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WSU Government Relations Newsbeat

Medical equity training bill advances

A bill that would require public medical schools in Washington to adopt health equity curriculum for their students cleared the Senate Ways and Means Committee today.

Senate Bill 5228, sponsored by Senator Emily Randall, requires the state’s two public medical schools to establish such curriculum that may include instruction on relating to health disparities, intercultural communication skills training, cultural safety training, and implicit bias. The bill also requires them to create a goal regarding student representation and report progress on that goal annually. WSU already is in compliance with the curriculum requirements in the bill and is supporting the measure.

“In just our fourth year of instruction, WSU’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine is uniquely positioned having just developed a modern curriculum that we’re now calibrating,” WSU Director of State Relations Chris Mulick told the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee last month. “We develop a modern curriculum that is heavy on empathy for patients, whoever they are.”

The Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine’s curriculum already includes components relating to bias, racism in medicine, sexism in medicine, health equity in population health, navigating bias in the workplace, LGBTQ health disparities, ethics of access to health care, caring for patients with disabilities, and health literacy and language barriers.

5228 now heads to the Senate Rules Committee where it can be pulled to the chamber floor for a vote. You can watch Mulick’s full testimony here (beginning at 2:00:08).

State revenue collections continue to exceed expectations

Washington state revenue collections between January 11th and February 10th continued to exceed forecasted expectations, according to the February Economic & Revenue Update produced by the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. Collections came in $269.5 million higher for this period than forecasted in November. Collections are now $592.6 million or 9 percent higher than forecasted.

The increase for this period is due in large part to revenues associated with sales and use taxes, business and occupation taxes, and taxes on tobacco products. The report notes the Washington unemployment rate decreased to 6.3 percent, an improvement from the 6.7 percent in the January update.

Exports from Washington continued to decline however, for a ninth consecutive quarter. Additionally, job growth remained stagnant in this period.

Next month, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council will adopt an updated revenue forecast. Budget leaders in the Legislature will use that forecast to guide the development of their 2021-23 budget proposals.

Senate Higher Ed committee advances Regent Cayanan nomination

WSU Student Regent Arleigh Cayanan appeared before the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee this afternoon during his confirmation hearing. Cayanan, a fourth year student in College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the WSU Health Sciences campus, was nominated by Governor Inslee to fill the student regent position which is designated to provide a student perspective on the WSU Board of Regents.

Cayanan shared his experiences representing students on the Board.

“It’s been been different from what I expected,” he said, reflecting on the year amid the pandemic. “We’re doing what we can to have the voices of students heard.”

Cayanan also spoke to his work to share and disseminate information and topics from the Board of Regents to the student government council, which represents student governments across the WSU system.

Senator Marko Liias asked what brought the Hawaii native to Washington and to WSU. Cayanan said he found the environment at WSU was unique.

“When I did interviews at other colleges to pursue Pharmacy, the students at WSU had the most upbeat personalities… they really wanted me to be there. I felt I would be supported at WSU.”

You can view Regent Cayanan’s confirmation hearing is below (starts at 00:44:14). His confirmation moves to the Senate floor, awaiting a confirmation vote by the chamber.

WSU testifies on governor’s operating budget

WSU Director of State Relations Chris Mulick on Tuesday lauded Governor Jay Inslee’s operating budget proposal for keeping to key commitments while asking the Legislature to hold higher education harmless in the budget it sends him this spring.

The governor’s proposal funds WSU’s $3.6 million request to complete funding for the 20-seat expansion of the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. Funding was provided in 2019 for the first and second year and the university is seeking funding for third- and fourth-year instruction. This would complete core funding for the medical school, originally authorized by the Legislature in 2015.

The budget also provided $497,000 of WSU’s $931,000 request to provide maintenance and operations funding for the new academic building currently under construction at WSU Tri-Cities.

Further, the budget provides $2.1 million to fund the Soil Health Initiative, a research program advanced by WSU and partners in the 2020 legislative session. It was funded but then vetoed in March by the governor along with other new spending proposals as the state faced the onset of a budget crisis presented by the pandemic.

However, the governor’s proposal also included new reductions, most notably requiring higher education faculty and staff to take one furlough day every month for 24 months.

The House and Senate will craft their own proposals before agreeing on a compromise to send to the governor before adjourning the 2021 session.

Video of WSU’s testimony can be viewed below (01:04:03):

Senate briefed on WSU bee research

WSU Professor of Entomology Laura Lavine was invited before a virtual committee hearing of the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee this afternoon to share about honey bee research being conducted at WSU and comment on recommendations offered by the state Pollinator Health Task Force.

The Pollinator Health Task Force was created by the Legislature to provide them with recommendations on how to strengthen pollinator numbers and habitats. Dr. Lavine, Chair of the WSU Department of Entomology, spoke to a few of the many recommendations made by the task force and hopes to adopt them at the university, including one that would strengthen communications between beekeepers and pesticide applicators.

“As a land-grant university, Washington State University serves as the honest broker of research information and translates that into management practice and recommendations for all stakeholders, from smallholders and farmers, to commercial beekeepers” said Dr. Lavine, Chair of the WSU Department of Entomology.

The Legislature convened yesterday for its 105-day legislative session, adopting rules to move the session remote.

Video of the presentation can be found below:

Deal Reached

I am sure you have all seen that Congress has reached a deal on a $900 billion stimulus package. They plan at this point is for them to vote before the current continuing resolution funding the federal government runs out at midnight. If everything goes well, the government should be funded through the end of next fiscal year and this stimulus package will put a band aid on things through the end of March.

The news has outlined some of the direct payments for assistance, unemployment benefits and support for our small businesses.

We are looking at $20 billion for higher education and APLU is working diligently on the formulaic breakdown to give us an idea of what to expect.  I will send that to you as soon as it is provided.

There are other things of  interest in this bill as well including:

  • Providing roughly $20 billion to BARDA for procurement of vaccines and therapeutics, nearly $9 billion to the CDC and states for vaccine distribution and more than $3 billion for the strategic national stockpile. This includes $300 million specifically directed to high risk and underserved areas for distribution, including communities of color.
  • The bill provides more than $22 billion, all sent directly to states, for testing, tracing and COVID mitigation programs. Of this total, $2.5 billion will be sent out as grants specifically targeted at needs in underserved areas, including both communities of color and rural communities.
  • $4.5 billion in mental health funding, $9 billion in support for health care providers, and more than $1 billion for NIH to research COVID-19. $1 billion in direct funds to the Indian Health Service to carry out these services.
  • The bill also includes $13 billion for direct payments, purchases and loans to farmers and ranchers who have suffered losses due to the pandemic. It also includes funds to support the food supply chain through food purchases, donations to food banks, and support for local food systems.
  • $10 billion in emergency funds for the child care sector through the CCDBG program. These funds maintain the flexibility given to states through the CARES Act and can be used to provide child care assistance to families, and to help child care providers cover their increased operating costs during the pandemic. This emergency relief will help stabilize the child care market and allows states to expand child care assistance to essential workers and working families who are in great need of child care services.
  • 3.2 billion in emergency funds for low- income families to access broadband through an FCC fund. Additionally, creates a $1 billion tribal broadband fund and secured

$250 million dollars in telehealth funding and $65 million to complete the broadband maps in order for the government to effectively disperse funding to the areas that need it most

  • $2 billion to small telecommunication providers to rip out Huawei/ZTE equipment to replace it with secure equipment and a new $300 million grant program to fund broadband in rural areas.
  • Coronavirus Relief Fund Extension: This bill extends the availability by one year (until Dec. 31, 2021) for funds provided to states and localities by the Coronavirus Relief Fund in the CARES Act.

Again, this is a very top level description of the package.

In addition, the FY 2021 funding package that will fund the federal government will  be attached to this bill.  This “Omnibus” package includes many of our institution priorities.  Very little has been released on the funding portion of the package, but we do know the following as it has been reported back here specific to higher education – the Senate Chairman, Lamar Alexander is retiring and he had some priorities he wanted to see done before the end of his term.  Plus he decided to spread a little much needed Christmas cheer in the Senate Hart Building, which you can see here:

  • The legislation includes a bipartisan agreement to forgive nearly $1.3 billion in federal loans to historically Black colleges and universities, deliver Pell grants to incarcerated students after a 26-year ban and simplify financial aid forms.
  • In addition to reducing the total number of questions on the FAFSA, the deal also language to simplify the formula for calculating who qualifies for Pell grants. The Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee said the changes would make more than 500,000 additional students eligible for Pell grants each year and another 1.7 million additional students would qualify to receive the maximum award.
  • The deal would also repeal a 1998 law that restricts federal financial aid for college students who are convicted of a drug crime and House and Senate leaders also agreed to boost the maximum Pell grant award by $150 to $6,495 for the 2021-2022 school year.
  • The deal would also extend the amount of time undergraduate students can go to school without accruing interest on their need-based federal student loans.

More to come likely after the bill language has been released and we can look through the language for our FY 2021 funding priorities.

Glynda Becker Fenter

Assistant Vice President for Federal Engagement & Advocacy

Operating budget proposal funds WSU priorities, includes furlough program

The pandemic-era operating budget proposal introduced by Governor Jay Inslee Thursday calls for the implementation of a furlough, but also funds core WSU priorities.

It’s just the first of three budget proposals to be introduced before a compromise is reached next spring. The Legislature convenes in January, when the House and Senate will begin crafting their proposals.

The governor’s budget funds WSU’s $3.6 million request to provide third and fourth year instruction as part of the 20-seat expansion for the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine approved in 2019. The request would complete a seven-year effort to authorize and fund the state’s second public medical school.

The budget also provided $497,000 of WSU’s $931,000 request to provide maintenance and operations funding for the new academic building currently under construction at WSU Tri-Cities.

Further, the budget provides $2.1 million to fund the Soil Health Initiative, a research program advanced by WSU and partners in the 2020 legislative session. It was funded but then vetoed in March by the governor along with other new spending proposals as the state faced the onset of a budget crisis presented by the pandemic.

The Governor’s budget also retains full funding for the Washington College Grant.

Governor’s capital budget proposal funds top WSU priorities

Governor Jay Inslee on Thursday introduced a 2021-23 capital budget that significantly funds WSU’s request, funding for construction and renovation at campuses in Pullman, Vancouver and Spokane while making an important dent in the university’s deferred maintenance backlog.

The proposal is just the first of three to be put on the table for consideration. The state House and Senate will convene in January to write their proposals before a compromise is sent to the governor in late April.

The governor’s proposal mostly funds WSU’s top two requests, providing $27.8 million for small preservation projects shoring up basic infrastructure and $6.4 million for small renovations and improvements. Both are notable improvements when compared to previous years.

The governor’s proposed capital budget fully funds most additional WSU priorities:

  • $8 million for the demolition of Johnson Hall on the Pullman campus, allowing for the construction of a new USDA Plant BioSciences Building
  • $8 million to replace a water reservoir on the Pullman campus
  • $52.6 million for the construction of the WSU Vancouver Life Sciences Building
  • $15 million to design and renovate the Spokane Phase One Building
  • $500,000 for predesign of a new Sciences Building on the Pullman campus
  • $4.9 million for preservation of STEM Teaching Labs at WSU Pullman
  • $4.9 million to design and renovate the Clark Hall Research Lab

The 105-day legislative session convenes virtually on January 11th.

COVID Relief – Update & Additional information 12.15.2020

Dear Colleagues:

First a quick update on the status of the COVID package – The Republican and Democratic leadership of the House and Senate met at 4:30 p.m. today and are scheduled to meet again at 7pm today.  In addition, there are rumors that Speaker Pelosi and Leader McConnell will keep Congress in session until they pass a coronavirus relief deal, the strongest signal yet that they are close to a deal.  These are apparently the first substantive meetings between the four leaders in months – which is a good sign.  So again, some movement – fingers crossed – it could all come together.

On that note, I wanted to provide you a summary of the language in the bipartisan/bicameral COVID-19 package under discussion in DC specific to the State, Local & Tribal Assistance and the Education Stabilization Fund. These issues are not so much the challenge of the larger conversations, so should give us an idea of what to expect if and/or when the bill comes together.

I will continue to monitor this – please feel free to reach out with questions.

State Local and Tribal Assistance:

$160 Billion for state, local, and tribal assistance.  This will provide $152 billion in aid to states and local governments through the Coronavirus Relief Fund and $8 billion in direct funding to Tribal nations.

    • 1/3 of the $152 billion would be distributed based on each state’s proportion to the U.S. population
    • 2/3 of the $152 billion would be distributed based on the proportion of each state’s revenue losses relative to the total revenue losses of all states nationwide
    • Each state is entitled to a minimum of $500 million

The state funding would be distributed in three tranches:

  1. First tranche: $50.66 billion from the population-based funding will be dispersed to states within 30 days of enactment. In addition, needs-based funding that tracks actual revenue losses incurred by state and local governments from April 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020 relative to the same period in 2019 will also be dispersed within 30 days of enactment.
  2. Second tranche: Needs-based funding that tracks revenue losses incurred by state and local governments from October 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021 relative to the same period in 2019 will be dispersed no later than June 1. It is expected that an additional $52 billion will be dispersed in this tranche, totaling $142 billion with inclusion of Tranche 1.
  3. Third tranche: At least $10 billion must be set aside for this final tranche. This is also a needs-based allocation that provides the remaining funding based on the proportional revenue losses of each state from April 1, 2021 to June 30, 2021, relative to the same period in 2019. It is expected that $10 billion will be dispersed in this tranche, totaling $152 billion with inclusion of Tranches 1-2.

Tribal Funding: $8 billion in funding for tribes would be allocated by 60 percent population and 40 based on the number of employees of each tribal entity.

Governors must distribute 40 percent of the state funding to local governments, but they have discretion on how it distributed from below:

  1. Proportional population
  2. Proportional revenue loss
  3. Combination of both
  • There are no population thresholds, so every county and municipality would be eligible for funding regardless of size.
  • Extend the deadline for spending CARES Act, Coronavirus Relief Fund, aid on COVID-related expenses through December 31, 2021.
  • Guardrails would prohibit the use of these funds to cover enhanced pension obligations. In addition, states cannot expand public pension benefits while receiving funds.

Education Stabilization Fund (“ESF”)

$20B for Institutions of Higher Education is included in the bipartisan package.   It is less than what was in the April CARES package ($30B), and less than what Senate Republicans were initially proposing of $29B.   However, the bottom line is we are hearing through APLU that Congressional Democrats see the legislation as a down payment on future action next year – so we are hopeful for an additional round of funding to come.

The ESF this round does provide a bit more flexibility within both the Institution and Student Aid focused pots of money.  The formula for allocating that funding is a 50/50 FTE/Headcount solution which would split the difference on the divisive formula issue splintering the higher ed community – and one we advocated against as it would pit us against our community college partners.   Student grants can be used for any component of the student’s cost of attendance, which at this point, we presume to include includes tuition.  The bill does include clarifying language that allows the funding to be allocated as “determined solely by the institution,” which APLU believes would avoid some of the restrictions on which students are eligible for grants imposed by Secretary DeVos.   There is still some concern about the eligibility of undocumented students given other statutory restrictions, but APLU has indicated as expected lawyers will be very engaged in that review.

APLU provided the summary below of the legislation as drafted which you may find helpful as well:

Total Funding within the Education Stabilization Fund – $82 billion
Subtract some set asides for “outlying areas” and programs operated by the Bureau of Indian Education

Governors Emergency Education Relief Fund – $7.5B

Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund – $20B

Elementary and Secondary School Relief Fund – $54B

$20 billion in a Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund

  • 85% of which is provided to public and nonprofit institutions of higher education under a CARES like formula for institutions except now 50/50 FTE/headcount formula and not inclusive of for-profit institutions
  • 37.5% Pell FTE (not exclusively enrolled in distance education courses prior to a qualifying emergency)
  • 12.5% FTE non Pell (not exclusively enrolled in distance education courses prior to a qualifying emergency)
  • 37.5% Pell headcount (not exclusively enrolled in distance education courses prior to a qualifying emergency)
  • 12.5% nonPell headcount (not exclusively enrolled in distance education courses prior to a qualifying emergency)
  • 10% Title III/V HBCUs, MSIs, Strengthening Institutions program recipients
  • 5% for a competitive grant program within the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) to “institutions the Secretary determines through an application process not less than 90 days have the greatest unmet needs…”

Under the main pot of funding (85%), an institution must provide at least 50 percent of its funding to students in the form of financial aid grants, which can be used for any component of the student’s cost of attendance or for emergency costs that arise due to coronavirus, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, or child care with any such students receiving such grants determined solely by the institution. Institutions may use a maximum of 50 percent of its funds to defray expenses associated with coronavirus (including lost revenue, reimbursement for expenses already incurred, technology costs associated with a transition to distance education, faculty and staff trainings, and payroll).

Institutions that paid the endowment excise tax receive half of the funding and may only use its funding for student grants.

Maintenance of Effort requirement:

A State’s application for funds to carry out sections 5102 or 5103 of this subtitle shall include assurances that the State will maintain support for elementary and secondary education, and State support for higher education (which shall include State funding to institutions of higher education and state need-based financial aid, and shall not include support for capital projects or for research and development or tuition and fees paid by students) in fiscal year 2021 and 2022 at least at the levels of such support that is the average of such State’s support for elementary and secondary education and for higher education provided in the 3 fiscal years preceding the date of enactment of this Act. (b) WAIVER AUTHORITY.—The Secretary may waive the requirement in subsection (a) for the purpose of relieving fiscal burdens on States that have experienced a precipitous decline in financial resources.

Governors Emergency Education Relief Funding

The GEER program looks very similar to the one in the CARES Act. However, $2.5B of the $7.5B is for “Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools grants.” This pot of funding looks like it was designed to settle a dispute between Republicans and Democrats on K-12 funding of private institutions.

State budget shortfall narrows again

The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council adopted an updated state economic and revenue forecast this morning, which the governor will use to write his 2021-23 operating budget proposal in mid-December.

The revenue report improved the bottom line by $634 million in the current biennium and $328 million in the next biennium. A press release from the state Office of Financial Management can be found here. When combined with last week’s caseload forecast showing reduced demand for state services, the state’s three-year budget shortfall – in June thought to be $9 billion — could be as low as $3 billion.

However, optimism is dampened by high levels of uncertainty, with more than five months still to go before the Legislature sends a budget to the governor.

The economic forecast takes into account the projected impacts of Boeing’s decision to relocate 787 assembly out of Washington and their plans to make significant employee reductions. It does not account for the new restrictions on some businesses announced by Governor Inslee on November 16th in response to spiking COVID-19 infections. The forecast assumes a COVID vaccine will become available by mid-2021.

Following the governor’s budget proposal in December, the Legislature will convene its 105-day session on Jan. 11 to begin crafting its proposals.