Welcome back to the Local Progress Federal Advocacy Roundup!
Welcome back to the Local Progress Federal Advocacy Roundup! Much to cover this month between the breaking news of the Biden Administration’s announcement to grant work permits to nearly 500,000 Venezuelan new arrivals, an exciting decision that will rein in union busting from the NLRB, updates in the ongoing litigation on medication abortion, and more. All this while a government shutdown in Washington looms as lawmakers have yet to reach a deal to extend funding past a critical deadline at the end of September.
The Biden Administration announced plans last week to grant work permits and temporary relief from deportation to nearly 500,000 Venezuelan asylum-seekers and migrants. The move comes after local and state leaders have urged the White House to act swiftly to expand TPS so that these new arrivals can have access to employment. TPS is a program reserved for those individuals who cannot return to their home country safely due to fear of conflict, natural disaster, or other dangerous conditions.
On August 25th, the NLRB issued a decision in Cemex Construction Materials Pacific, LLC (28-CA-230115) that may make it substantially easier for workers to gain collective bargaining rights. First, the decision will help limit union busting. The decision requires that if a majority of employees have designated the union as their representative (with signed authorization cards) but the employer has refused the union’s request for recognition, the Board will issue a bargaining order unless the employer has filed a timely petition for a Board election. Second, even if the employer files an election petition, the Board will issue a bargaining order if the employer commits meaningful unfair labor practices (ULPs) during the lead up to the election.
The Treasury Department has proposed a new interim rule to give guidance to governments as they continue to spend American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. While the rule is not yet final, it could allow cities and states the opportunity to use ARPA funding in new ways. The expanded uses include supporting storm or natural disaster relief with housing or food assistance, projects that meet the requirements for Community Block Development Grants such as rehabilitating new public facilities, repaying federal government money owed under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan program, and for projects that fit under the RAISE program.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that would potentially curtail access to mifepristone. Mifepristone is the most common abortion method in the United States and has been FDA approved since 2000. The Fifth Circuit’s decision would prohibit related telemedicine appointments, mail delivery, and pharmacy dispensing of the medicine, and would also prohibit access to the medicine after just seven weeks of pregnancy. The ruling however will not have an immediate impact on access to the medication; the Supreme Court previously issued a stay of any decision issued by the Fifth Circuit that would restrict use of the medicine until the Supreme Court itself weighed in. The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision on this in the coming months. LP members have an opportunity to support efforts to protect this essential drug by signing on to an amicus brief that will be filed in the Supreme Court on behalf of local government leaders. You can sign on to the brief by filling out this form and selecting Danco v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine in the drop-down menu. The deadline to sign on is Wednesday, October 11 at 5pm ET.
Student loan repayments resume again this fall. Interest began accruing on September 1st, and monthly payments will be due again in October. For too many, these payments come as an unwelcome development as they relied on President Biden’s loan cancellation plan to lessen their economic burden. Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court struck down the Biden Administration’s original plan which could have canceled $10,000 in student loan debt for those making less than $125,000 or households with less than $250,000 in income. For Pell Grant recipients, an additional $10,000 of debt would have been forgiven.
In August, the Biden Administration introduced a new program which allows Medicare to negotiate lower prices on ten life-saving medicines. This program was authorized and funded via a provision in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. The medications include those for treating heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes and autoimmune diseases. This program is urgently needed as working Americans paid a total of $3.4 billion in out-of-pocket costs last year for these life-saving medications. Unsurprisingly, big pharmaceutical companies have already filed numerous suits against this drug negotiation program.
Following a summer that broke heat records nationwide, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued nonbinding guidance on workplace safety during the extreme heat, reminding employers that workers are entitled to a safe workplace. Specifically, OSHA announced a national warehouse “emphasis program” with the goal of increasing inspections in indoor-warehouses that often do not have adequate air-conditioning for workers living and working through extreme heat.
USDA has committed to investing $150M in an effort to engage small-forest landowners in emerging markets for climate mitigation and forest resilience, The grant is due on October 21, 2023. If you are interested in learning more about the grant, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.