Archive for November, 2020

In another special LIVE video edition of Podcast 83 at 3 p.m. on Dec. 7, MAC’s Executive Director Stephan Currie and MAC’s advocacy team will discuss the ongoing “lame duck” session of the Michigan Legislature.

Among topics to receive updates:

  • Hot topics in the “lame duck” session
  • Status of additional COVID aid to counties

The Podcast 83 crew also will be taking your questions during the live session.

Just click on this link to register for the podcast. As always, a recording will be placed on the Podcast 83 page at a later date. 

 

MDHHS order shuts down indoor dining, limits household gatherings

On Sunday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a new emergency order that enacts a three-week pause targeting indoor social gatherings and other group activities in an effort to curb rapidly rising COVID-19 infection rates. The order takes effect on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

“Under this order, indoor residential gatherings are limited to two households at any one time. However, MDHHS strongly urges families to pick a single other household to interact with over the next three weeks, consistent with new guidance released by the department. The order is aimed at limiting residential and non-residential gatherings where COVID-19 spreads rapidly.

“Bars and restaurants will be open for outdoor dining, carry-out and delivery only. Gyms will remain open for individual exercise with strict safety measures in place. Casinos, movie theaters and group exercise classes will be closed. Professional and college sports meeting extraordinary standards for risk mitigation may continue without spectators, however all other organized sports must stop. Colleges and high schools may proceed with remote learning but must end in-person classes.

MAC continues to advise all members to utilize the virtual meeting option they have under the Open Meetings Act, which was codified by the Legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in October

For the latest Michigan news on the coronavirus, visit our Resources Page.

 

Mental health, law enforcement groups call on state for investment

A coalition of mental health and law enforcement groups announced this month a call to legislators to “invest in existing, proven state public health and safety programs.”

In their statement to all of Michigan’s elected officials and policy-makers, the organizations highlighted best-practices and longstanding partnerships that merit more attention and more funding.

The letter is signed by the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association, the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan and the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan. “It outlines the vital and productive partnerships between mental health professionals and law enforcement — partnerships that have existed for years but without truly sufficient policy engagement and funding from lawmakers and other leaders.”

In the letter, the groups noted:

“Existing initiatives between mental health professionals, law enforcement professionals, prosecuting attorneys and community mental health systems throughout Michigan include:

  • More than 50 mobile mental health crisis teams with skilled clinicians, or persons with lived mental health experiences, working in tandem with law enforcement agencies
  • Co-responder initiatives—skilled clinicians from the community mental health system participating in local road patrols for immediate and community crises response
  • Advanced training for law enforcement and medical personnel on how to recognize and interact with persons facing mental health challenges (tactics covering verbal de-escalation, crisis intervention training for adults and youth, responding to mental health emergencies)—endorsed by the Michigan Mental Health Diversion Council
  • Mental health and substance use disorder courts, sobriety courts, in-jail mental health and reentry programs”

 

MDHHS offers training sessions on handling mental health crises

Managing Mental Health Crisis is a series of webinars designed specifically for Michigan law enforcement, public safety and community mental health responders. It is funded by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, endorsed by the State of Michigan’s Diversion Council, MCOLES-approved and meets with MCOLES recommended annual officer trainings.

Live virtual classroom sessions are scheduled for 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the following dates: Dec. 9-10, 16-17.

This course is the equivalent of the two-day classroom training. Participants must attend all four (4) sessions to receive a certificate. The sessions are free via support of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

To register and for more information, click here. Deadline to register is Dec. 8 and seating is limited to 47 participants.

 

Application period opens for 2021 NACo Achievement Awards

Applications are now open for the National Association of Counties (NACo) 2021 Achievement Awards. Please join us in celebrating 51 years of county innovation by applying today.

Since 1970, the NACo Achievement Awards have recognized outstanding county government programs and services. Through a non-competitive application process, noteworthy programs receive awards in 18 categories that cover a vast range of county responsibilities. By participating, your county can earn national recognition.

NACo will highlight the 18 “best of category” winners, as well as feature all winners in NACo materials and online. We also provide a customizable press release for you to share the good news with the media and residents.
We encourage all counties, parishes and boroughs to apply.

For more information, please review the Achievement Awards online brochure, or email awards@naco.org with any questions.

 

As cases surge, health leaders urge mask use, social distancing

Leaders of the state’s major hospital systems warned Thursday of increasing strain on medical capacity as COVID-19 cases continue to surge across Michigan.

Wearing masks, avoiding indoor gatherings and practicing social distancing are essential, these health leaders said, to reversing the trends that have seen Michigan set ominous records for caseloads in recent days.

In remarks on Thursday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer echoed the health leaders’ comments on the need for Michigan residents to use masks and caution to avoid a virus that is now killing dozens each day in our state.

The state is aware of 747 active outbreaks, which is the highest it’s been since the state started keeping track, said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical officer. Comparing figures from the beginning of this week, caseloads increased about 50 percent from the week prior, according to Department of Health and Human Services figures.

MAC members can track the status of COVID county-by-county with an interactive map on our website, micounties.org. MAC also released custom coding to each county this week by the data firm Munetrix that creates a county dashboard to help residents visualize the extent of the pandemic in their community.

For the latest news and resources on the pandemic in Michigan, visit our coronavirus resources page.

 

State is making inspection visits on workplace COVID compliance, expert reports

A workplace safety expert reminded counties this week that MIOSHA, the state’s workplace safety agency, is conducting “cold” visits to employers to ensure they are complying with state orders on the COVID-19 pandemic.

AJ Hale of CompOne made his remarks during a Michigan Counties Workers’ Compensation Fund Board meeting this week.

 “The MIOSHA ‘general duty’ clause requires an employer to provide a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to the employee. A general duty clause citation carries a fine of up to $7,000. On-site inspections conducted by MIOSHA’s general industry and construction industry enforcement divisions determined 10 companies allegedly committed serious violations by failing to implement necessary precautions to protect employees from contracting COVID-19. Deficiencies included a lack of health screenings, face coverings, employee training, cleaning measures and overall preparedness plans,” he shared via an email to MAC.

Hale noted that the state maintains a set of online resources at Michigan.gov/COVIDWorkplaceSafety including posters for employees and customers, fact sheets, educational videos, a sample COVID-19 preparedness and response plan,  best practices that employees need to follow and a reopening checklist to help businesses put safeguards in place.

For the latest news and resources on the pandemic in Michigan, visit our coronavirus resources page.

 

NACo tools can help counties with CARES Act reporting

Authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136), the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) provides $150 billion in aid for state, county and municipal governments to address necessary expenditures due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Over the last month, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has released several new documents that clarify eligible expenses and reporting requirements for CRF recipients. In addition to this evolving guidance, the December 30, 2020 deadline for recipients is fast approaching, meaning both CRF prime and sub-recipients must ensure funds are spent appropriately.

To assist county governments, NACo has hosted national calls with the U.S. Treasury and compiled resources to help navigate these changes and new processes.

MAC strongly encourages members to review these NACo resources.

For questions on CARES Act and state funding related to COVID response, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

MDHHS launches media campaign promoting free mental wellness counseling

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has launched a public campaign  urging residents to seek relief from COVID-19-related emotional distress by talking to a trained crisis counselor and learning about other help available.

The “Be Kind to Your Mind” campaign promotes the use of Michigan’s free, confidential Stay Well counseling line, and aims to combat stigma associated with seeking help for feelings of depression, anxiety, anger or loss – all common during a disaster like COVID-19.

The Stay Well counseling line debuted on May 13 and is staffed with crisis counselors 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Callers can access the line by dialing Michigan’s COVID-19 hotline at 888-535-6136 and pressing “8” at the prompt. The service is part of a federally funded grant program implemented by the MDHHS Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Administration in partnership with the Michigan State Police.

“Be Kind to Your Mind” says you can talk about the strain from COVID with trained counselors who are available for free if you call 888-535-6136 and press 8, or visit Michigan.gov/StayWell.

Language translation is available for non-English-speaking residents who call the counseling line.

To access other mental health resources for coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, visit Michigan.gov/StayWell.

 

Take note of schedule changes for MAC, Legislative Update

MAC’s weekly email, Legislative Update, will take a two-week hiatus in November. The next LU email will be on Friday, Dec. 4.

Also, please note that MAC’s offices in Lansing will be closed to mark the Thanksgiving holiday on Nov. 26-27.

For the latest news from MAC, be sure to check our website.

 

Staff picks

 

GOP retains control of Michigan House; ballot props pass easily

Republicans retained their majority in the Michigan House of Representatives in the Nov. 3 General Election. The GOP will control the chamber 58-52 after picking up seats in the 96th and 48th districts, Bay and Genesee Counties respectively, while Democrats won formerly GOP seats in Oakland and Kalamazoo counties.

On Thursday, House leadership elections took place and, as expected, Rep. Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) was elected as speaker to replace the term-limited Rep. Lee Chatfield (R-Emmet) in January. Rep. Ben Frederick (R-Shiawassee) will be majority floor leader and Rep. Pamela Hornberger (R-Macomb) will be speaker pro tem in January. Democrats elected Rep. Donna Lasinski (D-Washtenaw) as the party leader and Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Washtenaw) will remain in his current role as floor leader in January.

Tuesday was a big night for county commissioners bidding to join the House, with seven new members (see list below) joining MAC’s County Caucus at the State Capitol in January. The MAC County Caucus will now include 23 members of the House and retain 8 members of the Senate, meaning former commissioners now constitute more than 20 percent of the entire Legislature.

Commissioners winning House seats on Nov. 3

  • Robert Bezotte (R-Livingston)
  • Felicia Brabec (D-Washtenaw)
  • Ken Borton (R-Otsego)
  • David Martin (R-Genesee)
  • Christine Morse (D-Kalamazoo)
  • Amos O’Neal (D- Saginaw)
  • Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo)

Bios of the newly elected representatives have been compiled by the MIRS News Service.

The current legislative cycle has 11 session days remaining before Dec. 31. There are many issues MAC will be focused on during this “lame duck” session, including 4-year terms, personal property tax exemptions and solid waste management regulations. Please stay engaged through our updates and action alerts as we approach final session weeks.

In the judicial branch, Chief Justice Bridget McCormack won re-election to the Michigan Supreme Court and will be joined by fellow Democratic Party nominee Elizabeth Welch, replacing the departing Justice Stephen Markman. This now gives Democrats a 4-3 majority on the state’s highest court.

And two state ballot proposals won easily on Tuesday:

  • Proposal 20-1 allows the State Parks Endowment Fund to continue receiving money from sales of oil and gas from state-owned lands to improve, maintain and purchase land for State parks and for Fund administration, until its balance reaches $800,000,000. It also requires subsequent oil and gas revenue from state-owned lands to go into the NRTF, at least 20 percent of Endowment Fund annual spending go toward State park improvement, and at least 25 percent of Trust Fund annual spending go toward parks and public recreation areas and at least 25 percent toward land conservation.
  • Proposal 20-2 amended section 11 of Article 1 of the Michigan Constitution to prohibit unreasonable searches or seizures of a person’s electronic data and electronic communications.

 

2020 class of new commissioners will be close to historical average

In unofficial results so far, there will be 134 new commissioners serving on county boards starting in January after voters had their say on Tuesday.

MAC’s data going back numerous election cycles show an election brings in an average of 125 new people to county boards. However, MAC is still awaiting data from a handful of unresolved seats, so the freshman class could grow.

Once MAC has full unofficial reports from all counties, we will post the lists and data to our website, micounties.org.

“We are looking forward to working with all of our new members, starting hopefully with their participation in the New Commissioner Schools, which start next week,” said Stephan Currie, MAC’s executive director.

On the financial front, counties were highly successful in their appeals to voters, with 40 of 47 county-related millages gaining approval on Tuesday. Click here for a list of those results compiled by the MIRS News Service in Lansing.

 

Solar PILT in place of PPT passes Senate Finance Committee

Two bills that would eliminate the Personal Property Tax (PPT) on qualified solar equipment and replace it with a payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) passed out of  the Senate Committee on Finance this week.

Senate Bills 1105-06, by Sens. Curt VanderWall (R-Benzie) and Kevin Daley (R-Tuscola), would set a rate of $3,500 per megawatt per year on solar projects. The idea is to get away from the disputes surrounding assessed value and depreciation schedules, create a predictable tax obligation for the solar developers and a flat, steady revenue stream from the projects for the duration of the agreement.

MAC is supportive of the concept of a PILT, but remains opposed to the bills as they are currently written due to the fact that the $3,500/mw rate has not been fully evaluated to determine the equitability to tax revenue that would otherwise be paid. In addition, the bills are weak on what happens when production ceases or when the developer would pay less if they violated the agreement.

In an effort to work with the sponsors, MAC is working with other organizations and the State Tax Commission to determine what an equitable rate would be. Due to the different millage rates across the state, this type of structure could be a win for some areas and a loss for other areas, but when we factor in the costs of valuation challenges and altered depreciation schedules, it may be a better approach.

MAC expects these bills to continue to move through the process during lame duck, but we are working to stop them until we have a better understanding of the financial implications to counties.

For more information on this issue, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

MAC seeks feedback on House GOP’s COVID plan

The House Health Policy Committee took testimony this week on a Republican plan to set criteria for COVID responses on the local level. Rep. Ben Frederick (R-Shiawassee) testified on House Bill 6314, which would set certain standards for counties to meet in order for county health officers to issue emergency orders different than, but not more restrictive than, the state’s. (See MAC’s Oct. 23 Legislative Update for more background on the legislation.)

MAC has not taken a formal position on the bill but is discussing it with MAC policy committee members and receiving feedback from commissioners and stakeholder partners in local public health.

An initial concern MAC has expressed to the bill sponsor is that a health officer would not be able to be more restrictive than the state orders, thereby taking away the ability of a health officer to respond to case surges in certain areas of a county.

The Department of Health and Human Services did not testify this week but is opposing the bill.

If you have feedback or questions, please reach out to Meghann Keit at keit@micounties.org.

 

Register now for Treasury webinar on Nov. 10

In partnership with the Michigan Association of Counties and others, the Michigan Department of Treasury will hold its eighth joint webinar, “COVID-19 Updates and Resources for Local Governments,” at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 10.

Topics will include updates on FEMA, Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Programs and the State of Michigan budget.

Participants can register and submit questions on the webinar’s registration page.

Each webinar is limited to 1,000 attendees. With previous webinars reaching capacity limits, participants are strongly encouraged to register now.

Additionally, the Michigan Department of Treasury has developed a webpage with numbered letters, memorandums, webinars, and resources regarding COVID-19 updates for local governments and school districts. This webpage was created to ensure that Michigan communities have access to the most up-to-date guidance and is updated frequently with information and resources as they become available. 

For the latest updates, please review the COVID-19 Updates for Local Governments and School Districts’ webpage.

 

MDHHS issues guidance on workplace safety

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has released recommendations for employers on how to keep workplaces safe during the pandemic.

“The state is currently experiencing 261 cases per million people per day, more than double from last month. Percent positivity has increased to 7.5% from 5.5% a week ago. Hospitalizations, which tend to appear two to four weeks after cases, have been rising over the past five weeks,” the department reported.

“Currently, there are 28 documented COVID-19 outbreaks in an office setting and the number of new outbreaks reported continue to increase weekly. Office settings make up five percent of all documented outbreaks, and seven percent of new outbreaks identified in the last week. Additionally, 8.3% of current outbreaks are in manufacturing and construction and 33% of those were first identified in the last week,” MDHHS added.

Consistent with emergency rules enacted by the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity on Oct. 14, if any in-person work is being conducted, employers should be sure to take the following steps to protect the health of their employees:

  • Create a COVID preparedness plan – Employers should develop and implement a written plan to prevent employee exposure to COVID-19. This should include exposure determination and detail the measures the employer will implement to reduce employee exposure.
  • Establish clear workplace procedures – Employers should identify a workplace COVID-19 coordinator, mandate face coverings, ensure appropriate access to personal protective equipment where necessary and train employees on new procedures, such as how to facilitate physical distancing.
  • Conduct daily self-screening of staff working in person – Employers should conduct daily health evaluations that include assessment for the symptoms of COVID-19 and exclude from in-person work any symptomatic staff.
  • Strengthen workplace cleaning and disinfection procedures – Employers should take every opportunity to clean and disinfect facilities as frequently as possible, and enhanced cleaning should be performed if a sick employee is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19.
  • Collaborate with local health departments – If any employees contract COVID-19, local health departments will conduct contact tracing. Employees should work closely with their local health departments to ensure that all potentially affected employees are made aware of their exposure.

Employers should allow their employees to work from home, if possible, to minimize the presence of individuals gathered in work settings where COVID-19 may spread. Employers should only permit in-person work if a worker is unable to physically complete required job tasks from a remote setting, such as food service or auto assembly workers, or a job involving protected data that cannot be accessed remotely.

A full list of employee and workplace safety resources is available online.

 

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