Current National Legislative Update

RIFDA National Legislative Update

Infrastructure Shoots Off in Several Directions:
With the unveiling of the president’s American Jobs Plan a few weeks ago, infrastructure continues to be a key area of focus for many lawmakers on the Hill. From discussions around the plan itself—to looking at some of these issues in a more separated fashion—little consensus has developed yet on how to best go forward. Moderates on both sides of the aisle have voiced concerns on overall costs as well as President Biden’s proposed increase of the corporate tax rate to 28% as a primary funding mechanism. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) remains a key roadblock for Democrats in pushing forward after saying 25% was a better target.

It is worth noting though that several other senators to his left have suggested it might be wise to try and pass portions of the package with bipartisan support. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), a close ally of the president, recently remarked that it made sense to pass the traditional infrastructure portions of the American Jobs Plan with at least a 60-vote threshold in the Senate and then resort to budget reconciliation for the remaining pieces.

A group of Republican senators (the “G-10”) have been putting together a $600-800 trillion infrastructure bill that would focus mostly on the traditional items Coons was referring to. Sen. Shelley Capito (R-WV) said that Republicans plan to share this with a similar group of Democratic colleagues in order to gauge interest on their proposals. Despite all of this talk, there has been little in the way of draft language shared publicly at this point.

The Senate Banking Committee discussed highway reauthorization and the Highway Trust Fund yesterday, bringing into focus the need for some form of infrastructure investments this year due to existing funds expiring in the fall. With the House also seemingly on their own path for now, it remains to be seen which of these ideas will gain traction eventually.

USDA Provides Additional Clarity into New SNAP Emergency Allotment Guidance:
The USDA reversed its early guidance on who qualifies for SNAP emergency allotments. Originally, the agency determined that states could take families up to the national benefit maximum, leaving out those who already received the maximum benefit level. Following a court case in Pennsylvania and an executive order from President Biden, USDA announced that it was revising the guidance to states and now allowing those at the national maximum benefit level to also receive emergency allotments.

The change went into effect with the April issuance, however, some states had already had their April plans approved and issued those benefits. FNS has informed FMI that states that had already had their April plans approved can come back to amend to include those at the maximum. There will be a bit of catch up with this change, but only for the month of April. States cannot request emergency allotments for these families for prior months. FMI will be sure to share any additional guidance we receive from USDA.

FASTER Act Passes the House, Heads to President’s Desk:
We are pleased to report the House of Representatives last week passed FMI’s preferred version of the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act (S. 578), which will now head to the White House where it is expected to be signed into law by the president. The bill passed on the House floor by a vote of 415-11.

The legislation adds sesame to the list of major food allergens that need to be declared on labels but importantly does not give FDA the authority to add other food ingredients to the list of major allergens through regulation. Instead, the bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services to provide recommendations for the development of such a regulatory process. Additionally, the legislation includes an effective date of January 1, 2023, as opposed to the House-passed bill from the previous congressional session that had an effective date of January 1, 2022.

Feedback Requested: Making Hot Foods Permanent in SNAP:
Rep. Grace Ming (D-NY) is planning to introduce a bill to permanently allow for the sale of hot/prepared foods in SNAP. In discussion with Ming’s staff about the bill and their underlying interest in the issue. Rep. Ming had requested a hot foods waiver for SNAP early in the pandemic, which was denied by USDA. She has now pivoted to focus on allowing hot foods/foods for immediate consumption to be permanently allowed in SNAP.

Administration Releases Guidance on Federal Subsidies for COBRA Health Care Continuation Coverage:
The American Rescue Plan Act, which was signed into law last month, provides a 100% subsidy from the federal government to reduce employer-sponsored health care premiums for workers who are eligible for COBRA due to involuntary termination or reduction in hours. The premium assistance applies to periods of health coverage on or after April 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021.

Importantly, group health plans/employers are required to notify qualified beneficiaries in several different manners about their rights for subsidized COBRA under the Act. With this in mind, the Administration will release employee notices for this purpose, along with a summary and frequently asked questions regarding COBRA assistance under the new law.