federal funding

Gov. Lee announces withdrawal from feds’ pandemic unemployment programs

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters outside the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee announced Tuesday that Tennessee will withdraw from the federal government’s enhanced unemployment benefit program during the pandemic, citing the more than 250,000 unfilled positions in the state.

Democrats are panning the decision as unfair to people who have lost their jobs.

“More than 200,000 Tennesseans have been laid off since Jan. 1 and the Lee administration just made the irresponsible decision to punish their families in a time of need,” said Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Raumesh Akbari. “That’s not leadership, it’s legislative violence. This callous decision highlights just how out of touch this administration is with the lives of everyday Tennesseans.”

Here’s the full release from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced the end of all federally funded pandemic unemployment compensation programs in Tennessee, effective July 3.

“We will no longer participate in federal pandemic unemployment programs because Tennesseans have access to more than 250,000 jobs in our state,” said Gov. Lee. “Families, businesses and our economy thrive when we focus on meaningful employment and move on from short-term, federal fixes.”

Gov. Lee’s letter to the U.S. Department of Labor can be viewed here.

Federal pandemic unemployment programs set to end on July 3 include the following:

·         Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provides for an additional $300 weekly payment to recipients of unemployment compensation

·         Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides benefits for those who would not usually qualify, such as the self-employed, gig workers and part-time workers

·         Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides for an extension of benefits once regular benefits have been exhausted

·         Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC), which provides an additional $100 benefit to certain people with mixed earnings

Unemployment claimants in Tennessee have been required to complete three weekly job searches in order to remain eligible for benefits since Oct. 4, 2020.

Any weeks filed before July 3 that are eligible under federal program requirements will continue to be processed.

The Tennessee Workforce Development System stands ready to help Tennesseans return to the workforce. Career specialists are available to help job seekers match with new employment opportunities at more than 80 American Job Centers across the state. They can work to identify possible training programs that can help an individual change their career pathway or enter an apprenticeship program so they can earn a competitive wage, while they learn a new trade.

The Tennessee Virtual American Job Center, www.TNVirtualAJC.com, allows Tennesseans to research different programs that can help remove barriers to employment so they can more easily reenter Tennessee’s workforce.

As federal pandemic unemployment compensation ends in Tennessee, the state encourages claimants to search for work at www.Jobs4TN.gov, which currently has over 250,000 active job postings of all skill levels. 

White House circulates states’ infrastructure needs, but doesn’t detail how much each would get

The White House is putting out a state-by-state breakdown of infrastructure needs it says would be addressed by Democratic President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion proposal dubbed the American Jobs Plan.

While the cheat sheets list states’ specific deficiencies, they don’t break out how much of the federal money would be directed to each of them under the plan. So take it for what it’s worth.

Republicans are blasting the plan for going well beyond the scope of what is traditionally considered to be infrastructure.

Here’s the full release from the Biden administration:

For decades, infrastructure in Tennessee has suffered from a systemic lack of investment. The need for action is clear:

ROADS AND BRIDGES: In Tennessee there are 881 bridges and over 270 miles of highway in poor condition. Since 2011, commute times have increased by 7.7% in Tennessee and on average, each driver pays $209 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair. The American Jobs Plan will devote more than $600 billion to transform our nations’ transportation infrastructure and make it more resilient, including $115 billion repairing roads and bridges.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Tennesseans who take public transportation spend an extra 67.9% of their time commuting and non-White households are 5.6 times more likely to commute via public transportation. 21% of trains and other transit vehicles are past useful life. The American Jobs Plan will modernize public transit with an $85 billion investment.

RESILIENT INFRASTRUCTURE: From 2010 to 2020, Tennessee has experienced 40 extreme weather events, costing the state up to $20 billion in damages. The President is calling for $50 billion to improve the resiliency of our infrastructure and support communities’ recovery from disaster.

DRINKING WATER: Over the next 20 years, Tennessee’s drinking water infrastructure will require $8.7 billion in additional funding. The American Jobs Plan includes a $111 billion investment to ensure clean, safe drinking water is a right in all communities.

HOUSING: In part due to a lack of available and affordable housing, 396,000 renters in Tennessee are rent burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on rent. The President proposes investing over $200 billion to increase housing supply and address the affordable housing crisis.

BROADBAND: Nearly 10% of Tennesseans live in areas where, by one definition, there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimally acceptable speeds. And 46.8% of Tennesseans live in areas where there is only one such provider. Even where infrastructure is available, broadband may be too expensive to be within reach. 17% of Tennessee households do not have an internet subscription. The American Jobs Plan will invest $100 billion to bring universal, reliable, high-speed, and affordable coverage to every family in America.

CAREGIVING: Across the country, hundreds of thousands of older adults and people with disabilities are in need of home and community-based services. The President’s plan will invest $400 billion to help more people access care and improve the quality of caregiving jobs.

CHILD CARE: In Tennessee, there is an estimated $768 million gap in what schools need to do maintenance and make improvements and 48% of residents live in a child care desert. The American Jobs Plan will modernize our nation’s schools and early learning facilities and build new ones in neighborhoods across Tennessee and the country.

MANUFACTURING: Manufacturers account for more than 15% of total output in Tennessee, employing 357,000 workers, or 11.5% of the state’s workforce. The American Jobs Plan will invest $300 billion to retool and revitalize American manufacturers, including providing incentives for manufacturers to invest in innovative energy projects in coal communities.

HOME ENERGY: In Tennessee, an average low-income family spends 8-10% of their income on home energy costs forcing tough choices between paying energy bills and buying food, medicine or other essentials. The American Jobs Plan will upgrade low-income homes to make them more energy efficient through a historic investment in the Weatherization Assistance Program, a new Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator to finance building improvements, and expanded tax credits to support home energy upgrades.

CLEAN ENERGY JOBS: Tennessee has outsized potential for innovative energy technologies including carbon capture and sequestration and geothermal energy generation, that create good paying union jobs. As of 2019, there were 79,626 Tennesseans working in clean energy, and the American Jobs Plan invests in building that industry through a reformed and expended Section 45Q tax credit and extending renewable energy tax credits.

VETERANS HEALTH: Tennessee is home to over 470,000 veterans, 9.4% of who are women and 45% who are over the age of 65. The President is calling for $18 billion to improve the infrastructure of VA health care facilities to ensure the delivery of world-class, state of the art care to veterans enrolled in the VA health care system. This includes improvements to ensure appropriate care for women and older veterans.

Here are the projected amounts headed to TN cities and counties under the COVID relief program

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference in Nashville on March 22, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Tennessee’s cities and counties are projected to receive $2.27 billion under the latest federal COVID-19 relief package. On a conference call about the influx earlier this week, Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) asked for a breakdown of exactly how much is headed to each local government.

There’s a big caveat: The rules for how the money can be spent aren’t entirely clear yet. So state officials are warning local governments to be careful about how they plan to spend the money.

And even then the answer for local allocations isn’t simple.

The Federal Funds Information Service has come up with projections for the totals that could be flowing soon. Estimates for the biggest cities is based on Housing and Urban Development data while smaller towns and cities’ are based on census estimates from 2019. County totals are filtered through adjusted Community Development Block Grant data.

While none of it is final, here’s how FFIS sees it breaking down for counties and cities:

CountyAmount
Anderson14,929,409
Bedford9,641,530
Benton3,134,132
Bledsoe2,921,570
Blount25,811,598
Bradley20,967,269
Campbell7,727,111
Cannon2,846,708
Carroll5,385,239
Carter10,936,687
Cheatham7,887,114
Chester3,354,647
Claiborne6,198,251
Clay1,476,882
Cocke6,982,754
Coffee10,961,706
Crockett2,759,821
Cumberland11,737,481
Davidson134,624,954
Decatur2,261,967
DeKalb3,973,909
Dickson10,462,882
Dyer7,206,759
Fayette7,977,492
Fentress3,592,422
Franklin8,185,982
Gibson9,529,043
Giles5,714,361
Grainger4,522,770
Greene13,395,507
Grundy2,604,084
Hamblen12,593,549
Hamilton71,333,321
Hancock1,283,908
Hardeman4,858,293
Hardin4,975,047
Hawkins11,013,295
Haywood3,356,004
Henderson5,453,119
Henry6,273,114
Hickman4,883,118
Houston1,590,533
Humphreys3,603,864
Jackson2,285,822
Jefferson10,568,970
Johnson3,449,873
Knox91,214,310
Lake1,360,710
Lauderdale4,971,363
Lawrence8,561,069
Lewis2,379,303
Lincoln6,665,074
Loudon10,486,156
Macon4,771,406
Madison19,003,393
Marion5,606,335
Marshall6,666,820
Maury18,693,665
McMinn10,433,015
McNairy4,983,193
Meigs2,409,170
Monroe9,027,116
Montgomery40,532,905
Moore1,258,308
Morgan4,150,980
Obion5,831,697
Overton4,313,505
Perry1,566,290
Pickett979,029
Polk3,264,463
Putnam15,563,024
Rhea6,432,535
Roane10,353,110
Robertson13,927,689
Rutherford64,444,630
Scott4,279,953
Sequatchie2,914,200
Sevier19,054,982
Shelby181,757,575
Smith3,909,326
Stewart2,659,940
Sullivan30,710,619
Sumner37,098,160
Tipton11,946,747
Trousdale2,188,462
Unicoi3,468,298
Union3,873,446
Van Buren1,138,838
Warren8,005,420
Washington25,091,485
Wayne3,233,626
Weakley6,463,760
White5,303,394
Williamson46,238,539
Wilson28,055,334
TOTAL1,324,476,243
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Tennessee in line to receive $8.56B from latest federal relief package

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters outside the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Tennessee is projected to receive $8.56 billion in the latest round of federal COVID-19 relief funding, according to Gov. Bill Lee’s Financial Stimulus Accountability Group. That includes $4 billion to the state, $2.26 billion to local governments, and $2.3 billion to local school districts.

The state share includes $3.82 billion for the state fiscal recovery fund and $216 million for state coronavirus capital projects.

The local fiscal recovery fund includes $941 million for cities and $1.33 billion for counties.

“These funds represent an historic opportunity to make investments in your communities,” Comptroller Jason Mumpower said in a meeting of the financial group.

Contract signed for work on unfinished TVA nuke plant being sold to developer; $5B in fed loan guarantees sought

Veteran Chattanooga developer Franklin L. Haney has contracted with a Canadian engineering company to handle much of the work needed to open at least one of the two reactors at the unfinished Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant that Haney is buying from TVA, reports the Times Free Press. And he’s seeking a $5 billion in loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy to finance the work — with support of U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.

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Feds approve $26M for new veterans home in Bradley County

Press release from Department of Veterans Affairs

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder and Tennessee State Veterans Home Executive Director Ed Harries announced the receipt of the $26,224,263 award from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) State Veterans Home Grants program today.  The grant will provide the federal funding needed to build the future Bradley County Tennessee State Veterans Home.

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TN delegation split on $1.3 trillion federal spending vote

The Tennessee congressional delegation split in voting on a $1.3 trillion federal spending plan that passed the U.S. House 256-157 on Thursday and the Senate 65-32 early Friday morning. The measure funds the government through Sept. 30.

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander voted yes and, prior to the vote, issued a press release praising several of the spending items in the package. Republican Sen. Bob Corker voted no and, prior to the vote, declared in a floor speech that the bill was the most “grotesque” seen in his 11 years of service.

In the House, yes votes in the Tennessee delegation came from Republican Reps. Chuck Fleischmann of Ootelwah, Phil Roe of Johnson City and David Kustoff of Germantown along with Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper of Nashville.

The Tennessee no votes came from Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood, Diane Black of Gallatin, John J. “Jimmy” Duncan of Knoxville and Democrat Steve Cohen of Memphis.

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Haslam: Gas tax hike gives TN ‘a step up in the game’ under Trump’s infrastructure proposal

Gov. Bill Haslam says the state fuel tax increase approved by the legislature last year puts Tennessee in a good position to leverage federal transportation funding under the new infrastructure plan proposed by President Trump on Monday, reports Michael Collins.

The Trump proposal envisions $1.5 trillion in new investments in highways, bridges and mass transit over a 10-year period, but only $200 billion would be in new federal money – the rest in state and local funding or private investment, according to the New York Times. States would have to put in a bigger share of the money for projects, or get private investment, to trigger the new federal funding.

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TN politicians comment on government shutdown

Comments from some members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation on the partial government shutdown.

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DesJarlais: If earmarks are restored, ‘I can be more of a spokesman for the people’

Even some conservatives – including Tennessee’s U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais — seem open to return to earmarks since President Trump floated the idea, reports The Hill.

But don’t call them earmarks: lawmakers say they’re in favor of “congressionally directed spending.”

In a sign of the changing attitudes on Capitol Hill, conservatives are divided on whether to reverse the earmark ban in place since Republicans took over the House majority after the 2010 midterm elections.

Conservative leaders like House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) reject the idea, warning that allowing lawmakers to carve out spending for projects specifically designed to benefit their districts would undercut Trump’s “drain the swamp” message.

…But even some Freedom Caucus members sound open to a return to earmarks ahead of House Rules Committee hearings next week on whether to revive the practice.

“I don’t know that I’m opposed to it,” Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), a Freedom Caucus member, told The Hill. “We’re spending more money than ever and it’s still going out, but it doesn’t seem to come to my district.”

If earmarks were restored, “I can be more of a spokesman for the people in Tennessee who need it,” DesJarlais continued. “There is an overpass in Rutherford County that we need to get funding for. We’ve got things up in Nashville, the Percy Priest Reservoir … so yeah, I would like to have a better voice.

“I don’t know if earmarks is the answer. I’ve never had them, so I don’t know if it’s good or not.”

Other conservatives also expressed openness to allowing earmarks or something similar, saying that ensuring money for specific projects would give the legislative branch more power.

… Trump said at a White House meeting with roughly two dozen lawmakers on Tuesday that Congress should consider allowing earmarks again.

He suggested that doing so would allow Congress to function better, lamenting that the “levels of hatred” among Republicans and Democrats are “out of control.”

“Maybe we should think about it,” Trump said. “Maybe all of you should think about going back to a form of earmarks. You should do it.”

“We have to put better controls because it got a little out of hand, but that brings people together,” Trump added.