APWA Washington Report
March 1, 2021

Visit APWA’s refreshed News & Media page to view current APWA news, Advocacy News items, press releases and more! Be sure to also follow @APWAGOVAFFAIRS on Twitter to stay apprised of Government Affairs information.
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U.S. House Passes $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Stimulus Package

  • On Saturday morning, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1319, “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021;”
  • The approximately $1.9 trillion package is intended to provide aid and relief to those impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and is now headed to the U.S. Senate, which will likely consider the bill this week;
  • However, the bill as adopted by the House is unlikely to pass the Senate as-is due to a provision in the House-passed bill that would increase the minimum wage level to $15 per hour;
  • This is because the package is being considered under a legislative process known as ‘budget reconciliation,' which allows legislation to pass with a simple majority in the Senate rather than the sixty-vote threshold usually needed to overcome a filibuster;
  • Legislation passed under reconciliation must comply with certain budgetary rules, and the Senate Parliamentarian ruled the minimum wage increase does not comply;
  • As part of the reconciliation process, Congress passed S. Con. Res. 5, a concurrent resolution setting forth the Congressional Budget for the United States Government for fiscal year (FY) 2021 and setting forth budgetary levels for FY 2022 through FY 2030;
  • The resolution includes:
    • Outlays of $6.14 trillion in FY 2021 and revenue of $2.3 trillion, for a net deficit of $3.84 trillion;
    • A cap on advance appropriations, allowing the Chairs for the House and Senate Committees on the Budget to adjust budget allocations to reflect updated baselines or changes in budget concepts;
  • If enacted, the “American Rescue Plan” would include:
    • $350 billion targeted for state, local, tribal, and territorial governments to assist with increased expenses and decreased revenues;
    • $817 billion for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP);
    • $15 billion for additional funds for the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program;
    • $390 million to administer the SBA’s disaster loan program;
    • $50 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) to fully reimburse states, localities, and tribes for critical emergency response resources;
    • $30 billion towards grants to transit agencies, which could cover operating expenses, including payroll costs, and purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE);
    • Approximately $10 billion toward enhancing cybersecurity and technology infrastructure.
  • In order to move forward, the Senate must now amend the bill before voting on the legislation – if the Senate passes an amended bill, it will return to the House for consideration.

APWA Releases First Policymaker Primers on Workforce Development and Public Right of Way

  • Today, APWA is launching its new Policymaker Primer series of public policy focused documents, beginning with products in the areas of Public Right of Way and Broadband Deployment and Workforce Development;
  • Policymaker Primers are intended to supplement APWA’s official Public Policy Priorities, providing policymakers in Congress, the White House, and federal agencies additional information and context for issues that do not strictly fall into the categories of transportation, water resiliency, or emergency management;
  • Public Right of Way & Broadband Deployment provides policymakers context on the responsibility of public works for managing the Public Right of Way (ROW) and the impact regulations aimed at streamlining 5G/broadband deployment can have on the ROW;
  • Workforce Development highlights federal programs that can help support a sustainable pipeline of skilled public works professionals and potential improvements to better align with public works career pathways;
  • Both documents will be rolled out to key policymakers with jurisdiction over these issues, and are available for use in your own advocacy as members of APWA;
  • The current Policymaker Primers, as well as any future primers that are developed on other issues as they arise, may be found here.

APWA Supports Clean Water Legislation

  • February 22, the American Public Works Association (APWA) issued a letter of support for the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2021, which would provide federal funding for essential clean water programs;
  • The bill was introduced by House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Subcommittee on Water Resources & Environment Chairwoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA);
  • The legislation would reauthorize the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program at $8 billion per year through FY 2026 – a significant increase over current funding levels;
  • The bill would also reauthorize the Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grants program at $400 million per year through FY 2026, which is also a substantial funding increase;
  • Additionally, the legislation includes the following:
    • $1 billion in Clean Water Act grants to implement treatment methods for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and other emerging contaminants;
    • $1 billion in grants for alternative water source projects such as wastewater or stormwater reuse;
    • $1 billion for Clean Water pilot programs for watershed-based efforts to deal with major wet weather, stormwater, and climate resiliency issues.
  • APWA is proud to support legislation that accomplishes our water resiliency public policy priorities and will continue to work with the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure and relevant Senate committees to ensure that this legislation becomes law;
  • To learn more about this legislation or for more information about APWA's water policy priorities, please contact APWA Government Affairs Manager Sean Garcia at Sgarcia@apwa.net.

Transportation Infrastructure Update

  • Last week, both the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works (EPW) and the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit held hearings;
  • Though the subjects of the hearings were slightly different, both had elements focused on equity, safety, climate, and infrastructure investment to align with President Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ vision he promoted during his Presidential campaign;
  • Also last week, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) hosted its virtual Washington Briefing, bringing together Congressional and Executive Branch officials to share their thoughts on the next surface transportation reauthorization, climate, and broad infrastructure investment;
  • U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke to the importance of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) as a mechanism to make the Highway Trust Fund solvent, though he cited privacy concerns not yet being resolved in a VMT system;
  • Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works Chair Tom Carper (D-DE), House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and the respective Ranking Members Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Sam Graves (R-MO) also shared their perspectives on transportation during the AASHTO briefing and spoke to the need for a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill that will be ‘transformative,’ bipartisan, make the HTF solvent and create jobs;
  • APWA’s priorities for the next surface transportation reauthorization bill include similar calls to action, including support for a VMT funding mechanism, a 6-year bill, and the need to invest in transportation to grow jobs;
  • APWA is consistently engaging with Congressional leaders and partner organizations to get the next bill enacted into law before the current one expires September 30, 2021.

Advance Refunding Legislation Introduced in Senate

  • February 25, a bipartisan group of Senators, led by co-sponsors Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), introduced the Lifting Our Communities through Advance Liquidity (LOCAL) Infrastructure Act;
  • The bill would amend the federal tax code to restore state and local governments’ ability to use advance refunding on infrastructure bonds;
  • Advance refunding allows state and local governments to refinance outstanding municipal bonds to more favorable rates before the end of the initial bond term;
  • The federal tax-exempt debt can be refinanced once, but communities can take advantage of the lower interest rates to generate additional savings on existing bonds;
  • Local governments can reinvest these savings to fund additional infrastructure investment;
  • Advance refunding has saved state and local governments billions of dollars over decades, but has been unavailable to state and local governments since 2017;
  • APWA, along with a broad range of interest groups have issued support for the bill.

Senate to Vote on U.S. Department of Education Nominee

  • Last week, the Senate voted 66-32 to invoke cloture on the nomination of former Connecticut Education Commissioner Dr. Miguel Cardona for Secretary of Education, ending debate and setting up a final confirmation vote for today, March 1;
  • As head of the Department of Education (DOE), Dr. Cardona will oversee a wide range of federal programs impacting education and career pathways, including Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses that provide students with skills needed for a range of public works careers;
  • In his confirmation hearing, Dr. Cardona expressed his support for CTE and providing students with alternative pathways to traditional four-year degrees;
  • The full Senate is currently scheduled to vote on the nomination at 5:30 p.m. ET, and it appears almost certain that Dr. Cardona will be confirmed.

Jennifer Granholm Sworn-in as Department of Energy Secretary

  • Last week, following her confirmation by the Senate, Jennifer Granholm was sworn-in as the Secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE);
  • Secretary Granholm previously served as a two-term Governor for the state of Michigan, and more recently she worked as an adjunct professor of law and public policy at the University of California Berkeley;
  • APWA has a working relationship with the Cybersecurity Energy Security and Emergency Response (CESER), an agency within the DOE;
  • CESER was established in 2018 to enhance the security of U.S. critical energy infrastructure to all hazards, mitigate the impacts of disruptive events and risk to the sector overall through preparedness and innovation, and respond to and facilitate recovery from energy disruptions in collaboration with other federal agencies, the private sector, and State, local, tribal, and territorial governments.

President Biden Nominates Deanne Criswell to Lead FEMA

  • Last week, President Biden officially nominated Deanne Criswell to be the next Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator;
  • Ms. Criswell currently serves as the Comissioner of the New York City Emergency Management department;
  • A timeline for Senate hearings has yet to be announced.

CISA Releases COVID-19 Vaccine Physical Security Action Guide

  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure and Security Agency (CISA) released the COVID-19 Vaccine Points of Distribution Physical Security Action Guide;
  • The guide is designed to assist managers and organizers of publicly accessible satellite clinics – also known as points of distribution (POD) – in their efforts to bolster physical security measures and to ensure safe and smooth operations;
  • The guide includes recommendations on how to address multiple possible physical attack vectors, such as active shooter, vehicular assault, theft, improvised-explosive device, insider threat, and small unmanned aircraft.

DHS Announces Funding Opportunity for $1.87 Billion in Preparedness Grants

  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced $1.87 billion available in preparedness grants for state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, transportation authorities, nonprofits, and the private sector;
  • The grants will invest in improving the nation’s readiness in preventing, protecting against, responding to, recovering from, and mitigating terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies.

Stormwater Sector Facing Funding Gap

  • The Water Environment Federation (WEF) estimates the U.S. stormwater sector faces an estimated $8.5 billion annual funding gap according to a new survey based on data collected from more than 800 systems in 47 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico;
  • Municipal governments annually spend an estimated $18 – $24 billion on stormwater infrastructure and programs;
  • The 2020 annual funding gap of $8.5 billion is a 10 percent increase over the funding gap identified in WEF’s 2018 survey;
  • In addition to the funding gap, stormwater systems cited aging infrastructure and increasing regulations as challenges, as well as needing assistance with technical resources for financing, asset management, and watershed-based planning;
  • APWA’ water resiliency public policy priorities call for increased federal funding for programs that help communities build and upgrade stormwater infrastructure.

FEMA Renews Three-Year Reinsurance Agreement

  • February 23, FEMA announced it will again be entering into a three-year reinsurance agreement;
  • This latest agreement provides FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) with an additional level of protection to cover insurance costs, and shifts a portion of the NFIP’s flood-risk exposure from catastrophic flood events in exchange for premium payments to private companies;
  • Should such an event occur, the reinsurance companies cover a portion of the NFIP’s losses, reducing FEMA’s need to borrow from the U.S. Treasury to pay claims.

NEMA Releases Emergency and Disasters Recommendations Paper

  • The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) released an informational paper, “Considerations for State Legislation Addressing Emergency and Disaster Authorities;”
  • The paper is designed to provide the emergency management community’s perspective to elected officials to consider potential unintended consequences that may impede disaster response and recovery during future such events;
  • APWA serves as an active partner with NEMA and provides frontline experiences as first-responders during disasters and emergencies.