Legislative Update: House Appropriations Process and Infrastructure Deal


Legislative Update: House Appropriations Process and Infrastructure Deal

This week, the appropriations process moved forward in the House. Read below to learn more about the latest movement, as well as an update on a bipartisan Senate infrastructure agreement, newly released higher education stimulus funds and information on how to apply for the Emergency Connectivity Fund.

House Appropriations Process Moves Forward 
This week the House Rules Committee determined which of the proposed 197 amendments filed for the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-Ed) bill would be approved for debate. Ultimately, 15 education-related amendments will be considered. One of the amendments, introduced by Representative Cindy Axne (D-IA), adds $5 million for community colleges that provide training programs for dislocated workers. The Labor-HHS-Ed appropriations bill is part of a seven-bill minibus package (H.R. 402) under consideration by the full House. 
Senate Reaches Agreement on Infrastructure Deal 
On Wednesday night the Senate voted, 67-32, to begin consideration of a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure package that includes $550 billion in new spending. While work on the full bill text has not been finished and released, a fact sheet of the agreement can be found here
The bill includes a $65 billion investment in broadband. This would provide grants to states for broadband deployment, as well as support for broadband affordability, expansion of eligible private activity bond projects to include broadband infrastructure and support for middle-mile deployment efforts. The breakdown of the full broadband funding is as follows: 

  • $40 billion in formula-based grants to states, territories and DC for broadband deployment. This funding also includes a 10 percent set-aside for high-cost areas. Each state and territory would receive an initial minimum allocation, of which a portion could be used for technical assistance in either establishing or supporting a state broadband office; 
  • $600 million for private activity bonds, which would finance broadband deployment for projects in rural areas where a majority of households do not have access to broadband; 
  • $2 billion to support rural areas;
  • $2 billion to the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program; 
  • $2.75 billion in formula-based and competitive grants to promote digital inclusion and equity for communities; 
  • Creation of a state grant program for the construction, improvement or acquisition of middle-mile infrastructure; and 
  • Support for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which subsidizes broadband services for eligible households. 

ED Announces $3.2 Billion in Emergency Higher Education Grants
Today the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced $3.2 billion in additional emergency grants under the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). This funding will support learners at institutions of higher education, as well as provide resources to institutions to help recover from the pandemic. $2.97 billion of the funding is from the American Rescue Plan (ARP), and is comprised of the the following: 

  • $1.6 billion to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs); 
  • $143 million to Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs); and 
  • $1.19 billion to Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and under-resourced institutions eligible for the Strengthening Institutions Programs (many of which are community colleges). 

Additionally, $225 million of the total funding comes from grants under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CCRRSAA) to support public and non-profit institutions and their students with unmet needs related to the pandemic. 
Additional information on the ARP, CARES Act and CCRRSAA- including the latest HEERF programs- can be found here
FCC Shares Instructions on Emergency Connectivity Fund
The FCC announced that a webinar on the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) and frequently asked questions will be held on August 3 at 2:00pm ET. Additionally, the FCC provided step-by-step instructions of how to apply for the ECF. Applications for schools and libraries to receive this funding for the 2021-2022 school year are open through August 13. 
Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy