H.R. 8337 would extend government funding through December 11, 2020, averting a government shutdown that would otherwise begin October 1. The continuing resolution (CR) would generally extend fiscal 2020 funding levels while including some “anomalies” that would adjust the amount available to agencies or extend authorities. The measure reflects an agreement between Democrats and Republicans over farm and food aid programs. The measure would also extend surface transportation programs, the National Flood Insurance Program, and the Appalachian Regional Commission for a full year and extend several expiring authorities of the Veterans Affairs Department. The CR would also extend several health provisions due to expire on November 30.
The bill would extend through September 30, 2021, the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, which allows states to adjust their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP) to provide additional aid to households with children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals for school closures related to the coronavirus pandemic. It would expand the program to include children at childcare facilities affected by shutdowns and schools with reduced attendance hours. The program was established under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Public Law 116-127). The bill also would extend through September 30, 2021, other program flexibilities included in the second coronavirus relief package, including waivers for the National School Lunch Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The measure also would extend waivers for SNAP certification and reporting requirements through September 30, 2021. The measure would appropriate the funds necessary to conduct the provisions.
Commodity Credit Corporation
The measure includes a provision to allow the Agriculture Department’s Commodity Credit Corporation to be reimbursed for payments made to farmers and ranchers. Funds would be available to reimburse the corporation for net realized losses that were not previously reimbursed as of September 17. The measure also would bar the use of corporate funds to pay fossil fuel refiners and importers. The ban would exempt biofuel companies.
Extensions Through December 11
The measure would extend through December 11:
A provision in the CARES Act (Public Law 116-136) that allows federal agencies to reimburse contractors for employee paid leave during the Covid-19 pandemic;
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and the Child Care Entitlement to States program;
EB-5 regional investor visas, the E-Verify program to determine employment eligibility, and other immigration authorities; and
The Interior Department’s authority to provide emergency drought assistance under the Reclamation States Emergency Drought Relief Act.
The bill would extend Federal highway, transit, and road safety programs by one year, through September 30, 2021. The bill would appropriate $13.6 billion from the general fund into the Highway Trust Fund: $10.4 billion into the Highway Account and $3.2 billion into the Mass Transit Account. The bill would extend authority to spend money from the Highway Trust Fund by one year, until October 1, 2021. The measure would similarly extend expenditure authority for the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund and the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund. The legislation would authorize spending from both accounts of the Highway Trust Fund and the Treasury’s general fund equal to, and subject to the same limitations as, the amounts appropriated in fiscal 2020 for surface transportation programs. Automatic adjustments to highway and mass transit authorizations for new deposits into the Highway Trust Fund, required by the 2015 highway bill (Public Law 114-94), would not apply to funds provided by the bill. The measure also would block any adjustment of apportionments for the Mass Transit Account based on unfunded authorizations, known as the Rostenkowski Test, for fiscal 2021. The measure also would:
Increase to $600 million, from $500 million, the cap on funding for nationally significant freight and highway projects that could go toward intermodal freight projects.
Increase to $26.6 million, from $21.2 million, the authorization for National Highway Traffic Safety Administration research into in-vehicle technology to prevent drunk driving.
Repeal a prohibition on federal funding to cover operating losses on Amtrak routes.
Extend by one year, through September 30, 2021, the Transportation Department’s loan and loan guarantee authority to support development near rail stations.
The bill would appropriate $14 billion from the general fund to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, which would otherwise run out of money in the next fiscal year. Passenger ticket, cargo, and aviation fuel taxes were suspended through 2020 under the CARES Act (Public Law 116-136).
Other Yearlong Extensions
It would extend through September 30, 2021:
Key provisions of the National Flood Insurance Program that allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to issue new policies and borrow as much as $30.4 billion from the Treasury Department;
Funding for multiyear research grants supported by the National Institutes of Health for projects that were interrupted by Covid-19;
The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy;
The Appalachian Regional Commission’s $110 million annual authorization—including a $14 million set aside for economic and energy development and a $10 million set aside for broadband deployment;
Authority for the Agriculture Department to collect fees for grain inspection and weighing services, and to conduct activities related to grain export and domestic markets; and
Authority for an industrial hemp research program.
The measure would allow funds to be apportioned at rates necessary to conduct various activities, including for the:
Federal Emergency Management Agency to use the full amount available in the Disaster Relief Fund to respond to declared disasters;
Small Business Administration to manage the increased demand for small business disaster loans;
Veterans Affairs Department to deploy its new electronic health records system; and
Agriculture Department to ensure that a program offering nutrition benefits to low-income families with children during the summer is fully operational by May 2021.
It would provide the following annualized funding amounts:
As much as $1.62 billion for the Navy to buy as many as two Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines;
$1.51 billion for 2020 Census activities;
$1.38 billion for the House operations to help prepare for the 117th Congress;
$18 million for the National Archives and Records Administration to take custody of President Donald Trump’s records if he loses his re-election bid; and
$9.9 million for the General Services Administration’s presidential transition expenses and $8 million for transition activities conducted by the White House’s Office of Administration.
The measure also would:
Authorize the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to collect user fees to support its reviews of over-the-counter drugs and its production facilities regulations.
Provide a customary payment of $174,000 for the beneficiaries of the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).
Allow Ginnie Mae to commit $1.29 trillion, instead of $550 million, to guarantee securities backed by federally insured mortgages.
Provide $13 million for the District of Columbia to prepare for the presidential inauguration.
Reduce or eliminate discretionary funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which will now be covered by mandatory funding under the Great American Outdoors Act (Public Law 116-152).
Remove certain restrictions on U.S. aid to Sri Lanka.
Renew funding and extend deadlines for state and local governments to spend money they received through Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grants, also called national infrastructure investments, in fiscal 2017 and 2018.
The bill would limit any increase in Medicare Part B premiums for enrollees in 2021 to about $4 per month. According to a House Appropriations Committee summary on the measure, the projected increase is related to the Medicare advance loans issued to health-care providers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Beneficiaries would have to pay about a $3 surcharge until the Supplemental Medical Insurance Trust Fund balance is restored. Funds would be transferred from the general fund to cover the costs of the advances. Medicare Part B generally covers outpatient medical services, durable medical equipment, and ambulance services. The standard monthly premium is about $144.60 in 2020, an increase from $135.50 in 2019. The measure would extend the time in which health-care providers must repay advances and reduce the interest rate of those loans to 4% until the public health emergency ends. Funding for several expiring Medicare provisions would be extended through December 11, including:
An HHS contract with a consensus-based entity, such as the National Quality Forum, related to performance measurement;
State health insurance assistance programs;
Area agencies on aging;
Aging and disability resource centers; and
A contract with the National Center for Benefits and Outreach Enrollment.
The bill would extend the floor on the geographic index used to calculate provider payment rates under Medicare through December 12.
The bill would increase and extend funding for the Medicaid Improvement Fund through fiscal 2023. The measure would extend through December 11:
It would delay until December 12, a scheduled $4 billion reduction in fiscal 2020 Medicaid funding for disproportionate share hospitals (DSH), which have large numbers of low-income and uninsured patients. The Affordable Care Act scheduled cuts to federal DSH payments starting in 2014 to account for anticipated coverage increases. The start of those reductions was most recently delayed to December 1 under the CARES Act.
The bill would increase and extend funding for several community health programs through December 11, including:
Community health centers, which support underserved and vulnerable populations;
The measure would extend several authorities of the Veterans Affairs and Labor departments related to veterans’ health care, housing, homelessness, and other programs. Most are slated to run through September 30 and were previously extended by Public Law 115-251.
For veterans’ health-care programs, the measure would extend through fiscal 2022:
A requirement for veterans to pay a $10 daily copayment for hospital care and a $5 daily copayment for nursing home care;
A requirement for the VA to provide nursing home care to veterans with a service-connected disability rating of 70% or more;
An annual $3 million authorization for VA grants to state veterans service agencies and private veterans service organizations to provide transportation to VA medical facilities for veterans living in “highly rural” areas;
An annual $2 million authorization for a VA pilot program that provides counseling services in a retreat setting for female veterans who were recently separated from military service;
An annual $1.5 million authorization for a pilot program that provides childcare assistance to eligible veterans while they receive mental health care or other services at a VA facility;
The VA’s authority to transfer property to other agencies, states, and public and private entities; and
The VA’s authority to agree with the National Academy of Sciences to study the effects of exposure to certain herbicides, such as Agent Orange, during U.S. military operations in Vietnam.
Medical Residency Extension
The measure would also extend for seven years, through August 7, 2031, a VA pilot program of graduate medical education residency positions both within the department and outside facilities, including tribal and Defense Department facilities and federally funded community health centers.
For veterans’ benefits programs, the measure would extend through fiscal 2022:
The VA’s authority to award grants for the development of assistive technologies for specially adapted housing;
The VA’s authority to transport veterans to VA facilities in connection with vocational rehabilitation or counseling;
An initiative to assess the feasibility of paying for veterans in highly rural areas to travel to the nearest Vet Center, a community-based facility that provides readjustment counseling and other services; and
Authority for an office in the Philippines.
Virus & Education Benefits
The bill would extend for one year, through December 21, 2021, the VA’s authority to make full educational benefit payments or extend eligibility periods for students who are affected by school closures or had their courses moved online because of Covid-19.
Appeals Court Judges
The measure also would extend for five years, through January 1, 2026, a temporary increase in the number of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
The measure would increase to $420 million, and extend through fiscal 2022, an annual authorization for the VA to provide services to low-income veteran families who live in permanent housing.
It also would extend through fiscal 2022:
An annual $50 million authorization for the Labor Department’s homeless veteran reintegration programs, such as job training, counseling, and placement services;
Authority for the VA to spend as much as $5 million a year from money appropriated for VA medical services to support a grant program for homeless veterans with special needs. Female veterans and those who are elderly, terminally ill, chronically mentally ill, or who care for minor dependents are eligible for assistance;
An annual $1 million authorization for the Homeless Women Veterans and Homeless Veterans with Children Reintegration Grant Program, which provides job training, counseling, job placement services, and childcare services through the Labor Department;
The VA and Labor Department’s authority to provide referral and counseling services to veterans transitioning between institutions and are at risk of homelessness. The authority would be made permanent under a separate measure (H.R. 7105); and
The VA’s authority to provide rehabilitation services, treatment, transitional housing assistance, and work therapy to seriously mentally ill and homeless veterans.
The measure would double to $16 million, and extend through fiscal 2022, the annual authorization for a VA grant program to increase disabled servicemembers’ and veterans’ opportunities to participate in regional and national athletic competitions. It also would extend through fiscal 2022 a $2 million annual authorization to provide a monthly allowance for disabled veterans to compete or train with the U.S. Olympic Team or Paralympic Team.
The bill would extend and modify Vendee Loan Program specific terms, allowing qualified borrowers to purchase VA Real Estate Owned (REO) properties with little to no money down. Through September 30, 2020, current law requires that 85% of purchases be financed through a VA loan. Under the bill, through September 30, 2025, the VA would instead have to provide financing to market those properties.
USCIS Premium Fees
U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) could expand fee-based fast-track visa processing and increase premium processing fees under the bill. The language is substantively identical to a bill (H.R. 8089) to avert furloughs at the agency, which is funded by visa processing fees, according to an August 21 news release from Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), that measure’s sponsor. The bill would allow USCIS to collect premium processing fees for the following types of immigration petitions:
Employment-based non-immigrant visas and those for associated dependents;
Employment-based immigrant visas for applicants who qualify as priority workers, hold advanced degrees, or are skilled workers or members of certain professions;
Applications to change or extend nonimmigrant status; and
Applications for employment authorization.
Under current law, USCIS charges $1,000 to fast-track employment-based applications, typically paid by the sponsoring employer. The bill would increase the charge for those applications to $2,500. A reduced fee of $1,500 would apply for nonimmigrants coming to the U.S. for temporary work filling a demand for labor that cannot be met domestically and non-immigrants performing work for religious institutions.
USCIS would set premium fees through regulation for the nonemployment-based covered applications. It could also designate other types of immigration benefits for premium processing. The agency could forgo formal rulemaking procedures if the fee amounts and processing times are within the bill’s parameters. The agency could adjust the fees for inflation every two years. The fees would have to be used to offset costs to provide adjudication and naturalization services—including premium processing, to make service infrastructure improvements, and address application backlogs. The agency would have to design the premium processing services to not result in increased processing times for other applications.
The measure would make permanent provisions that limit civil liability for companies and individuals that report antitrust violations. The provisions, established by the 2004 Antitrust Criminal Penalty Enhancement and Reform Act (Public Law 108-237), expired on June 22. The provisions offer companies and individuals an incentive to self-report violations such as price-fixing or bid-rigging by limiting their liability in civil actions brought by private litigants or government prosecutors. Leniency applicants are civilly liable only for the actual damages caused by their conduct, instead of paying triple or treble damages, if they provide “satisfactory cooperation” to the plaintiffs, as determined by a court. The House and Senate each passed similar legislation in June (H.R. 7036, S. 3377) that would make the provisions permanent.
The bill would extend the U.S. Parole Commission’s authorization for two years. It was last extended in 2018 by Public Law 115-274. It would extend by one year, thorough fiscal 2022, the commission’s obligation to report annually to Congress on its operations. The measure also would direct the commission to report in fiscal 2021 and 2022 on the rate of parole failure in the District of Columbia.
Head Start Organizations
The measure would allow HHS to extend Head Start agencies’ designations for two years if it does not have the information necessary for renewals required to happen before. December 31, 2020. Covered designations typically run for five years.
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