The OCA Research and Analysis Division went to Washington DC for the 2024 NACo Legislative Conference

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In February, staff from the OCA Research and Analysis Division traveled to Washington, DC, to attend the 2024 National Association of Counties (NACo) Legislative Conference. The keynote speaker at the event was President Joe Biden, who spoke to county officials about federal investments and achievements during the last three years, including the American Rescue Plan Act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the CHIPS and Science Act. 

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Read on to learn about sessions that RAD staff attended at the 2024 NACo Legislative Conference!

The Earmarks and Grants 101: Accessing Federal Dollars to Support County Priorities session focused on getting the word out about earmarks and grant funding. Members of Congress can request funding during appropriations discussions through Community Project Funding (CPF) in the US House of Representatives and Congressionally Directed Spending (CDS) in the US Senate. Formerly known as earmarks, which were banned in 2010, Community Project Funding and Congressional Directed Spending were introduced in FY2022 for Members of Congress to add line item funding allocations to House and Senate appropriation bills within 12 appropriation subcommittees. During the session, the discussion focused on strategies to better utilize CPF and CDS funding opportunities. These funding mechanisms provide local governments more ways to request funding through Congress for local projects, especially for projects where funding is unavailable locally or via federal grant applications.

Tammy + Sindhu 4.jpg The speakers concluded by highlighting a US Government Accountability Office (GAO) interactive map that tracks Congressionally Directed Spending on community projects for FY2022 and FY2023. The GAO map includes filters to understand which Member of Congress requested funds, which federal agency received funds, and in which appropriations category the funding was spent. Members of Congress’ allocation of directed spending within the federal budget provides counties with clarity on congressional priorities, which creates opportunities for collaboration between local and federal officials. 

During the Community, Economic, and Workforce Development Steering Committee Meeting, US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Deputy Assistant Secretary for Grant Programs, Claudia Monterrosa, spoke about community development resources available for counties, including federal appropriations and grant opportunities, such as the Community Project Funding and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). The CDBG program provides block grant funding to improve housing and economic conditions for low- and moderate-income individuals. HUD staff are celebrating the 50th anniversary of CDBG, which in 2023 disbursed over $3 billion in federal funding to local recipients. During the session, Secretary Monterrosa and county officials also discussed the best ways to allocate funding to counties, with the Secretary commenting on HUD’s efforts to revisit rules surrounding direct disbursement of funds to counties during emergencies. Secretary Monterrosa also highlighted specific projects, including an adaptive housing reuse project in Santa Ana, California, and a domestic violence advocacy office project in Salem, Oregon, both of which received federal funds through HUD.

At the Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee Meeting, Congresswoman Alma Adams discussed the Momnibus Act, which includes 13 individual bills that will direct investments in social determinants of health that influence maternal health outcomes. Donald Stevens, Counsel for Senator Cornyn, provided updates on legislation Senator Cornyn will be working to advance in Congress this upcoming session, including a bill to ensure victims’ representatives receive restitution in certain criminal cases. Additional information was provided about the public health-informed targeted violence and prevention efforts by the Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships within the Department of Homeland Security.

Veronyka-NACO2.png The NACo Arts and Culture Commission hosted a session titled Arts as a Blueprint Forward: Local Solutions for Community Prosperity, whereleaders from local governments and arts organizations shared their efforts to enhance access to arts and opportunities for artists and audiences. Commissioner Debbie Liberman from Montgomery County, Ohio, shared how her County utilized a sin tax on cigarettes to fund competitive grants for arts, artists, and festivals. Aaron Myers from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities spoke about DC’s “Music Census,” an effort to collect more robust data on professionals in the music industry - including artists, producers, stage managers, and others - to inform future programming and funding efforts for the industry. Finally, Randy Cohen, Vice President of Research at American for the Arts, emphasized the arts’ significant impact on local economies from events-related spending of patrons, including in the arts themselves, as well as hospitality, travel, and tourism. He shared that a survey of attendees of an arts festival indicated that more than half of attendees were from out of town and spent money on parking, restaurants, lodging, and childcare.

The Gulf States, Counties, and Parishes Caucus Meeting’s keynote speaker was Ken Graham, Director of the National Weather Service (NWS) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Director Graham spoke about the current challenges the National Weather Service faces, including a limited budget, a high number of vacant positions, difficulty hiring recent graduates, and the subsequent potential impact of weather-related events on Gulf Coast states. Director Graham made it clear that difficult decisions would have to be made regarding the maintenance and operations of various hardware, including the NWS’s 159 Next-Generation Radar systems (NEXRAD), a network of S-Band Doppler weather radars. Despite the challenges, Director Graham is focused on building a more flexible and mobile NWS.