NeuStar locality .us domains.

I know it's not very common these days but I am a big fan of the
<locality>.<ST>.us domain structure as it was setup 25+ years ago. Having
been in the ISP industry for more than half that time I have also dealt with
100's of these registrations although maybe only 25 in the last year. Guess
I have been lucky since all of them were with previously delegated
localities. So today I go to register a domain for a friend, in what I
consider to be a large enough city to have at least been delegated in the
past (Lowell, MA) but of course it is currently assigned to NeuStar. I send
in the request anyways, figuring there will just be some additional
paperwork. This is the response I receive.

The US Department of Commerce has specifically stated that only certain 4th
level domains can be registered until further notice. The DoC has only
allowed us to register fourth level domain names beginning with "borough",
"ci." for city, "co." for county, "twp." or "town" for township, or "vil."
for village. .....

I have had a couple back and forths with there support department. Waiting
for a response coming during the work week. Does anyone know the actual
status of the locality .us structure? Are they trying to push people to the
.us pay domains? Isn't NeuStar up for renewal on their last 1 year

As far as I can tell, locality domains with live registrars can
continue doing whatever we've been doing, and existing 4LDs from the
pre-Neustar days still work, but they are not delegating any more of
them. My ancient still gets tons of spam (handy
for filter tuning), and I'm still authoritative for domains like