Update from Washington, D.C.
March 5, 2020
The House of Representatives approved Thursday the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (HR 6074). The measure, which garnered the support of all but two House members, subsequently passed by the Senate on a 96 to 1 vote. The legislation now heads to the White House, where President Trump has signaled he will sign the measure into law.
All told, the package would provide $8.3 billion in emergency spending, including $2.2 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support federal, state, and local public health agencies in efforts to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus. Under the bill, not less than $950 million would be set aside for state and local public health agencies for activities such as surveillance, laboratory testing, contact tracing, and infection control. Furthermore, the bill stipulates that $475 million of the aforementioned funding would need to be allocated to agencies within 30 days of the bill’s enactment.
HR 6074 also includes a general provision to reimburse state and local costs incurred between January 20 and the date of enactment for previous coronavirus preparedness and response activities. Additionally, a separate pot of funding could be used to construct, renovate, or alter facilities to improve preparedness and response capabilities.
Congressman Garamendi Introduces Disaster Preparedness Bill
This week, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) introduced the FEMA Disaster Preparedness Improvement Act. The legislation (HR 6071), which is strongly supported by CSAC, would make a number of important reforms to federal law in order to help states and local governments better prepare for and respond to wildfires, storms, earthquakes, and droughts.
Among other things, HR 6071 would increase the federal cost share for FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) and the Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) program. Specifically, the bill would increase the federal cost share for HMGP and EMPG grants to 85 percent, up from 75 percent and 50 percent, respectively. The legislation also would provide extra flexibility for local governments to complete environmental reviews for FEMA-funded hazard mitigation projects.
A copy of Congressman Garamendi’s press release announcing introduction of the FEMA Disaster Preparedness Improvement Act can be found here.
Senate Takes Up Energy Policy Measure
In addition to the coronavirus spending legislation, the Senate this week began consideration of a broad energy policy bill (S 2657). The bipartisan measure, sponsored by Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Joe Manchin (D-WV), includes provisions from dozens of bills that were previously approved by the committee.
Among other things, S 2657 aims to boost renewable energy, energy efficiency, carbon capture, and other green energy initiatives. It should be noted that there were efforts to attach a number of energy tax policy changes to the package, but those amendments were not considered.
At press time, prospects for the energy bill remained uncertain after Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) threatened to object to every amendment until the chamber votes on his proposal to reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
House Committee Adopts Affordable Housing Bill
Last week, the House Financial Services Committee approved the Housing is Infrastructure Act (HR 5187). Introduced by committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), the bill would authorize more than $100 billion in federal spending over five years to support affordable housing infrastructure, including public housing, supportive housing for seniors and people with disabilities, and rural and Native American housing.
The legislation also would expand the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program by $10 billion over five years by creating a set-aside to incentivize state and local governments to streamline the process for the development of new affordable housing.
HR 5187 was adopted by the committee on a strict party-line vote. For their part, panel Republicans have expressed concerns with the cost of the legislation, arguing that the massive level of investment called for under the bill would not increase housing availability or reduce the number of Americans who are homeless.
Across Capitol Hill, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) has introduced a companion bill (S 2951) to Chairwoman Waters’ legislation.