the bill;
  • The House passed surface transportation provisions in H.R. 2 last month, and President Trump put forth his FY2021 budget proposal in February 2020;
  • None of these proposals have been agreed upon, and most importantly, how to pay for the next reauthorization has not been identified;
  • Please take a few minutes to review APWA’s public policy priorities for surface transportation.
 

APWA Urges Congressional Action on Water Infrastructure

  • On August 5, APWA sent two letters to Congressional leadership urging action on passing water infrastructure legislation;
  • The first letter, sent to leadership of the relevant Congressional committees, advocated for specific language in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) legislation;
  • APWA’s letter expressly asked for the following:
    • Language reauthorizing the competitive grant program enacted in AWIA 2018 to promote workforce development in the water utility sector, and modifying the program to make public works departments and agencies eligible for grants;
    • Language reauthorizing the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program and increasing funding to $8 billion annually through fiscal year (FY) 2025;
    • Language increasing the authorization of appropriations for the Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse grants program under section 221 of the Clean Water Act to $400 million annually through fiscal year 2025, among other items.
  • The letter also asks Congress to include two pieces of legislation not included in the current WRDA discussions:
    • H.R. 1764, which would extend permit lifecycles from five (5) years to ten (10) years under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program;
    • S. 2596, which would encourage water systems in significant noncompliance to voluntary partner with successful utilities, while limiting the liability for the “Good Samaritan” water utility.
  • The second letter was sent by a coalition of water groups in support of the Drinking Water System Infrastructure Resilience and Sustainability program;
  • That program offers competitive grant funds to help communities prepare their water infrastructure for the effects of climate change and extreme weather;
  • The letter asks Congress to expand eligibility for the grants to drinking water systems of any size, while also creating a similar program for wastewater systems;
  • You can read more about the various bills and the WRDA state of play on our website.
 

FEMA Releases BRIC Grant Information  

 

FEMA Requests Comments on Interim Debris Monitoring Guide

  • Last week, FEMA announced they are soliciting comments on their interim Debris Monitoring Guide;
  • The Debris Monitoring Guide provides states, locals, territories or tribes with guidance on monitoring debris removal operations, and eligibility requirements associated with necessary work and reasonable costs to carry out a debris monitoring program;
  • The public comment period is open from August 3, 2020 through September 17, 2020.
 

ON THE HORIZON

  • August 19 at 1:00 p.m. ET, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has scheduled a webinar focusing on the National Emergency Communications Plan, “Lifecycle Planning for Emergency Communications;”
  • August 20 and August 27, both at 12:00 p.m. ET, FEMA has scheduled webinars focusing on accessible communications and guidelines and how to effectively create them before, during and after disasters.