Prospects for an agreement on a massive infrastructure stimulus package improved yesterday as 21 senators, including 11 Republicans, expressed support for a bipartisan package with $579 billion in new spending. The package, developed in part in response to the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, was put together by a smaller group of 10 senators, led by Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Rob Portman (R-OH). The two-page summary of the proposal states that it will “rebuild America’s roads and bridges, improve public transit systems, invest in broadband infrastructure, and upgrade our airports.” It will be paid for, in part, by “unspent COVID relief funds, public-private partnerships, and infrastructure revolving funds,” among other mechanisms. The plan would also “expand eligible uses of COVID State/Local Funds,” which the proposal lists as one of the 11 proposed financing sources for the new spending.
The proposal still needs support from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other Senate Democrats and Independents, as well as President Biden. However, having at least 10 Republicans would get the bill past the 60-vote threshold for regular-order legislation provided all Senate Democrats and Independents support the legislation.
Many details still need to be worked out for the deal to advance. For example, the current deal includes funding mechanisms, including indexing the national gasoline tax to inflation, that the White House has opposed. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), a member of the negotiating group, said there are a “lot of preconditions” from Republicans and Democrats both, so getting an overall deal “will be a challenge” (BGOV). Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) told reporters the group does not intend to release text of the proposal until more support is secured.
Republican senators endorsing the framework are:
- Richard Burr of North Carolina
- Bill Cassidy of Louisiana
- Susan Collins of Maine
- Lindsay Graham of South Carolina
- Jerry Moran of Kansas
- Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
- Rob Portman of Ohio
- Mitt Romney of Utah
- Mike Rounds of South Dakota
- Thom Tillis of North Carolina
- Todd Young of Indiana
Democrats supporting the framework are:
- Chris Coons of Delaware
- Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire
- John Hickenlooper of Colorado
- Mark Kelly of Arizona
- Joe Manchin of West Virginia
- Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire
- Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona
- Jon Tester of Montana
- Mark Warner of Virginia.
Senator Angus King, Independent representing Maine, has also signed on.
The White House said no deadline has been set for bipartisan talks on the compromise infrastructure package, but House Democrats said they are ready to move ahead without Republicans if a deal cannot be reached by June 25. Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee said they support the use of broad reconciliation instructions that would allow members to pass major legislation (as much as $6 trillion) without Republican support, even as bipartisan infrastructure talks continue. Majority Leader Schumer met with the 11 Democrats on the committee yesterday, and the group agreed to move ahead with reconciliation instructions, should it be necessary. As reported by Politico, Majority Leader Schumer has insisted that infrastructure talks remain on two tracks: The first track is bipartisan while the second track uses reconciliation to bypass the need for Republican votes in the Senate. No decisions have been reached on which path will ultimately be taken.
More than 200 House members sent a letter on June 16 to SBA Administrator Isabel Guzman urging the Small Business Administration to provide faster relief payments to venues shutdown by COVID-19 restrictions. The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program, established in December 2020 to support venue operators amid the pandemic, has faced various setbacks in its application process and funding rollout. Since launching the program in April 2021, the SBA has approved roughly 400 grants as of June 14 — despite receiving more than 14,000 applications.
On June 16, House Oversight Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Chair Jim Clyburn (D-SC) announced that the Subcommittee will be holding a hearing on Tuesday, June 22 with Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on “Lessons Learned: The Federal Reserve’s Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic.” The hearing will assess the Fed’s emergency lending programs established in the early months of the coronavirus crisis, examine current Fed policies as our economy continues to recover, and consider actions needed to ensure a strong, sustainable, and equitable economic future.
Today, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held a hearing on “COVID-19 Response and Recovery: Supporting the Needs of Students in Higher Education & Lessons on Safely Returning to Campus.” Witnesses included officials and students from UCLA, Xavier University of Louisiana, Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio, and Miami Dade College.
On June 16, the House Small Business Subcommittee on Underserved, Agricultural, and Rural Development held a hearing on “Supporting Small Entities through Investments in the National Infrastructure: Broadband.” The hearing examined broadband as a critical part of the nation’s infrastructure and strategies to reduce the digital divide.
On June 16, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance held a hearing on “Flexible Federal Funding: Examining the Community Development Block Grant Program and Its Impact on Addressing Local Challenges.” Witnesses included the Mayor of San Francisco, London Breed, and the Director of Miami, Florida’s Department of Housing and Community Development, George Mensah.
On June 15, the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee held a hearing on “21st Century Communities: Local Leaders on the Infrastructure Needs Facing America’s States, Cities, and Towns.” Witnesses included Daniel Horrigan, Mayor, Akron, OH; Cyndy Andrus, Mayor, Bozeman, MT; Corey Woods, Mayor, Tempe, AZ; and Josh Parsons, County Commissioner, Lancaster County, PA.
On June 15, the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion held a hearing on “The State of Outdoor Tourism, Recreation, & Ecotourism.” Witnesses provided their insights surrounding the contributions of outdoor recreation to local economies and discuss solutions for promoting the outdoor industry, investing in local communities, protecting lands and waters, and supporting U.S. jobs and businesses.
Treasury released a document outlining the status of ARPA relief payments to states for distribution to nonentitlement units of government.
Treasury released an online tool to help families who normally are not required to file an income tax return to register quickly for the Child Tax Credit from the American Rescue Plan. The new tool is part of a larger effort to help more families obtain advance Child Tax Credit payments.
The IRS posted two new sets of FAQs to assist families and small and mid-sized employers in claiming credits under the American Rescue Plan Act.
HHS released revised reporting requirements for recipients of Provider Relief Fund (PRF) payments. HHS expanded the amount of time providers will have to report information to reduce burdens on smaller providers, and extended key deadlines for expending PRF payments for recipients who received payments after June 30, 2020.
Treasury awarded $1.25 billion in COVID-19 relief funds to 863 community development financial institutions (CDFIs). The grants will be made through Treasury’s CDFI Rapid Response Program (CDFI RRP) and will provide necessary capital for CDFIs to respond to economic challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in underserved communities.
The U.S. Department of Education posted 28 plans submitted by state education agencies describing how states plan to use American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds to support schools, students, and educators.
FCC announced that schools and libraries may file applications from June 29 to August 13 for the newly established $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund which provides financial support to purchase laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connections for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons. The FCC will host a webinar June 25 at 2 pm ET.
Later today Treasury will post new FAQs on the broadband provision of ARPA’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds’ Interim Final Rule. The FAQs will be available here.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) this morning released a new mapping tool that displays key indicators of broadband needs across the country. The map contains data aggregated at the county, census tract, and census block level from a variety of sources. The dataset allows you to see where high-poverty communities are located and how that relates to internet usage patterns.
USDA announced additional aid to agricultural producers and businesses as part of the USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative. The program offers support to timber harvesters, biofuels, dairy farmers and processors, livestock farmers and contract growers of poultry, assistance for organic cost share, and grants for PPE. USDA also released a resource guide to help rural community leaders start and expand employment opportunities and access resources to train, recruit and create a sustainable rural workforce.
FEMA has provided more than $278 million to over 41,000 people for COVID-19-related funeral costs reimbursements. The national average for an award is $6,756.
NACo released a new report, Planning for the Future of Work Amid a Global Pandemic, detailing local government concerns and innovative approaches to workforce adaptation for the future post-pandemic.
The Labor Department last week released a COVID-19 emergency temporary standard for health care workers. The standard covers health care facilities treating COVID-19 and requires that employers comply with safety and health standards issued and enforced by OSHA), such as mask wearing and cleaning procedures.
TSA screened more than two million air travelers last Friday, the most since March 2020 – 74% of the travel volume for the same day in 2019 and is consistent with pre-pandemic averages of 2 to 2.5 million flyers per day.
Moderna announced the U.S. government would buy 200 million more doses of its vaccine. Under the new deal, the U.S. will pay $3.3 billion to exercise its remaining options to purchase shots for $16.50 per dose. The government has ordered a total of 500 million Moderna vaccine doses.
HHS awarded $125 million to support 14 nonprofit private and public organizations to reach underserved communities to develop and support a community-based workforce to build vaccine confidence and bolster COVID-19 vaccinations in underserved communities. Award recipients will collaborate with local and regional partners to ensure a broad geographic reach to get as many people vaccinated as possible.
Pfizer is studying whether booster shots will be necessary. Since April, more than 10,000 individuals were infected with the virus after receiving the Pfizer vaccine. Studies suggest immunity from the vaccine could last a year. Pfizer continues to use data from clinical trials to determine the impact of booster doses and a change in vaccine effectiveness.
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