Update From Washington, D.C.
House Committees Act on Budget Reconciliation Legislation
February 11, 2021
Oversight & Reform Committee Bill Includes Direct Federal Fiscal Aid for Counties
House Democratic committee leaders took the next steps in the fiscal year 2021 budget reconciliation process this week as they began to unveil legislative text that reflects key components of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief proposal. Pursuant to the recently adopted FY21 budget resolution (S Con Res 5), 12 House committees are charged with drafting and approving provisions of the president’s American Rescue Plan. The relevant House panels are on pace to approve all portions of the stimulus plan by the end of the week, setting the stage for a vote by the full chamber as early as Friday, February 19.
In a victory for California’s counties, the House Oversight and Reform (O&R) Committee’s reconciliation package includes a new COVID-19 local recovery fund that would provide federal financial support to counties of every size.
Under the bill, $130.2 billion in funding would be available to counties and cities, with $65.1 billion allocated to counties based on population and $65.1 billion allocated to cities using a modified CDBG formula. Of the funding set aside for municipalities, $45.57 billion would be reserved for those with a population above 50,000 and $19.53 billion would be available for those with a population below 50,000.
In addition to the local government recovery fund, the legislation would create a $219.8 billion state fund. Pursuant to the bill, $193.5 billion would be allocated to states and the District of Columbia; $20 billion would go to tribal governments; and, $4.5 billion would be for territories.
It should be noted the U.S. Department of the Treasury would be required to award recovery funds directly to states and localities within 60 days of the bill’s enactment. Funds would be available to jurisdictions until expended and could be used to respond to or mitigate the public health emergency; cover costs incurred as a result of the pandemic; replace revenue that was lost, delayed, or decreased due to the emergency; and, address the negative economic impacts of COVID-19.
Looking ahead, the House could begin voting on a combined reconciliation package as early as next Friday (though votes are expected to slip to the following week). In the Senate, it remains unclear if committees will mark up their respective portions of the reconciliation legislation or if a comprehensive bill will come directly to the floor.
To follow are other key provisions of the American Rescue Plan that various House committees have included in their respective budget reconciliation measures:
Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee
FEMA Disaster Relief Fund
The committee’s bill includes $50 billion to help replenish FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund. The dollars would be available to reimburse state and local governments for various COVID-19-related costs, including vaccination efforts, deployment of the National Guard, and personal protective equipment.
The legislation includes $30 billion to help assist with transit operating costs, including payroll and personal protective equipment.
The panel included $8 billion in federal assistance for airports.
Economic Development Administration
The proposal includes $3 billion in grant funding for the Economic Development Administration to address the pandemic’s impact on local economies. It should be noted that 15 percent of the appropriation would be dedicated to assisting communities that have suffered economic injury as a result of job losses in travel, tourism, or outdoor recreation activities.
Ways & Means (W&M) Committee
While the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA; PL 116-127) required employers to provide expanded paid sick leave and family/medical leave, public sector employers were not eligible to receive a refundable tax benefit provided under the Act. Incidentally, the tax credit was extended as part of the latest COVID-19 relief package, but the bill did not extend the corresponding employer mandate. The bill being considered this week by the W&M Committee would extend the paid sick and family leave credits through September 30, 2021 and would allow state and local governments to access the tax benefit.
The weekly unemployment insurance (UI) supplement, which expires in mid-March, would be extended through August 29, 2021. It would also increase the weekly benefit to $400, up from the current $300. In addition, the measure would expand benefits for self-employed and gig workers and extend the number of weeks that long-term jobless individuals can qualify for payments.
Economic Impact Payments
The legislation would provide individuals earning up to $75,000 with an economic impact payment of $1,400; joint filers earning up to $150,000 would receive a $2,800 payment. Payments are completely phase out at $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for joint filers. Payments of $1,400 would also be made for each dependent.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
The TANF/CalWORKs program would receive a $1 billion increase, reflecting an approximate six percent boost to the program. States such as California, which provide relatively higher cash grants, would be given a slightly higher share of the $1 billion relative to other states.
Child Tax Credit
The W&M Committee package would make the Child Tax Credit (CTC) fully refundable and would authorize $300 monthly payments for children under age six and $250 monthly payments for those six to seventeen years of age. The CTC would begin phasing out at $75,000 for single filers and $150,000 for those filing jointly.
Earned Income Tax Credit
The eligibility and amount of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) also would be expanded under the legislation. The eligibility age for claiming the “childless EITC” would be lowered from 25 to 19, except for full-time students, and the maximum credit amount would increase from $543 to $1,502.
Education and Labor Committee
Elder Justice/Adult Protective Services
Building off the recent $100 million federal appropriation for APS, the bill would guarantee an additional $100 million in FY 2022. California recently received nearly $9.5 million from the COVID-19 legislation enacted this past December.
Pandemic EBT Program
The EBT benefit for youth eligible for school meals would continue until the end of the public health emergency and would extend through the summer under the committee’s bill. The program has been on short-term extensions until this time.
Older Americans Act Nutrition
Title III nutrition programs would be increased by $740 million under the panel’s measure. The annual appropriation in FY 2021 was $951 million.
The legislation would provide nearly $15 billion for child care to be available for this year and the following two fiscal years. Essential workers would be eligible for assistance without regard to their income. Child care received $5.9 billion in FY 2021.
Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment
The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) would receive a $250 million increase with no state match required. The regular FY 2021 appropriation was nearly $270 million.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
LIHEAP would receive a $4.5 billion boost, with funding available through September 2021. Last year’s appropriation was $3.7 billion.
The committee approved a proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025, though it’s still unclear whether this provision would be eligible to advance through the reconciliation process.
Financial Services Committee
Housing and Homelessness Programs
The committee’s legislation would extend the moratoriums on evictions and foreclosure actions through September 30, 2021. An additional $25 billion would be available for emergency rental assistance on top of the $25 billion that Congress appropriated in December 2020. Five billion dollars would available to pay for home energy and water costs in arrears. The legislation also would allocate $5 billion to entities serving individuals at risk or currently experiencing homelessness.
Defense Production Act
The Financial Services Committee-approved bill includes $10 billion to use the Defense Production Act to produce vaccines, masks, and other COVID-19 equipment.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
The legislation would extend the 15 percent increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/CalFresh) for an additional three months (to September 30, 2021). Additionally, SNAP administrative reimbursement would receive another $1.1 billion over the next three years to partially account for the increased workload to process the COVID spike in SNAP applications. The SNAP state administration budget is roughly $4.9 billion annually.
Community Facility Program
The bill would provide $500 million in federal assistance for the Community Facility Program to help rural hospitals and communities gain access to COVID-19 vaccines and food assistance.
Commodity Supplemental Food Program
The committee has committed $37 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.
Energy & Commerce Committee
Medicaid for Jail Inmates
For the first time, otherwise Medicaid-eligible individuals who are in jail would be eligible for Medicaid-reimbursable services beginning 30 days prior to their release under the legislative package released by the Energy & Commerce Committee.
The panel approved $14 billion to speed up the distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines across the country. The funding will support the development of community vaccination centers, as well as mobile vaccination units that can go into hard-to-reach areas. The measure also includes $7.5 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to prepare, promote, administer, monitor, and track vaccines. Among other things, this funding can be used to support state and local public health departments.
The E&C proposal includes $46 billion for a national testing strategy, with funding for rapid tests, community-based testing sites, and expanding lab capacity.
Public Health Workforce
The legislation would provide $7 billion for a public health jobs program that would allow public health departments to hire new, full time public health workers.
The measure would establish a $7.6 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund, which would provide support to eligible schools and libraries to provide, among other things, eligible connected devices, internet service, and hotspots to students and teachers for internet use at home.
Small Business Committee
Paycheck Protection Program
The committee’s proposal would expand eligibility and increase funding for the Paycheck Protection Program.
Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program
The legislation would provide an additional $15 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which is designed to provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue due to COVID-19. Funds would be targeted to businesses with extreme revenue losses in low-income areas.
Restaurant Revitalization Fund
The draft measure would provide $25 billion for a new grant program that would provide assistance to restaurants and bars. Funding would be available for a wide variety of expenses, including payroll, mortgage, rent, utilities, supplies, food and beverage expenses, paid sick leave, and operational expenses