APWA Washington Report
February 1, 2021


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LATEST NEWS

Update on Potential COVID-19 Stimulus

  • Last week, President Biden proposed, “The American Rescue Plan,” a $1.9 trillion proposal to stimulate the economy and provide relief from the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • As proposed, the President’s plan calls for:
    • $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.
  • Yesterday, 10 Republican Senators sent a letter to President Biden proposing an alternative stimulus COVID-19 framework, and are scheduled to meet with the President late this afternoon;
  • The alternative proposal is estimated to cost up to $600 billion and reportedly includes funding for additional individual stimulus checks up to $1000 for qualified individuals, as well as additional funding for the unemployed, and to support vaccine distribution and testing.
  • Today, APWA sent a letter to Congressional Leadership, copying the president, urging the inclusion of at least $350 billion in aid to state and local governments in the next COVID-19 relief and recovery package.

APWA Joins 24 State & Local Organizations in Support for Tax-exempt Bonds

  • On January 28, the Public Finance Network (PFN) coalition, of which APWA is a member, sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to congratulate her on her confirmation;
  • Within the letter, the group took an opportunity to share the importance of tax-exempt bonds for state and local infrastructure financing;
  • In addition to calling on the Secretary to continue support for tax-exempt bonds, the letter calls for the restoration of advance refunding bonds, which prior to January 1, 2018, allowed for state and local governments to refinance debt on more favorable terms;
  • APWA strongly supports expanding access to, and adequately funding innovative financing tools, including tax-free municipal bonds, restoring advance refunding bonds, lifting the cap on Private Activity Bonds, loan guarantees, public private partnerships, and more;
  • APWA’s Public Policy Priorities for the 117th Congress may be found here.

Senate to Vote on DOT Nomination

  • On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on the nomination of former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is President Biden’s nominee to become the next Secretary for the U.S. Department of Transportation;
  • Last week, the Senate Commerce Committee approved the nomination by a vote of 21 to 3;
  • The nomination vote is expected to also easily be passed by the Senate;
  • A recording of Nominee Buttigieg’s nomination hearing held on January 21, may be viewed at Commerce.senate.gov.

Senate to Vote on DHS Secretary Nomination

  • On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to serve as the next Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary;
  • Mr. Mayorkas’s nomination was advanced out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last week, and is expected to be confirmed by a majority of the Senate.

EPA Nominee to Face Senate Committee this Week

  • President Biden’s nominee for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be in a confirmation hearing this week;
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee announced that Michael Regan will appear before the Committee on February 3 at 2 PM ET;
  • Regan is currently Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality;
  • In his first days in office, President Biden has signed a series of executive orders geared towards environmental issues;
  • Regan has said that he intends to make environmental justice a priority for the Agency.

U.S. Congressional PFAS Task Force Reestablished

  • January 29, a bipartisan group of House of Representatives’ members held a press conference to reestablish the Congressional PFAS Task Force;
  • The group is led by Representative Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA);
  • The group is dedicated to pushing for solutions in dealing with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS);
  • The task force recently sent a letter to the Biden Administration, signed by 132 members of the House;
  • The letter asks the administration to designate PFAS as hazardous substances under Superfund law;
  • The Task Force itself has more than 50 members;
  • Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI), a member of the group, stated she would be reintroducing the “PFAS Action Act” that passed the House last year;
  • The Biden Administration has signaled it will make PFAS contamination a priority;
  • A concern addressed by the group during the press conference is who will ultimately pay for the cost of cleanups – public works departments have expressed concern over being stuck with increased cleanup costs, as they are merely “recipients” of PFAS;
  • Members of the Task Force stated that they feel that PFAS manufacturers should bear the costs of cleanup;
  • Earlier this month, the EPA issued new actions on the Agency’s PFAS Action Plan;
  • For more information on PFAS and EPA’s actions, please contact APWA Government Affairs Manager Sean Garcia at sgarcia@apwa.net.

Senate Republicans Urge President Biden to Keep Navigable Waters Rule

  • 26 Republican Senators sponsored a resolution urging President Biden to keep the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule;
  • The Rule is currently the target of ongoing legal and legislative fights at the state level, but is currently being implemented in 49 states;
  • The new Rule replaced the Obama Administration’s “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule;
  • The Biden Administration is currently reviewing the Rule and is expected to withdraw, and replace it;
  • The Senate letter effort was led by Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), who has also indicated she will reintroduce the Define WOTUS Act, a bill to set a statutory definition of “waters of the United States”;
  • The new Rule eliminates Clean Water Act (CWA) protections for the majority of the nation’s wetlands;
  • It also removes protections for the nearly 18% of streams that only flow in response to rainfall or snow melt;
  • The final Rule would also eliminate protections for ephemeral streams but keeps them for those with intermittent or constant flows;
    • APWA previously submitted comments to EPA on the proposed Rule showing appreciation for the clarity the revised definition provides in terms of ditches and municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4’s);
    • However, APWA expressed serious concerns regarding the revised definition and assumptions made in the proposed Rule, which are still valid with the final Rule;
    • In three key areas, the new proposed Rule could do serious harm to public works professionals and programs:
      • Continued permitting uncertainty;
      • Assumptions regarding cooperative federalism; and
      • Additional costs for water providers and water customers.
  • For more information, please contact please contact APWA Government Affairs Manager Sean Garcia at sgarcia@apwa.net.

FEMA Announces Extension of Emergency Non-Congregate Sheltering Assistance

  • January 29, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced it will be extending the Emergency Non-Congregate Sheltering Assistance;
  • Following the COVID-19 emergency declaration and subsequent major disaster declarations for COVID-19, FEMA established this policy allowing state, local, tribal, and territorial governments to apply for reimbursement of costs associated with non-congregate sheltering of disaster survivors under the FEMA Public Assistance program;
  • Under this revision, the policy will be extended beyond the original December 31, 2020, deadline to June 30, 2021.

FEMA Releases Soil-Structure Interaction Guide

  • FEMA recently released the Soil-Structure Interaction Guide (SSIG);
  • The SSIG was created to assist engineers in efforts to design more disaster resistant structures.

FEMA Publishes Revised NFIP Guidance Bulletins

  • FEMA published revised National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) Technical Bulletins (TB);
  • These bulletins offer guidance on compliance with the NFIP minimum floodplain management requirements for building performance and the process of “Dry Floodproofing”;
  • Dry floodproofing incorporates steps that make a structure watertight below the level that needs flood protection to prevent floodwaters from entering - this process is used frequently to protect non-residential structures, water supplies, and sewage systems.

EPA Hosts Webinar on WIFIA Eligibility

  • February 23, the EPA will be hosting a webinar on eligibility for the Water Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act (WIFIA) program;
  • The webinar is the next in a series on the WIFIA program;
  • The webinar will teach participants about different project type eligibilities and help them learn if their project is a good fit for WIFIA financing;
  • More information on WIFIA is available at the EPA website.

ON THE HORIZON