APWA Washington Report
January 25, 2021

Please be sure to visit the ‘Advocacy News’ page on the APWA website and follow @APWAGOVAFFAIRS on Twitter to stay apprised of Government Affairs information.

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President Biden Unveils $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Stimulus Proposal

  • President Biden has proposed, “The American Rescue Plan,” an approximately $1.9 trillion proposal to stimulate the economy and provide relief from the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • The proposal would allocate:
    • $806.5 billion for loans that can be forgiven for eligible expenses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP);
    • $416 billion toward a national vaccination program;
    • $350 billion for state and local governments;
    • $30 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) to fully reimburse states, localities, and tribes for critical emergency response resources;
    • Approximately $10 billion toward enhancing cybersecurity and technology infrastructure.

White House Releases Proposed COVID-19 Response Strategy

  • Last week, the White House released the “National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness;”
  • The proposal includes the following directives:
    • Over the next month, mandating the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) activate up to 100 sites nationally to provide vaccinations;
    • Requiring the Office of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to enact stronger worker safety protections;
    • Inoculating 100 million individuals in 100 days;
    • Establishing the United States Public Health Workforce Program, consisting of community-based workers to assist with testing, tracing, and vaccination.


Update on U.S. Senate Organization

  • Three new Democrat U.S. Senators were sworn into office on January 20, following the ascension of Kamala Harris from California Senator to Vice-President;
  • The three new Senators are Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Jon Ossoff (D-GA), who won their run-off races in Georgia on January 5, and Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA), who was appointed to fill the term left by now Vice-President Harris;
  • The Senate is now split 50-50, with Vice President Harris providing for future tie-breaking votes, giving the Democrats control of the Chamber;
  • Typically, a resolution organizing how the Chamber will function, rules and make-up of committees is passed without much notice;
  • However, agreement has not yet been reached between now Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY);
  • Leader McConnell wants a guarantee the filibuster will not be done away with as a longstanding Senate legislative feature;
  • The Senate was last split 50-50 in 2001, when an operating agreement was adopted that split the committees evenly in number and allowed for tied committee votes to move immediately to the Senate floor;
  • The Senate will be stunted in much of its legislative business until the agreement on how to operate is adopted – to include consideration of Biden Cabinet nominees, and COVID-19 relief;
  • Additionally, the impeachment trial of former President Trump, which Leader Schumer announced late last week will begin February 8, will halt all other Senate legislative business until the trial is completed.

White House Issues EO’s to Address COVID-19

APWA Issues Action Alerts on 117th Congress Policy Priorities & COVID-19

Hearing Held on U.S. DOT Nominee

  • Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is President Biden’s nominee to become the next Secretary for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), testified on January 21, before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation;
  • The Mayor faced a mostly friendly audience and responded to a large variety of questions, including on how to pay for an infrastructure package and secure the Highway Trust Fund;
  • During the hearing, the Mayor expressed his support for all funding options to be on the table, including an increase in the federal gas tax;
  • However, hours later, that comment was walked back by a spokesperson, stating an increase in the federal gas tax is not going to be considered in paying for infrastructure needs;
  • APWA supports a 25-cent increase in the federal gas tax over three years, and indexing it to inflation, as part of the Association’s Surface Transportation Reauthorization policy;
  • The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation is scheduled to hold an executive session on January 27, and whether the Committee will vote on the DOT nomination is unclear;
  • A recording of Mayor Buttigieg’s nomination hearing may be viewed at Commerce.senate.gov.

President Biden Nominates Deanne Criswell to lead FEMA

  • President Biden announced his intention to nominate Deanne Criswell, currently the City of New York Emergency Management Commissioner, to serve as the next FEMA Administrator;
  • Ms. Criswell previously worked for FEMA from 2011-2017, and her responsibilities included working as the team lead for the National Incident Management Team and as Federal Coordinating Officer;
  • In the interim, FEMA will be led by Robert Fenton, the FEMA Region IX Regional Administrator;
  • The FEMA Administrator nominee will require Senate confirmation before serving – hearing dates have not yet been announced.

EPA Announces Advancement of PFAS Action Plan

  • January 19, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new actions on the Agency’s PFAS Action Plan;
  • EPA announced the following actions related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS):
    • Initiating a process to develop a national primary drinking water regulation for PFAS. The process will include further analyses, scientific review, and opportunity for public comment. This step follows APWA’s recommendation that EPA follow the regulatory determination process laid out in the Safe Drinking Water Act;
    • The issuing of an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to attain public comment and data to inform the Agency’s ongoing evaluation of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). This information will also help the Agency consider whether additional regulatory steps to address PFAS contamination in the environment are necessary;
    • A proposal to collect new PFAS data under the fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5). The new data will be used to better understand occurrence and prevalence of 29 PFAS in the nation’s drinking water. The UCMR 5 proposal includes monitoring for six PFAS that were included in UCMR 3 using new analytical methods that support lower reporting levels. EPA also proposes that an additional 23 PFAS be monitored using methods developed by EPA;
    • The Agency announced an ANPRM to collect data and information regarding manufacturers of PFAS and the presence and treatment of PFAS in discharges from these facilities. EPA is also requesting information regarding PFAS formulators – facilities that produce a variety of PFAS products and materials from PFAS feedstocks. 
  • Congress has also announced its intention to take action on PFAS, as Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI) has said she will revive her “PFAS Action Act” legislation, which passed the House in early 2020, but stalled in the Senate.
  • Additional action may also be included in the defense spending and authorization measures, which have been used as vehicles for PFAS legislation in recent years;
  • For more information on PFAS and EPA’s actions, please contact APWA Government Affairs Manager Sean Garcia, or visit EPA’s website.

Biden EPA Asks Justice to Cease Defense of Trump-era Rules

  • January 21, the top lawyer at President Biden’s EPA, EPA Acting General Counsel Melissa Hoffer, instructed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to pause litigation involving any EPA rule issued under former President Trump;
  • The letter accompanies an Executive Order signed by President Biden that directs all agencies to review Trump’s environmental rules and freeze pending regulations;
  • Customary in new administrations, such a freeze and review allow for new agency personnel to begin implementing the incoming President’s agenda;
  • The Executive Order covers all EPA regulations promulgated between January 20, 2017, and January 20, 2021;
  • This period will include several issues APWA has commented on, including:

FEMA Releases Emergency Operations Center Toolkit

  • Last week, FEMA released an Emergency Operations Center Toolkit (EOCT), including customizable tools, templates and guides designed to assist emergency management;
  • This toolkit incorporates documents covering topics including hazard vulnerability assessments, physical site selection, mitigation considerations, capabilities and requirements, and information management systems, as well as training and exercises.

CISA Announces Ransomware Campaign

  • Last week, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) announced their  “Reduce the Risk of Ransomware” campaign;
  • The campaign was designed to encourage public and private sector organizations to utilize best practices and resources to enhance their efforts to mitigate damage from cybersecurity breaches;
  • Ransomware is known as a form of malicious software, or malware, and is used to deny access to a computer system or data until a ransom is surrendered.