NATaT Highlights and Updates


2022 NATaT Highlights and Updates



Off-System Bridges

One of NATaT’s top priorities is ensuring that bridges that are not on the federal highway system (i.e., “off-system bridges”) have access to federal funding support. Historically, we advocated to preserve a 15% set-aside for off-system bridges, and the transportation reauthorization increased that set-aside to 20 percent. However, concern was raised that many of our local bridges do not meet the definition of a “bridge” but are instead considered a “culvert” and thereby not eligible for federal assistance.

In March 2022, NATaT President Mike Koles and Federal Director Jennifer Imo participated in a roundtable discussion hosted by the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs to discuss implementation of the transportation authorization law. That call was led by Mitch Landrieu, the White House Infrastructure Coordinator appointed by President Biden to oversee implementation of the infrastructure law, including programs funded through transportation authorization. Landrieu was unaware of the definition’s impact on many of our towns and townships’ access to federal bridge funding. We prepared a memo to demonstrate the need to adjust the federal definition to allow federal assistance to shore up certain bridges and culverts in our towns and townships. That memo included examples from three of our member states – Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. It lays the groundwork for our advocacy efforts with the US Department of Transportation in advance of the next authorization, and perhaps as bridge funds are allocated under the current authorization.

Telecommunications and Cybersecurity

National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Listening Session


NATaT organized an NTIA Broadband Program Overview and Listening Session to provide feedback to the agency as it drafted the Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs) for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Broadband Grant Programs. NTIA speakers provided an overview of the four broadband grant programs and solicited feedback from session participants. Prior to the event, NATaT prepared a briefing packet for members that included questions and policy recommendations.


NATaT Town Hall Broadband Panel

NATaT organized the “Connecting Your Community” panel discussion for the NATaT Virtual Town Hall, which brought together panelists from the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, the Pew Charitable Trust, and the Institute for Local Self Reliance, to provide insights on how NATaT members could best engage with their state broadband offices, effectively collaborate with public and private entities to deploy broadband to unserved and underserved areas, and how to best navigate the variety of federal funding opportunities to address the digital divide.

Broadband Legislative Advocacy


NATaT supported and/or provided feedback on broadband- and cybersecurity-related legislation introduced during the 117th Congress and worked to drive co-sponsorship of these bills, including:


  • The State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act (S. 2520), which authorizes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to coordinate with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments to enhance the cybersecurity of their information systems by conducting cybersecurity exercises, providing training, and notifying them of cybersecurity threats. The bill became law in June 2022.
  • The Community Broadband Act (S. 1460/H.R. 1631), which would ensure that local governments have the tools they need to address broadband equity in their communities by prohibiting state laws that ban or limit broadband systems administered by municipalities, co-ops, or public-private partnerships.
  • Protecting Community Television Act (S. 3361/H.R. 6219), which would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to reverse the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) 2019 order requiring that cable-related, in-kind contributions be subjected to the statutory five percent franchise fee cap.
  • Eliminating Barriers to Rural Internet Development Grant Eligibility (E-BRIDGE) Act (S. 1695), which would make it easier for rural and impoverished communities to pursue broadband projects through Economic Development Administration grants, including difficult last-mile efforts that often delay rural broadband deployment. The bill also ensures that local communities can partner with the private sector in carrying out broadband projects and gives communities more flexibility in complying with their funding match requirements.

Volunteer First Responders

Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act

As you know, NATaT worked with the National Volunteer Fire Council, Congressional Fire Services Institute, and International Association of Fire Chiefs to secure a permanent tax benefit for volunteer fire and EMS personnel in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Now, any property tax benefits and payments up to $600 are tax free for volunteer first responders. This tax benefit was in law from 2007 to 2010, and it took ten years of advocacy to reinstate and make permanent. However, NATaT sought direct, clear guidance from the IRS to ensure volunteer fire companies were comfortable using these benefits. That guidance was received by NATaT staff, and a detailed memorandum was distributed in January 2022.

Volunteer Responder Housing Act (HR 4377/S 2316)

NATaT worked with Senator Tammy Baldwin’s office and Rep. Cindy Axne’s office to re-introduce this measure and help secure cosponsors in the 117th Congress. The bill would make volunteer fire and EMS personnel eligible for assistance under the Department of Agriculture’s Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program and the Department of Housing and Urban Development Good Neighbor Next Door Sales Program.

Neither measure has passed the House nor Senate.


For background - According to the Census Bureau, “Legally defined county subdivisions are referred to as minor civil divisions (MCDs). MCDs are the primary divisions of a county. They comprise both governmentally functioning entities — that is, those with elected or appointed officials who provide services and raise revenues — and nonfunctioning entities that exist primarily for administrative purposes, such as election districts.”

Twenty states have MCDs that function as general-purpose governmental units. Those 20 states were divided into two categories: strong MCDs and weak MCDs. Three NATaT-member states were categorized as weak MCDs and were therefore excluded from receiving direct ARPA allocations. The states of Illinois, North Dakota, and Ohio were classified as weak MCDs because, according to the Census Bureau, they perform less of a governmental role and are less well known locally, even though they are active governmental units.

NATaT worked with the Census Bureau to change how it differentiated between strong and weak Minor Civil Divisions. As a direct result of our advocacy, there are no longer “strong” or “weak” MCDs – all our member states are simply designated as Minor Civil Divisions.

Federal Funding

Fiscal Year 2023 Budget and Appropriations

NATaT supports funding for the following programs in the annual budget and appropriations processes: U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development programs, Federal Emergency Management Agency’s assistance to firefighter grant programs, the Economic Development Administration (EDA), and the U.S. Census Bureau. These programs are funded in the Agriculture Appropriations bill, Homeland Security Appropriations bill, and Commerce Appropriations bill, respectively. NATaT sends letters of support for these programs to House and Senate appropriators every year.

Federal agencies are funded at fiscal year (FY) 2022 levels through December 16 when the current stopgap appropriations bill or “Continuing Resolution” expires.

American Rescue Plan Act

NATaT staff served as a conduit between the Department of Treasury and our state associations/individual members as questions arose around accessing ARPA’s local fiscal recovery funds, the allowable uses of those funds, and other related inquiries and issues.

Treasury staff introduced NATaT staff to the Office of Evaluation Sciences (OES) at the General Services Administration (GSA) to evaluate the experience of smaller local governments (non-entitlement units of local government (NEUs)) with Treasury’s reporting and compliance process. As part of this study, the OES set up a virtual meeting with NATaT Board members, state association staff, and individual NEUs to discuss their experience accessing, spending, and reporting on their local fiscal recovery funds. On December 6, GSA informed NATaT staff that the evaluation is complete and can be viewed here (or GSA said that NATaT’s shared experiences and perspectives were “invaluable in creating a comprehensive picture of participants' experience with the program.”

Finally, due to a lack of certain administrative funds, Treasury had to close its call center operations and further ramp down staff support for the email contact center. There were efforts to include language in a year-end omnibus spending package that would allow Treasury to use administrative funds assigned to less time-intensive programs to provide the personalized support. It is unclear at this time if that effort will prevail.


NATaT continues to support the preservation of tax-exempt municipal bonds and has advocated to restore local government authority to advance refund tax-exempt bonds (authority was eliminated in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017). A provision to restore advance refunding has been included in various bills since 2017 but has not been part of any bill that has become law.

NATaT has also monitored and reported on Congressional efforts to reinstate the state and local tax (SALT) deduction.

Unfunded Mandates and Federal Preemption

Waters of the US

On February 7, 2022, NATaT submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) detailing our general views and concerns on revising the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).

This is the third Administration to develop a WOTUS Rule that describes how the agencies will identify waters subject to jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act and implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Rapanos v. United States concerning the extent of waters covered by the Act.

In the courts, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on October 3rd heard oral arguments in Sackett v. EPA, a case that many CWA experts argue could define what WOTUS means under the CWA.

The outcome of the case could impact if another WOTUS rulemaking could commence – this time under the Biden Administration. Currently, the Administration is finalizing their proposed rule reinstating the 1986 CWA rule and guidance (adjusted for past Supreme Court rulings) as the interim benchmark for the EPA and the Corps to use in determining their jurisdiction over WOTUS under the CWA since the Trump Administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule defining WOTUS was thrown out.

The SCOTUS is set to determine whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit set forth the proper test for determining whether wetlands are WOTUS under the CWA. The lower court referenced Justice Kennedy’s “significant nexus” test of jurisdictional waters, as opposed to the late-Justice Scalia’s “relatively permanent continuous surface flow” test. The SCOTUS decision in Sackett is expected sometime in 2023.

NATaT continues to engage with the EPA and Corps as the formal rulemaking process continues.

Other Advocacy and Administrative Efforts

Successful NATaT Virtual Fly-In that included:

  • Remarks from DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg
  • Presentation by Xochitl Torres Small, USDA’s Under Secretary for Rural Development
  • Discussion about USDA’s Community Facilities Loan and Grant Program
  • “Connecting Your Communities” panel discussion (detailed above)
  • Congressional meetings

Breaking news reports on issues/announcements of interest to NATaT.

Organized and facilitated monthly conference calls for NATaT Board of Directors.

Organized and facilitated board meetings.

Drafted articles for association member magazines on federal legislative and regulatory topics. website, association logo, and increased website security.

Two-day Grants 101 webinar and training session led by TFG’s Grants Director, Heidi Schott.

Provided recommendations to support efforts to simplify the federal grants process.

Shared relevant grant opportunities.

Working partnerships with federal agencies and national groups on issues of interest to NATaT.

NATaT Weekly Legislative Updates provide a Congressional Outlook for the week ahead and review of federal action on issues of interest to NATaT that occurred the previous week.

The Interconnect is a biweekly newsletter that focuses on federal actions related to broadband, cyber, and tech innovation.

Special legislative reports (e.g., IIJA Grant Opportunities, Inflation Reduction Act, 2022 Lame Duck Preview and Midterm Results).

December 12th & 13th 2022