APWA Washington Report
March 15, 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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President Biden Signs the American Rescue Plan into Law

  • Following passage by both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives last week, President Biden signed Public Law (PL) 117-2, the American Rescue Plan Act, into law;
  • As a result, approximately $1.9 trillion dollars in relief and aid will be available to help combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – this includes $350 billion targeted to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments to assist with increased expenses and decreased revenues which will be disbursed as follows:
    • $195.3 billion for states and Washington, D.C; $130.2 billion for local governments, $20 billion for federally recognized tribal governments, and $4.5 billion for territories;
    • Funding for local governments includes $65.1 billion for counties, $45.6 billion for metropolitan cities, and $19.5 billion for towns with fewer than 50,000 people;
    • Additional funds will be allocated based on each state’s share of unemployed people;
    • A second tranche of funds is to be distributed to localities 12 months after the initial allocation;
    • The Treasury Department could also withhold up to half of a state or territory’s allocation for as long as 12 months based on its unemployment rate and require an updated certification of funding needs;
    • These funds are to be used to cover costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic such as budgetary shortfalls caused by decreased revenue during the pandemic and investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.
  • Additional funding included in the law:
    • $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 can cover operating expenses including payroll costs and purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE);
    • Approximately $10 billion toward enhancing cybersecurity and technology infrastructure.

Infrastructure Update

  • With the ‘American Rescue Plan’ now law as of March 11, Congressional leaders and members of the Biden Administration are speaking about infrastructure being next on the legislative agenda;
  • President Biden has not yet released his fiscal year 2022 budget proposal, which would typically include an administration’s parameters for major legislation such as a surface transportation bill, and an infrastructure package;
  • The President is expected to release a ‘skinny’ budget proposal in April;
  • What the size and scope of an infrastructure package may include remains to be seen, though the Chairs and Ranking Members of the two lead committees in Congress with jurisdiction over most infrastructure, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) and the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, are saying their infrastructure and/or surface transportation bills will be their priorities this spring;
  • It is not yet clear whether a surface transportation bill, as the current law expires on September 30, 2021, will be a vehicle for a broader infrastructure bill, or whether it will be considered separately and focus, as has been traditionally the case, only on roads, bridges, and transit;
  • Certainly, there are mixed messages coming from Capitol Hill about the size, scope, and ways to pay for infrastructure, as well as how bipartisan these packages may be;
  • Last week, Ranking Member for House T&I, Sam Graves (R-MO) pitched that the U.S. Postal Service would be a great test fleet for a vehicle-miles traveled program;
  • Further, there are rumors that the Biden Administration is looking at tax increases as a way to pay for the infrastructure package;
  • Members of Congress have already begun to introduce infrastructure legislation – last week, Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee introduced the Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s America (LIFT America) Act;
  • The legislation authorizes more than $312 billion in spending for projects related to clean energy, energy efficiency, drinking water, broadband, and health care infrastructure;
  • The bill includes the following provisions:
    • Reauthorizes the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program through 2026 at substantial funding increases;
    • $80 billion to deploy high-speed broadband internet across the country;
    • $25 billion in grants through 2026 to authorize the Next Generation 9-1-1 Implementation Coordination Office;
    • $2.7 billion through 2026 for Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields redevelopment grants.
  • It is likely that this bill will pass in the House, but unlikely to see action in the Senate;
  • A section-by-section summary and the text of the bill is on the Committee website.
  • Separately, Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL) introduced the One Federal Decision Act to expedite infrastructure projects by codifying the existing One Federal Decision regulations that were put into place under the Trump Administration;
  • That regulation, along with many others implemented in the previous administration, are being reviewed by the Biden White House;
  • Among other things, the legislation will:
    • Set a goal of limiting the time required for environmental reviews and authorizations for major infrastructure projects at two years;
    • Require federal agencies to develop a single permitting timetable for environmental review and authorization decisions;
    • Require all federal authorizations and project reviews to rely on a single environmental document;
    • Require agencies to make all decisions on authorizations, including permits, for a major project within 90 days of the issuance of a record of decision;
    • Establish a process for agencies to adopt applicable categorical exclusions to the National Environmental Policy Act process established by the Federal Highway Administration.
  • The text of the legislation is available here;
  • APWA’s public policy priorities for Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Water Infrastructure are available here, along with all of APWA’s Public Policy Priorities, and related documents;
  • APWA’s Government Affairs team is focused on ensuring the ‘voice of public works’ is heard by Congress and the Executive Branch as all infrastructure related legislation is moved in Congress.

APWA to Hold Third Thursday Advocacy Jam

  • March 18 at 3:30pm ET, APWA’s U.S. and Canadian Government Affairs team will host the monthly Third Thursday Advocacy Jam as part of PWX@Home;
  • This virtual event will include an update and open discussion on a range of public policy topics impacting public works, including government funding levels, the current state of recycling, and more;
  • To participate, please register here or contact Michael Altman at maltman@apwa.net to receive the virtual meeting link.

Regan Confirmed as EPA Administrator

  • Last week, Michael S. Regan was confirmed by the Senate to serve as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA);
  • Regan received bipartisan support in a 66-34 vote;
  • He also received bipartisan support during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, where he was approved by a 14-6 vote;
  • During his confirmation hearing, Regan was asked a number of questions regarding issues of interest to APWA members;
  • Regan told the Committee that he intends to make environmental justice a focus of the Agency;
  • He plans to bring a special advisor on board his staff to cover the issue;
  • Regan was asked about the Navigable Waters Protection Rule during the hearing, and he promised to hear from all parties;
  • Regan did say that the 2019 rule was “a rollback that went even further back than presidents of both our parties”;
  • Regan stated that his goal would be a regulation that is clear and understandable, and not overly burdensome;
  • Regan also stated he would make remediation of Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) a priority for the Agency.

EPA Delays Implementation of Lead and Copper Rule Revisions

  • Last week, the EPA announced it is extending the effective date of the Revised Lead and Copper Rule (LCR);
  • The Agency stated it was taking this action to seek further public input, particularly from communities most at-risk from exposure to lead in drinking water;
  • The revised rule was scheduled to take effect this week;
  • The new rule will now take effect June 17, 2021;
  • EPA is also proposing extending the effective date until December 16, 2021, with an extended compliance date of September 16, 2024;
  • APWA submitted comments on the revisions in February of 2020;
  • In the comments, APWA urged both EPA and Congress to provide substantial funding increases to programs used for lead service line replacement;
  • Current funding levels are insufficient to meet the need of a nationwide lead service line replacement program, the costs of which could balloon to as much as $123 billion;
  • More information about the delays and how to submit input is available on the EPA website.

FHWA Hosting Webinars on MUTCD –Comments Due May 14, 2021

  • The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will be hosting webinars on March 18, March 25, and April 1, related to the pending update of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) for Streets & Highways;
  • This will be the first update in 10-years, and the Agency is seeking input and taking comments until May 14, 2021 on its released proposed changes;
  • Participation in the webinars is limited, but FHWA will be recording the sessions and releasing the recordings shortly after each session;
  • Additional information about the webinars may be found here and the full Notice of Proposed Amendments may be found here.

FEMA Extends Comment Period on Determining Disaster Declarations – Comments Due April 12, 2021

  • FEMA recently announced it will be extending the deadline to submit comments designed to help the federal government determine disaster declarations;
  • The new deadline to submit comments will be April 12, 2021;
  • Currently, the U.S. President may authorize FEMA assistance following a disaster if the incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capacity of state, tribal or territorial governments;
  • In order to comply with sections 1232 and 1239 of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA) of 2018, FEMA is proposing revisions to the estimated cost of the assistance disaster declaration factor used in evaluating a governor’s request for a major disaster under the Public Assistance program;
  • The proposed revisions are part of an effort to assess states’ disaster response capabilities more precisely and comply with the DRRA requirement for FEMA to review and update its disaster declaration factors;
  • Since 1986, FEMA has evaluated the estimated cost of federal and non-federal public assistance against the statewide population using a per capita dollar amount indicator;
  • FEMA will host a virtual meeting on March 22, from 4:00 to 6:00 pm ET.

FEMA Announces Updates on Flood Insurance Manual

  • Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released an updated Flood Insurance Manual;
  • The updated edition seeks to streamline guidelines and replaces physical mailing addresses with email addresses;
  • This version does not change flood insurance coverage or supersede the terms and conditions of the standard flood insurance policy;
  • This updated manual takes effect on April 1, 2021.

FEMA Launches 2021 Ready Campaign

  • FEMA recently kicked off its 2021 “Ready Campaign” which provides tools and recommendations to prepare for disasters and emergencies;
  • The 2021 campaign titled “It’s Not Luck”, provides a social media toolkit with safety and preparedness messages to be shared on social media channels;
  • These messages may be copied or tailored specifically to reach your target audience;
  • Additional details on the Ready Campaign can be found here.