Federal Issues of Municipal Interest

The League and its federal partner, the National League of Cities, are vigilantly working for the best interests of municipalities in the halls of Washington, D.C. 

This year the League has set priorities including infrastructure and recovery.

Download: 2021 NJLM Federal Priorities 

American Rescue Plan

This $1.9 trillion package includes $350 billion funding for state and local governments as well as direct payments to working families; extensive expansion of child tax credits; aggressive action to speed up COVID-19 vaccinations and contain the virus; provides the resources needed to allow schools to safely re-open; immediate economic relief for Americans hit hardest, and support for struggling communities. 

For more information, please read the NJLM Town Crier Blog: American Resue Plan Signed Into Law.

You can find information, resources, and the latest NLC updates on COVID-19 Response and Relief at https://www.nlc.org/initiative/covid-19-pandemic-response/. Or follow the following links for specific functions.

Allocation Tracker

The NLC's Estimated Local Allocation Tracker for the ARP includes estimations for each municipality. Use the allocation tracker to find out how much your community is eligible for. These estimates are subject to change as the U.S. Treasury stands the program up.

ARP Summary of Provisions 

NLC has created an extensive, searchable summary of provisions relevant to municipalities and local leaders in this historic legislation. 

Local Recovery: Five Principles for ARP Implementation

NLC staff has written a CitiesSpeak blog on five principles for ARP implementation.  

EPA Lead and Copper Line Replacement Listening Sessions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced listening sessions and roundtables to obtain input on the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR). The comment period ends on June 17, 2021. The impact of lead exposure, including through drinking water, is a public health issue of paramount importance. The goal of public engagement is to obtain further input on EPA's LCRR, including from individuals and communities that are most at risk of exposure to lead in drinking water.

Virtual public listening sessions will be held on April 28, 2021, and May 5, 2021, from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., eastern daylight time. Those interested in speaking must be pre-registered and can sign up for a 3-minute speaking slot.

Members of the public that are unable to attend any of the events will be able to submit comments and reference Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OW-2021-0255 until June 30, 2021.

EPA will host community-focused virtual roundtables in May 2021 to facilitate discussion on unique perspectives on LCCR-related topics with local community groups, utilities, and local government entities, and elected officials.

Starting in June of 2021, EPA will also host virtual roundtables with stakeholder groups. These stakeholder roundtables will allow representatives to discuss LCRR-related topics and provide their national perspective to the Agency. EPA also intends to host a national co-regulator meeting with primacy agencies with states in July 2021 to discuss the feedback received from communities and stakeholders.

EPA requests that communities or organizations that would like to be considered for a community-focused or stakeholder roundtable submit a nomination letter to Agency at LCRR@epa.gov by April 23, 2021.

American Jobs Plan 

During a speech in Pittsburgh in, early April, President Joe Biden unveiled the American Jobs Plan, the first of two packages to rebuild the economy, infrastructure and create jobs. 

It is estimated to cost $2 trillion and the parameters include improvements to roads, ports, bridges, broadband, electric infrastructure, manufacturing jobs, housing, public transit, freight rail, and water infrastructure as well as tax credits for climate change jobs. The plan is funded through various tax code changes, an increase in the global minimum corporate tax, and an increase in the corporate tax rate.

Members of the New Jersey Congressional delegation have indicated that funding for the Gateway Project to replace the Portal North Bridge, fix the rail tunnels, and construct two new tunnels under the Hudson River will be included in this proposal. 

The second package will be unveiled in mid-April and is expected to focus on the challenges of health care costs, child care, paid leave, and education.

In Congress, there is significant disagreement on the size and cost of the package as well as the funding for it. Congress is expected to hold hearings on this proposal when they return from their district work periods. The League will share new information as it becomes available.   

House Federal Community Projects Process

The House Appropriations Chair Rep. Rosa DeLauro announced that they will be accepting Members of Congress’ requests for Community Project Funding in appropriations bills for the upcoming 2022 fiscal year. This announcement is the first move in the 117th Congress to open up the process for the reincarnated Congressional “earmark” funding process.

Additionally, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (OR) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) announced the Committee will provide an opportunity for Members of Congress to submit requests for highway and transit project designations under a new formal process. Project submissions will likely be due by April by Members of Congress and will be done in conjunction with the reauthorization of the FAST Act.

The FAST Act is due in Committee by May and is anticipated to be before Congress by September. The total of project designations may be around 3-6% of the transportation bill, but we will know more soon.

The 117th Congress has written a new set of rules that would allow them to go after key priorities, like COVID-19 relief, climate, as well as revive Congressionally directed spending on projects – known as “earmarks.”

This is a new opportunity, although with a quick timeline, for municipal project funding. More details will be forthcoming but we would suggest you start planning now. Congress members must provide evidence of community support as one of the compelling factors in their decision to select the requested projects.

There will be specific guardrails to prevent excesses that occurred prior to the elimination of earmarks about 15 years ago. They include: 

  • Congress members must submit a written request, which will be posted online
  • Early public disclosure 
  • Ban on for-profit recipients
  • A cap on overall funding at no more than 1% of discretionary spending
  • Congress members are limited to 10 requests, although the number of projects that receive funding will be less than that.

The committee will require the Government Accountability Office to audit a sample of enacted community project funding and report to Congress.

The League’s partner, the National League of Cities has a guide for Transportation Project Designations Process and Timeline that are a good reference point. Further guidance will be provided as it is available. In the meantime, we strongly suggest you review this funding opportunity with your administrator, engineer, and public works department to plan what funding for transportation projects you would like to request as well as reach out to your Congressional representatives.