Senate reaches agreement on bipartisan COVID-19 supplemental legislation

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    Senate reaches agreement on bipartisan COVID-19 supplemental legislation

    On April 4, a group of senators unveiled a bipartisan, $10 billion COVID-19 supplemental appropriations bill to support the ongoing domestic response to the public health emergency.

    Update – April 7

    Prospects for getting the pandemic aid package to President Biden’s desk before the two-week April recess is dwindling amid with new disagreements over certain provisions included in the bill.

    The recently enacted Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 omnibus appropriations bill initially included $15.6 billion in supplemental spending for the domestic and international COVID-19 response. These provisions were ultimately removed from the final package that was enacted due to objections from House Democrats over spending offsets, including a rescission of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (Recovery Funds).

    The final agreement would provide $10 billion to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the procurement of vaccines, therapeutics and testing capacity as well as funding for research and development of vaccines to protect against emerging COVID-19 variants. While the FY 2022 omnibus included an additional $5 billion to support the international response to the pandemic, the final agreement includes no international funding.

    Of particular note, the final agreement includes the bipartisan State, Local, Tribal and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure, and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act (S. 3011/H.R. 5735) that unanimously passed the Senate in October 2021 and would provide additional flexibilities for counties to invest ARPA Recovery Funds. In addition to the $10 million revenue loss standard allowance for the provision of government that was ultimately included in Treasury’s Final Rule, the bill would allow the greater of $10 million or 30 percent of a county’s total ARPA allocation to be for infrastructure-related activities, including surface transportation programs authorized under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and Community Development Blog Grant (CDBG) projects. Counties applaud the inclusion of this critical legislation and additional ARPA flexibility.

    The $10 billion included in the bill for HHS is offset by a rescission of unobligated, previously appropriated pandemic spending included in ARPA and the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136), including a rescission of the $2 billion ARPA Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund. This fund was created to make formula-based payments based on economic conditions to revenue-sharing (I.e. public lands) counties, certain U.S. territories and tribal governments over FY 2022 and 2023. This rescission leaves revenue-sharing counties with approximately $826 million, an approximately 44 percent reduction from the initial $1.5 billion allocation.

    Other rescissions included in the final COVID-19 supplemental agreement include unspent funds from the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Shuttered Venue Operators Grants and Economic Injury Disaster Loans, U.S. Department of Agriculture funding authorized under the ARPA and CARES Act, U.S. Department of Transportation’s Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Program and the U.S. Department of Education’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.

    The package is currently pending a vote in the Senate, which is expected to happen this week. If passed, the bill will move to the House for a vote before going to President Biden's desk for his signature. 

    At NACo’s 2022 Legislative Conference in February 2022, the Finance, Pensions and Intergovernmental Affairs policy steering committee adopted an interim policy resolution urging the U.S. House to pass H.R. 5735 to provide counties with additional flexibilities to invest Recovery Funds and further augment local recovery efforts.

    On April 4, a group of senators unveiled a bipartisan, $10 billion COVID-19 supplemental appropriations bill to support the ongoing domestic response to the public health emergency.

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