As talks over the next potential COVID-19 relief package dissolved with no deal, members in both chambers are now in their respective home states and are not anticipated to return to DC until September 8th. Several provisions enacted in earlier relief packages have expired, including the federal boost to weekly unemployment benefits, eviction protections for renters, and small business assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program. Importantly, discussions have ceased on the need to provide more flexible funding to State and local governments to battle the pandemic and the resultant lost revenues. It is uncertain how or if talks between House, Senate, and White House negotiators will resume on this critical legislation.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has much of the spotlight, the fact that 2020 is an election year means other issues are certainly on the minds of lawmakers. For example, vote by mail has garnered more attention as several states move towards this method to ensure voters can cast ballots safely in the midst of a pandemic while also trying to ensure the security and integrity of the vote. Another issue involves efforts to reform law enforcement and public safety policy in the wake of protests and the ongoing conversation around the country on discrimination and racial equity.
Despite these major topics, there are recurring issues Congress must deal with upon their return to Washington. Funding for the federal government for FY2021 and the current surface transportation reauthorization both expire at the end of September.
Before heading to their home districts, lawmakers in the House managed to pass a massive spending bill in an effort to keep the federal appropriations process on track before current spending expires. The House also managed to pass its version of a surface transportation reauthorization in early July which included several key municipal bond priorities. But the Senate has yet to act on either House-passed bills which could make September interesting since it sets the stage for a scramble to pass major pieces of legislation in the hopes of using the achievements as talking points during the final weeks of campaigning in October.
With lawmakers back home, now is the time for GFOA members to be heard by contacting members of your congressional delegation. Outreach this year might look a little different since you may not be able to invite them to a project site or public gathering, but you can still find ways to make sure they are hearing from constituents in their home districts. This is a powerful way to advocate to members of Congress and the GFOA needs your support!
Ideas for Outreach
Coronavirus Fiscal Relief
Bank Qualified Debt/Small Issuer Exceptions
Why Your Voice is Important
With members of Congress in their states and districts over the next few weeks, public finance officials have a great opportunity to draw attention and educate federal lawmakers on key policy issues that are impacting your jurisdiction now and in the future. GFOA members are urged to reach out during this critical time – YOU CAN HELP SHAPE THE FEDERAL LEGISLATIVE AGENDA when Congress returns in September. Please share any outreach you conduct with GFOA’s Federal Liaison Center and to let us know if we can provide any follow up with member offices in Washington, DC.