On Wednesday, the New Jersey League of Municipalities delivered letters to Senators Menendez and Booker and all Members of New Jersey’s delegation in the House of Representatives. We thanked them for the steps they have already taken to address many of the issues that confront our municipalities, our State, and our Nation. We also asked them “to bolster efforts at the local level with funding certainty and the stability of unified, non-partisan leadership.”
Specifically, we asked them to bolster block grants to local governments, including Community Development Block Grants, Social Services Block Grants, and Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants.
We also asked consideration for other proposals that would help local governments protect the economy and our residents including:
- Temporarily suspend all federal “shot clocks” that establish time frames within which local governments must complete reviews to, among other things, allow local resources to be reassigned according to emergency needs without fear of penalty:
- Increasing Funding for CDBG and suspend the 15% public services cap, as suspending the 15% cap on CDBG public services would allow flexibility in the use of the funds to assist in the COVID-19 pandemic, including social services (i.e., health services, food pantries, senior meals programs) and short-term rental assistance; and
- Directing the Federal Communications Commission to assist local governments in areas such as deploying emergency rapid-response funding to schools and libraries to distribute wireless hotspots for residents without in-home broadband; increasing availability of Lifeline service, and providing telehealth services.
As you may recall, late last month, the Administration asked Congress to appropriate $2.5 billion to respond to COVID-19. Congress responded by providing $8.3 billion to the Executive Branch. The ‘Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act’ (H.R. 6074) was enacted on March 6.
This bill provided emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. Within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the bill provides FY2020 supplemental appropriations for: the Food and Drug Administration; the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention; the National Institutes of Health; and the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund. In addition, the bill provided supplemental appropriations for: the Small Business Administration; the Department of State; and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The supplemental appropriations were designated as emergency spending, which is exempt from discretionary spending limits.
The programs funded by the bill address issues such as: developing, manufacturing, and procuring vaccines and other medical supplies; grants for state, local, and tribal public health agencies and organizations; loans for affected small businesses; evacuations and emergency preparedness activities at U.S. embassies and other State Department facilities; and humanitarian assistance and support for health systems in the affected countries. The bill also allowed HHS to temporarily waive certain Medicare restrictions and requirements regarding telehealth services during the coronavirus public health emergency.
This week, the Senate passed and the President signed into law the ‘Families First Coronavirus Response Act’ (H.R. 6201). This bill responds to the coronavirus outbreak by providing paid sick leave and free coronavirus testing, expanding food assistance and unemployment benefits, and requiring employers to provide additional protections for health care workers.
Specifically, the bill provides FY2020 supplemental appropriations to the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for nutrition and food assistance programs, including:
- the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC);
- the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP); and
- nutrition assistance grants for U.S. territories.
The bill also provides FY2020 appropriations to the Department of Health and Human Services for nutrition programs that assist the elderly. The supplemental appropriations provided by the bill are designated as emergency spending, which is exempt from discretionary spending limits.
The bill modifies USDA food assistance and nutrition programs to:
- allow certain waivers to requirements for the school meal programs;
- suspend the work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program); and
- allow states to request waivers to provide certain emergency SNAP benefits.
In addition, the bill requires the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue an emergency temporary standard that requires certain employers to develop and implement a comprehensive infectious disease exposure control plan to protect health care workers.
The bill also includes provisions that:
- establish a federal emergency paid leave benefits program to provide payments to employees taking unpaid leave due to the coronavirus outbreak:
- expand unemployment benefits and provide grants to states for processing and paying claims:
- require certain employers to provide paid sick leave to employees;
- establish requirements for providing coronavirus diagnostic testing at no cost to consumers;
- treat personal respiratory protective devices as covered countermeasures that are eligible for certain liability protections; and
- temporarily increase the Medicaid federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP).
Discussions are now underway for a third response bill, which will be meant to address the economic impact on individuals, businesses, and sectors of the economy suffering the greatest losses.
Contact: Jon Moran, Senior Analyst, Jmoran@njlm.org, 609-695-3481 x121.