Federal Advocacy Update: Week of April 23, 2019

An internal view of the U.S. Capitol Building rotunda.
An internal view of the U.S. Capitol Building rotunda.

In this issue:


Senators Introduce Digital Equity Act

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

A bipartisan group of senators have introduced the Digital Equity Act of 2019 to create a new grant program that would provide a mix of formula and competitive grant funding to states, localities, and nonprofits to enhance digital equity in communities. The bill, led by Senators Angus King (ME) and Patty Murray (WA), is intended to promote digital equity by providing a flexible funding source for locally-directed digital equity planning and projects.

Digital equity projects and programs focus on populations and communities that lack the skills, technologies or supports to take advantage of the opportunities made available by broadband access. These programs may include digital literacy and digital skills education, making online services more accessible to people with disabilities, or efforts to improve broadband adoption, among other activities.

“Despite modern improvements in broadband infrastructure, many of our nation’s residents are on the wrong side of the digital divide. Local officials applaud the bipartisan introduction of the Digital Equity Act of 2019,” said Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and Executive Director of the National League of Cities (NLC). “Cities, towns and villages need a strong federal partner to ensure all residents have the skills, equipment and resources to take advantage of the opportunities a broadband connection provides.”

The Digital Equity Act, which is supported by NLC and a number of local, educational and digital equity organizations, would create an annual $120 million formula grant program for states and territories, an annual $120 million competitive grant program for local governments and organizations, and a research and evaluation program for tracking digital equity programs. In addition, it would provide information and technical assistance to local, state, and federal leaders about the most effective projects.


Support for CDBG and Other Funding Priorities Growing in Congress

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

Members of the House and Senate appropriations committees are hearing from NLC, our coalitions and other members of Congress on several federal funding priorities, including the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). The letters of support are now arriving to impact the appropriations committees before they begin drafting the twelve annual spending bills for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20).

NLC joined other local government groups in sending a CDBG funding prioritization letter recommending continued incremental increases for CDBG, from $3.3 billion to $3.8 billion in FY20. A record 175 bipartisan representatives and 43 bipartisan senators endorsed our request by signing their own letters in support of $3.8 billion for CDBG in FY20.  The House letter was originated by Representatives Jim McGovern (MA-02), Maxine Waters (CA-43), Gregory Meeks (NY-05), Michael Turner (OH-10) and Mike Kelly (PA-16). The Senate letter was originated by Senators Tammy Baldwin (WI), Dianne Feinstein (CA) and Chris Coons (DE).

NLC is posting copies of letters supporting the funding priorities of cities, towns and villages on our Budget Tracker webpage here. A full list of members of Congress who signed the CDBG support letters is also available at the link. Additional letters will be posted as they are finalized and delivered.


Senators Reintroduce Bill to Direct Cybersecurity Funding to States and Localities

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

A bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators have reintroduced a bill that would provide additional funding to state and local governments to improve their preparedness for cyber threats and build their cybersecurity workforces. The State Cyber Resiliency Act, sponsored by Senators Mark Warner (VA) and Cory Gardner (CO) and Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Michael McCaul (TX-10), would provide grants to states to plan and implement cyber resiliency efforts, with at least fifty percent of the funds required to pass through to tribal and local governments. The bill would also require participating states to improve cybersecurity workforce development efforts.

The bill’s authors cited recent high-profile cyber-attacks on local governments in Colorado, Georgia, Maryland and Pennsylvania as part of the need to reintroduce the State Cyber Resiliency Act, along with reports of inadequate state funding for cybersecurity and stark shortages in the cybersecurity workforce. To read the text of the bill, click here.
 

NLC Urges EPA, Army Corps to Clarify Definitions in WOTUS Rule

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

Last week, NLC submitted joint comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) on the proposed rule on the Definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS), urging the agencies to provide additional clarification for key definitions and terms in order to create certainty for local governments. 

NLC urged the agencies to make the following substantive changes before publishing a final rule:

  • Draw a clear distinction between natural streams and ditches that play a role in public safety by including a categorical exclusion for public safety ditches. 
  • Continue and clarify the ditch maintenance exemption by reaffirming the rile that the Section 404 (f) ditch maintenance exemption plays, clarifying how and when the Section 404(f) exemption can be used and providing an unequivocal exemption for ditch maintenance activities on publicly owned public safety ditches.
  • Clarify the regional process that will be used to define the term “intermittent,” including providing information on which federal agency will take the lead, how geographic regions will be determined, whether the process will include an opportunity to consult with state and local governments and whether the draft regional definition of “intermittent” will be open to public comment. 
  • Consider the impact of more frequent extreme weather events on a “typical year” definition by reconsidering the calculation of whether a drought or extreme flooding event should be included.
  • Clarify the exemption for stormwater control features by including natural streams that are part of a stormwater control system, whether or not they are part of an MS4, under the exclusion; and by providing information on the types of documentation that local governments should provide in order to be covered under the stormwater control feature exclusion.
  • Clarify the definition of “upland” by including stormwater control features built in low-lying and/or wet areas under the exemption. 

NLC has expressed concern with the process used to develop the proposed rule, which did not include a robust Federalism consultation process. Under Executive Order 13132: Federalism, federal agencies must consult with state and local government officials early and often in the rulemaking process, even before a rule is proposed, when it will directly impact these entities. This process is especially important under the Clean Water Act since the programs are co-regulated by federal, state and local governments working together as partners to implement.

The proposed rule is part of the agencies’ two-step rulemaking process to rescind and revise the 2015 Clean Water Rule to clarify which waterbodies are federally regulated under the Clean Water Act. The agencies plan to finalize the WOTUS rule by the end of the year. 


Proposed NLC Policy Resolutions and Amendments Due June 20, 2019

Avery Peters, 202.626.3020

NLC's National Municipal Policy and Resolutions (NMP) are the foundation for the organization's federal advocacy in policy matters before Congress, the administration and the courts. The NMP is a permanent statement of NLC's position on federal policy matters that directly affect local governments. Resolutions address timely issues or specific pieces of federal legislation, and they are annual statements of position. Unless action is taken to renew a resolution or incorporate it into the new NMP, each resolution expires at the City Summit one-year after its adoption.

As part of NLC's annual policy development process, NLC's Federal Advocacy Committees are tasked with reviewing the NMP and resolutions to make recommendations for changes, additions and deletions. In addition to the committees' work, NLC is inviting all member cities to submit National Municipal Policy (NMP) amendments and resolutions for consideration. The deadline for submissions this year is June 20, 2019.

Each proposed policy amendment or resolution should include a document that provides background on the issue and a discussion of the issues' impact on local governments nationwide.

All proposals submitted by the deadline will be forwarded to the appropriate Federal Advocacy Committee for review and consideration. Voting delegates will consider the committees' work at the Annual Business Meeting during NLC's City Summit in San Antonio, Texas, in November.

Proposed policy amendments and resolutions should be submitted in writing to Avery Peters via email at peters@nlc.org or mailed to him at 

National League of Cities, 
660 North Capitol Street, NW, 
Suite 450, 
Washington, D.C. 20001.


FY19 Public Safety Grant Solicitations 

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

The Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are soliciting grant applications for the following public safety funding opportunities. 

  1. The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) seeks applications to plan and implement comprehensive programs in response to the growing opioid epidemic, through the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Site-based Program (COAP) Competitive Grant. Grants awards of $600,000-$1,200,000 will be awarded for Locally Driven Responses to the Opioid Epidemic-Funding. Applications are due by June 5. Click here to view the solicitation. BJA will be hosting a webinar on April 29, 2019, at 2:00 PM EDT to inform potential applicants about the application process and guidelines. Click here to register for the webinar. 
  2. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is accepting applications for FY19 First Responders-Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (FR-CARA) Grants. SAMHSA will award FR-CARA funds to local governmental entities which include, but are not limited to, municipal corporations, counties, cities, boroughs, incorporated towns and townships. The purpose of this program is to allow first responders and members of other key community sectors to administer a drug for emergency treatment of known or suspected opioid overdose. Recipients will also establish processes, protocols and mechanisms for appropriate treatment referral to recovering communities regarding safety about fentanyl, carfentanil and other dangerous licit and illicit drugs. The anticipated number of awards is expected to be up to 45 with amounts ranging from $250,000 to $800,000 per year. Projects could last up to four years. Click here for more information. 
  3. SAMHSA is also accepting applications for FY19 Rural Opioid Technical Assistance Grants (ROTA). This program works to develop and disseminate training and technical assistance for rural communities to address opioid-related issues affecting these communities. Eligible applicants are existing USDA Cooperative Extensions grantees.
  4. BJA is accepting applications for the 2019 Body-Worn Camera Policy and Implementation Program to Support Law Enforcement Agencies. The grant program directly supports key priorities of the DOJ by promoting the safety of law enforcement officers and citizens by strengthening the means for evidence capture and contributing to improved outcomes. Click here to learn more about the grant application. The deadline to submit applications is June 5, 2019. Federal funds awarded under this solicitation may not cover more than 50 percent of the total costs of the project.
  5. DHS announced the release of 2019 Notices of Funding Opportunity for eight DHS preparedness grant programs. These programs provide $1.7 billion in funding to state, local, tribal and territorial governments, as well as transportation authorities, nonprofit organizations and the private sector, to improve the nation’s prevention, protection, response, recovery and mitigation readiness for terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies. All preparedness Notices of Funding Opportunities can be found here. Final submissions must be made through the Non-Disaster (ND) Grants system. Further information on DHS’s preparedness grant programs is available on the DHS and FEMA websites.


Additional Clarity Comes with Second Round of Opportunity Zone Regulations

Brian Egan, 202.626.3107

On April 17, the Department of the Treasury released its second “tranche” of regulations governing investments made in Qualified Opportunity Funds (QOFs) and Qualified Opportunity Zone Businesses. The regulations are instrumental in providing guidance to investors hoping to invest in the more than 8,000 Opportunity Zones that were designated as a result of tax reform in 2017. While Treasury still seeks comments on a handful of issues, the newest iteration of rules answers many of the major outstanding questions from the first round and are expected to provide sufficient clarity for more investors to get involved in zones. 

Most of the additions are technical in nature and directed to the investor community, but it is worth noting that Treasury responded to stakeholder concerns, including those submitted by NLC, surrounding the administration of the 50 percent gross income limitation test. The first round of rules required qualified opportunity zone businesses to derive 50 percent of their income from within a zone, which would have severely hampered funds’ abilities to invest in scalable start-ups. The new rules provide for 3 safe harbors that allow a qualified business to scale their sales and services beyond zones, while keeping with the spirit of the program. 

Also, on April 17, NLC joined an Opportunity Now event hosted by the White House to educate state and local leaders on the new rules and share best practices. Secretary Carson and Secretary Mnuchin were among the speakers who shared updates on how the Administration is working to ensure the program is a success in our communities. President Trump welcomed the attendees and thanked state and local leaders for their shared commitment to community revitalization throughout the nation. 
 Mayor Flaggs of Vickburg, Mississippi, speaks with President Trump at the White House on Opportunity Zones.jpg
Mayor Flaggs of Vickburg, Mississippi, speaks with President Trump at the White House on Opportunity Zones

NLC continues to produce and compile resources around Opportunity Zones here.


FCC, White House Announce Rural Broadband; 5G Initiative

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

On April 12, President Trump, along with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, announced an initiative to further develop rural broadband and speed the development of 5G in the United States. The $20.4 billion “Rural Digital Opportunity Fund,” which the FCC intends to draw from the existing Connect America Fund, would be used across a decade to build broadband infrastructure with a minimum speed threshold of 25 megabits per second download, and 3 megabits per second upload. The FCC has not yet provided eligibility or participation information for this fund. Additionally, Chairman Pai announced plans to start another spectrum auction in December to support 5G, to include 3,400 megahertz across three spectrum bands. For more information about these announcements, visit the FCC’s website.


Learn More about Federal Funding Opportunities

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

In 2019, BJA hosted the following educational webinars to assist potential applicants interested in FY19 funding opportunities:

  • Funding Opportunities for Your Community in 2019: An Overview of What’s Ahead
  • The First Steps to Applying, Prepare Now
  • The Federal Funding Process: What New and Seasoned Applicants Should Consider
  • Submitting Your Application: Avoid These Common Mistakes

For access to YouTube recordings, downloadable versions of the presentations and transcripts of each webinar, go to the BJA Grant Applicant Education Series Webinars page here.

Go to the SAMHSA website to access the recorded webinar and an online question and answer session that explain the new application process and offers resources for support. View the slides here.


Register for NLC’s 2019 Summer Board and Leadership Meeting

Avery Peters, 202.626.3020

Registration for the National League of Cities 2019 Summer Board and Leadership Meeting is open! Join your colleagues June 25 - 27 in Indianapolis, Indiana, by registering here.

Board.png

The meeting will take place at the Indianapolis Marriot downtown—350 Maryland Street, Indianapolis, IN 46225. After you complete the registration, you will receive a confirmation email with information on housing and reservations.

For registration instructions, go here. To register now, click here

If you have questions for the following reasons, contact the relevant staff member:

  • Board of Directors - Carla Smith
    • Activities start Tuesday, June 25 afternoon; end Wednesday June 26 evening.
  • Advisory Council - Jim Brooks
    • Activities start Tuesday, June 25 evening; end Wednesday, June 26 evening.  
  • Federal Advocacy Committees - Avery Peters
    • Activities start Tuesday, June 25 evening; end Thursday, June 27 afternoon.
  • Council on Race, Equity and Leadership - Kiera White 
    • Activities start Tuesday, June 25 evening; end Thursday, June 27 afternoon.
  • Council on Youth, Education, and Families - Sharie Wood
    • Activities start Tuesday, June 25 morning; end Tuesday, June 25 evening.
  • Large Cities Council - Timothy Evans
    • Activities start Tuesday, June 25 noon; end Tuesday, June 25 evening.
  • Military Communities Council - Elisha Harig-Blaine
    • Activities start Wednesday, June 26 morning; end Wednesday, June 26 noon.
  • State League Steering Committee - Bryan Griffith
    • Activities start Tuesday, June 25 afternoon; end Wednesday, June 26 evening.
  • University Communities Council - Katrina Washington
    • Activities start Tuesday, June 25 noon; end Tuesday, June 25 evening.
  • General Inquiries - Lauren Ryan
     
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