Government Affairs and Advocacy

Nov. 22 Federal Update: Infrastructure Bill Passed, Build Back Better Has Not

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November 22, 2021

On Nov. 15, President Joe Biden signed into law the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a $1.2 trillion bill that will build and repair roads and bridges, improve public transit, support passenger rail, upgrade airports and ports, replace lead pipes, modernize transmission lines, and expand high-speed internet. The bill also includes a $50 million carve out for nonprofits, the Nonprofit Energy Efficiency pilot program, which will help nonprofits make capital upgrades to their buildings. Unfortunately, the bill does not include an extension of the Employee Retention Tax Credit, a lifeline for many nonprofits during the pandemic that expired in September; however, the nonprofit community will continue to advocate for that provision in upcoming bills. The administration touts the infrastructure bill as the largest investment in infrastructure in decades, creating millions of blue-collar jobs and improving efficiencies across the economy.

Now, Congress is turning its focus to President Biden’s signature Build Back Better Act, an almost $2 trillion bill that would make significant investments in climate change mitigation, pre-K, child care, housing, and elder care, as well as extend the new Child Tax Credit. The House of Representatives voted to pass the bill last Friday morning. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the nonpartisan reviewer of proposed legislation, had announced on Thursday that the bill did not include enough tax increases to pay for itself, adding $367 billion to the deficit over a decade. Nevertheless, moderate Democrats, nervous about deficit spending, decided to vote for the bill. Another point of contention in the House was the inclusion of the State and Local Tax (SALT) Deduction, a provision that would result in major tax cuts for high-earning households. Progressives claimed the SALT Deduction was a giveaway to the rich, while moderates, especially from high tax states like New Jersey and New York, required its inclusion in exchange for their vote for the entire package.

Now that the Build Back Better Act has passed the House, it will head to the Senate, where another round of negotiations will occur. Senate Democrats, with only a small majority of 50 seats plus the vice president’s tiebreaking vote, will have to balance the progressive and moderate wings of the party to get anything passed. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) remain the primary holdouts and have made public complaints about the revenue raising side of the bill, its impact on inflation, and the House’s inclusion of paid family leave. Moreover, the reconciliation process in the Senate, which allows legislation with a budgetary impact to pass with just 50 votes instead of the usual 60 votes, may lead to some of the House bill’s provisions being eliminated from the bill, such as immigration provisions that expand the number of green card holders and stop deportations. Timing on a Senate vote is still not clear.

Social Current will continue to keep you updated on the legislative process, as this legislation winds its way through Congress.

New Toolkits for Building Your Advocacy Muscle

Social Current offers two newly updated advocacy toolkits, one with general public policy and advocacy how-tos and another with tips for media relations and social media to support advocacy. Inside, you’ll find sections on creating impact stories, engaging with legislators, developing media relations, hosting special events, and conducting social media outreach. They also contain brand new sections on virtual advocacy, constituent engagement and coalition building.

Read about how COVID-19 has changed the rules for meeting with legislators and download the toolkits from the Policy Action Center.

New Resources on Vaccine Mandate Policies and Sixth Circuit Court Review

Just a few weeks ago, the Biden administration announced new vaccine mandates for employers. Several new resources are available that break down vaccine requirements for nonprofit employers. In recent days, after numerous lawsuits from states around the country, the Sixth Circuit Court announced it will hear lawsuits against the administration’s rule. The rule was formally issued Nov. 5 and requires compliance by Jan. 4. Even if the Sixth Circuit weighs in quickly, it’s likely the decision will be appealed, and litigation could continue for weeks or months. Ultimately, the case could end up in the Supreme Court.

Social Current Webinar and Curated Resource List
Leaders of community-based organizations are finding themselves needing to determine their organizations’ paths for creating and upholding vaccine policies, a topic that will be covered in the Dec. 1 webinar, Critical Conversation: The State of Vaccine Mandates and Community-Based Organizations.

Leaders are also finding that they are a powerful resource for providing support and guidance around vaccine hesitancy to their staff and communities. To help community-based organizations navigate this complex issue, this list of resources breaks down key considerations and includes tools and tips to meet compliance requirements and address vaccine polarization.

The OSHA Vaccine Mandate
This mandate is for employers with 100+ employees and requires employees (barring some exceptions) to either get vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing beginning in early January. A new summary from Lutheran Services in America breaks down covered entities, exclusions, deadlines, rules, reporting requirements, and more. The National Council of Nonprofits has also updated its summary.

The CMS Vaccine Mandate
This mandate is for covered health care entities that receive Medicaid or Medicare dollars. It requires that all employees (barring some exceptions) get vaccinated, with no weekly testing option. A new summary from Lutheran Services in America breaks down the rule. While many community-based organizations are excluded as covered entities, home health agencies, long-term care facilities, intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities, and others do qualify as covered. An FAQ from CMS has also been released.

The Status of the Momnibus Bill

For many months, various members of Congress have advocated for a package of bills, known as the “Momnibus,” that supports improving maternal health. Social Current has supported and endorsed this legislation. The most recent draft of the Build Back Better Act includes every eligible provision of the Momnibus bill, as well as mandatory, permanent investments in yearlong postpartum Medicaid coverage in every state. Compared to the previous draft of the Build Back Better bill, every provision has either the same or increased funding. Investments include addressing social determinants of health through community-based organizations, perinatal health workforce investments, maternal mental health equity grant program, advancing maternal health research institutions serving minorities, and more. Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) has led this legislation along with members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. If the Build Back Better bill passes, it would provide the largest maternal health equity investments in American history. The Build Back Better bill still has not made it across the finish line yet, so now is an important time to speak out in support of the maternal health provisions.

House Passes the Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act

On Oct. 26, the House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act through the 2026 fiscal year. This critical funding stream supports emergency shelters for victims of domestic violence and prevention services through grants and cooperative agreements between states, tribes, and community-based groups. According to the bill, recipients can use funding for technical assistance, evidence-based prevention approaches, community strategies to reduce family violence, and partnership development. Moreover, there are specific grants to organizations that provide population-specific and culturally specific services to racial and ethnic minority groups.

LIHEAP Funds Released for Winter Bills

The Office of Community Services in the Department of Health and Human Services announced the distribution of $3.37 billion in block grant funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP serves low-income households with heat and energy assistance, as well as weatherization assistance. The program primarily serves households with seniors, young children, and people with disabilities. These funds were made available by a concurrent resolution, passed at the end of September, keeping the government open until Dec. 3.

New Toolkit on Addressing Health Misinformation

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy recently released A Community Toolkit for Addressing Health Misinformation, which provides tools to help community-based organizations and other entities recognize and push back against misinformation. The toolkit includes:

  • A health misinformation checklist
  • Tips on how to have conversations with friends and family about misinformation
  • A list of popular types of disinformation tactics
  • Examples of instances when individuals encountered misinformation

As COVID-19 vaccines are now available to children 5-11 years old, the toolkit represents a “whole-of-society” approach to combatting misinformation.

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