Counties, be sure you are set up with Treasury on ARP funds

The U.S. Department of Treasury released a wave of documents Monday to guide counties and local governments on using direct investment funds through the American Rescue Plan (ARP).

Michigan counties stand to receive about $1.9 billion in such aid.

Treasury has created a main landing page for this effort, noting that relief is intended to:

  • Support urgent COVID-19 response efforts to continue to decrease spread of the virus and bring the pandemic under control
  • Replace lost revenue for eligible state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments to strengthen support for vital public services and help retain jobs
  • Support immediate economic stabilization for households and businesses
  • Address systemic public health and economic challenges that have contributed to the unequal impact of the pandemic

“The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds provide substantial flexibility for each government to meet local needs—including support for households, small businesses, impacted industries, essential workers, and the communities hardest hit by the crisis. These funds can also be used to make necessary investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure,” Treasury stated.

Treasury has published an Interim Final Rule that implements the provisions of this program.

In addition, Treasury offers a “quick reference” fact sheet and the Michigan House Fiscal Agency has issued its own overview of the American Rescue Plan’s overall provisions.

 

State budget bills continue their advance in Legislature

The full House and full Senate this week voted on budget bills for fiscal 2022, with appropriations measures passing largely along party lines and with minimal floor changes.

Democratic House members did introduce amendments that would restore the 75 percent of funding withheld from various budgets due to the Republicans’ newly adopted approach of quarterly budgeting, but those amendments failed.

Now, the House budget bills go to the Senate, and the Senate bills go to the House. After the two chambers finish this stage, a joint conference committee will take up points of disagreement and offer up final numbers for final approval.

The Senate budget includes $231,516,700 for county revenue sharing, which would be a 2 percent boost from FY21. Additionally, the Senate proposal retains the requirement that any county with a retirement benefit system that was in an underfunded status must dedicate any county revenue sharing increase to that system.

The House provides for a 1 percent increase on revenue sharing, for $226,529,400 to counties. The funds, however, are tied to a requirement that the county must maintain public safety expenditures at an amount not less than FY21 to qualify for a payment.

MAC had asked legislators to eliminate strings attached to county revenue sharing payments. MAC will renew that request when budget bills reach the joint House-Senate conference committee stage.

The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission grants remain recommended at $148.9 million in both chambers; however, the House still moves that line item to the judiciary budget, a change that still raises constitutionality questions involving the separation of powers. Changes to the MIDC Act would have to be made in order to house the commission’s budget under the judiciary.   

In other highlights, there is a $5 million increase to local public health under the Senate plan and $4 million in both the House and Senate to fully fund county veteran service fund grants. Please see previous MAC updates for additional budget information and more specific line items.

The Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference (CREC) is scheduled for next Friday. The CREC establishes an official economic forecast and projects revenues that appropriators use in the final stage of the budget process.

 

MAC opposes bills to alter property record fees

A bipartisan package of bills aimed at changing the process and fee schedule for accessing and copying records held by county registers of deeds and treasurers was up for testimony this week in the House Commerce and Tourism Committee.

House Bills 4729-32,  by Reps. John Cherry (D-Genesee), Julie Calley (R-Ionia), Mari Manoogian (D-Oakland) and Steve Marino (R-Macomb), were introduced to try to manage the cost of acquiring requested records. The proponents assert they are being overcharged for access to real estate records or even denied access in some cases because they are only asking for partial information.

The bills would limit the amount a county can charge for these fields of information, allow the requesting party to designate the medium by which they receive the information and allow the requesting party to gain information based on particular fields of information if they do not want the entire file.

MAC is working with the other organizations representing county-wide elected officials affected by this legislation and is currently opposed to the package.

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

 

Supplemental spending bill includes millions for county programs

The Michigan House this week passed, 65-42, a $3.3 billion supplemental appropriation bill, with $1 billion to be drawn from the state’s General Fund and $2.3 billion from the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.

Under the spending bill, $5 million would reimburse county jails for housing offenders at county jails who otherwise would have been transferred to correctional facilities if not for state emergency orders.

About $37.5 million is designated for infrastructure grants to address flooding, erosion and other coastal issues, while $2.5 million goes for planning grants to address severe weather impacts and changing climate effects. Also included is $25 million for PFAS remediation grants, $15 million of which must be allocated to municipal airports and independent airport authorities.

The bill applies $100 million to cover a $23 per Medicaid day increase to nursing facilities that have experienced a 5 percent or greater decline in their average daily census. Additionally, $215 million would go to mental health facilities, including $3 million for new psychiatric beds and emergency department needs through McLaren Northern Michigan.

The bill includes $7.5 million to support public access, through a website, to documents and digital images of documents filed in courts. Another $2.7 million would support the Secondary Road Patrol Program, which provides grants to county sheriff departments for the patrol of secondary roads.

Lastly, $150 million is allocated to the Broadband Expansion Act of Michigan, which provides for grants to private internet service providers to support infrastructure-related and other costs associated with expanding broadband internet service to unserved areas of Michigan.

A full summary of the bill can be found here.

 

MAC still needs your voice on 4-year terms

While legislation to enact four-year terms for county commissioners awaits action on the Senate floor, MAC again asks members to add their individual and collective voices to the campaign.

Senate Bill 242, by Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Dickinson), and SB 245, by Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Oakland) would bring four-year terms to Michigan in the 2024 presidential election cycle. Enactment of these bills would end Michigan’s status as one of just five states with two-year terms on all commissioners.

The bills are now on the Senate floor.

MAC continues to encourage commissioners to add their voices to the four-year term effort. As of Friday morning, 68 county leaders had responded. Please add your voice to this effort today by clicking here.

MAC also requests that counties adopt official resolutions of support for the legislation. To download a template for this purpose, click here. If you pass such a resolution, please send a copy to Hannah Sweeney at sweeney@micounties.org.

As of Thursday, the following counties had advised MAC of passage of such resolutions: Allegan, Alpena, Bay, Cheboygan, Clinton, Dickinson, Emmet, Genesee, Houghton, Ionia, Isabella, Manistee, Marquette, Mecosta, Newaygo, Ontonagon, Sanilac, Van Buren, Washtenaw and Wexford.

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

 

MAC asks counties to pass resolutions on revenue sharing shortfalls

Part of MAC’s 2021 legislative agenda is to gain a one-time payment to compensate dozens of Michigan counties that were shorted proper revenue sharing funds prior to 2015.

MAC has done extensive research into county revenue sharing and the impact the County Revenue Sharing Reserve Fund (CRSRF) has had. The research indicates the state has cumulatively shorted 61 counties more than $110 million between 2009 and 2014. We ask that you support an appropriation to restore those funds.

MAC is encouraging counties to add their voices to the one-time payment of the cumulative revenue sharing shortfall by adopting official resolutions of support. Here is a template you can use for this purpose. If you pass such a resolution, please send a copy to Hannah Sweeney at sweeney@micounties.org.

As of Thursday, the following counties had advised MAC of passage of such resolutions: Alpena, Dickinson, Huron, Livingston, Mecosta, Menominee and Wexford.

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

 

Videos from 2021 Legislative Conference are now available

MAC members can view hours of recordings packed with information on key county topics recently presented at the 2021 Michigan Counties Legislative Conference.

The conference was held virtually due to pandemic restrictions on gatherings in late April.

In addition to recordings, members can review slides presented on topics ranging from how to leverage federal aid to threats to Michigan’s groundwater and screen shots captured during conference events.

MAC plans to return to in-person gatherings in late July with the Regional Summit series of single-day “mini conferences” at four locations around the state. Look for dates, locations and registration information for these events in late May or early June.

And planning is under way for the 2021 Annual Conference, to be held Sept. 26-28 at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

For the latest conference information, visit MAC’s conferences page.

 

Podcast 83 resumes live sessions on Monday, May 17

After a one-week hiatus, MAC’s Podcast 83 team returns to the web on Monday, May 17 to discuss legislative action in Lansing and Washington, D.C.

To register for the live event, which starts at 3 p.m., click here.

Links to past episodes can be found on the podcast webpage, while every 2021 video episode is now available on MAC’s YouTube channel.

 

Candidate filing period opens for MAC Board elections in September

At the 2021 Michigan Counties Annual Conference (Sept. 26-28 on Mackinac Island), MAC members will vote on five seats on the MAC Board of Directors. Commissioners wishing to serve on the Board, whether incumbents or new candidates, have until Aug. 26 to file official notice of their intent to run. (The application form is found here.)

Seats representing regions are filled by a vote in regional caucuses at the conference. At-large seats are filled by the candidate that wins a majority of the six regional caucuses.

The MAC Board of Directors is the key body in guiding the legislative and organizational strategies of MAC. Board terms are three years in length and individuals may serve up to three terms.

2021 Board seats

  • Region 1 – 1 seat
  • Region 2 – 1 seat
  • Region 3 – 1 seat
  • Region 5 – 1 seat
  • At-large — 1 seat

Any member wishing to run in the election must download the application form and return it by Aug. 26, 2021, at 5 p.m. to be eligible. Candidates are also encouraged to submit a statement of up to 400 words on why members should support them. These statements will be posted to the MAC website in late August.

If you have any questions about Board duties, please contact Executive Director Stephan W. Currie at 517-372-5374.

 

Many Michiganians are struggling, wellness webinar attendees told

Roughly 75 percent of those who participated in a recent survey in Michigan said they were somewhat or very lonely.

That and other results on the state of “wellness” in Michigan were presented and discussed during a special MAC webinar on May 11 led by Louis Alloro of The Wellbeing Lab.

This spring, researchers at The Wellbeing Lab headed out into Michigan to measure the well-being of 1,500 people representative of the state. The survey revealed that while 13 percent reported they are really struggling, 10% are consistently thriving and 41.7% are living well, despite struggles.

MAC members may be interested in measuring their well-being using the PERMAH Wellbeing Survey. Individuals can access for free and communities can benefit from the aggregate data (for a small fee) at www.permahsurvey.com.

Alloro also can advise counties on setting up a well-being coalition as was done in Midland County. Contact him at 917-331-0785 or louis@thewellbeinglab.com for more information.

 

Redistricting Commission continues public hearings for May, June

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC) is continuing its first series of public hearings for its work to redraw political lines for the 2022 elections.

The public hearings will run from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and are currently set for virtual sessions, though that is subject to change as the pandemic health orders change. Locations and dates are:

  • May 18 – Marquette
  • May 20 – Gaylord
  • May 25 – Midland
  • May 27 – Lansing
  • June 1 – Flint
  • June 3 – Pontiac
  • June 8 – Novi
  • June 10 – Dearborn
  • June 15 & 17 – Detroit
  • June 22 – Port Huron
  • June 24 – Warren
  • June 29 – Muskegon
  • July 1 – Grand Rapids

Please note, the Independent Redistricting Commission will draw district lines for state legislative and federal congressional districts. The lines for county commissioner districts are handled by county Apportionment Boards. For details on the apportionment process, click here or view a recording of a 2021 Legislative Conference workshop on the process.

 

Free course to focus on ‘Dynamics of Addiction’

A May 27 webinar on substance abuse disorders will cover the basics on Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and provide participants with knowledge, skills and strategies to manage SUD-related situations as an emergency responder. Development and funding for this course is courtesy of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The free session will run from 10 a.m. to noon and is part of the “Managing Mental Health Crisis” series that is designed specifically for Michigan law enforcement, public safety and community mental health responders. Such sessions are endorsed by the State of Michigan’s Diversion Council, MCOLES-approved and meet with MCOLES-recommended annual officer trainings.

To register, click here. Seats are limited to 47 participants. Deadline to register is May 26.

For information, contact J. Eric Waddell at jericwaddell@thecardinalgroup2.com.

 

Roughly 75 percent of those who participated in a recent survey in Michigan said they were somewhat or very lonely.

That and other results on the state of “wellness” in Michigan were presented and discussed during a special MAC webinar on May 11 led by Louis Alloro of The Wellbeing Lab.

This spring, researchers at The Wellbeing Lab headed out into Michigan to measure the well-being of 1,500 people representative of the state. The survey revealed that while 13 percent reported they are really struggling, 10% are consistently thriving and 41.7% are living well, despite struggles.

MAC members may be interested in measuring their well-being using the PERMAH Wellbeing Survey. Individuals can access for free and communities can benefit from the aggregate data (for a small fee) at www.permahsurvey.com.

Alloro also can advise counties on setting up a well-being coalition as was done in Midland County. Contact him at 917-331-0785 or louis@thewellbeinglab.com for more information.

At the 2021 Michigan Counties Annual Conference (Sept. 26-28 on Mackinac Island), MAC members will vote on five seats on the MAC Board of Directors. Commissioners wishing to serve on the Board, whether incumbents or new candidates, have until Aug. 26 to file official notice of their intent to run. (The application form is found here.)

Seats representing regions are filled by a vote in regional caucuses at the conference. At-large seats are filled by the candidate that wins a majority of the six regional caucuses.

The MAC Board of Directors is the key body in guiding the legislative and organizational strategies of MAC. Board terms are three years in length and individuals may serve up to three terms.

2021 Board seats

  • Region 1 – 1 seat
  • Region 2 – 1 seat
  • Region 3 – 1 seat
  • Region 5 – 1 seat
  • At-large — 1 seat

Any member wishing to run in the election must download the application form and return it by Aug. 26, 2021, at 5 p.m. to be eligible. Candidates are also encouraged to submit a statement of up to 400 words on why members should support them. These statements will be posted to the MAC website in late August.

If you have any questions about Board duties, please contact Executive Director Stephan W. Currie at 517-372-5374.

Legislature continues work on FY22 state budget

The fiscal 2022 state budget bills continued their movement through the legislative process this week, with both chambers moving appropriations bills from their full appropriations committees. The Senate Appropriations Committee, for example, passed 17 budget bills, largely along party lines, after debating a variety of amendments.

Proposed amendments to restore the proposed $290 million in MI Clean Water Plan funding, increasing funding for high water emergency infrastructure grants to $40 million and to restore $20 million for contaminated site cleanups, all in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s original budget plan, were rejected.

In the House, budget bills moved with minimal changes from the subcommittee recommendations. Amendments proposed by Democrats included efforts to reverse a quarterly budget distribution adopted by the Republicans, allow the Department of State to send out absentee ballot applications and to keep the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission within the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs and align the budgets more with the executive recommendation. All were defeated.

On revenue sharing for counties, the Senate recommended $231,516,700, which would be a 2 percent boost from FY21. Additionally, the Senate Appropriations Committee retained the requirement that any county with a retirement benefit system that was in underfunded status must dedicate any county revenue sharing increase to that system.

The House provides for a 1 percent increase on revenue sharing for $226,529,400 to counties. The funds, however, are tied to a requirement that the county must maintain public safety expenditures at an amount not less than FY21 to qualify for a payment.

MAC had asked legislators to eliminate strings attached to county revenue sharing payments. MAC will renew that request when budget bills reached the joint House-Senate conference committee stage.

The full House and Senate are expected to vote on the budget bills next week and send them to the other chamber to stay on track to get the budget to the governor’s desk by the end of June.

For further details, please see MAC’s previous Legislative Updates or visit the websites of the fiscal agencies for the Senate and House.

 

House committee examines bills to improve veterans tax exemption

The House Committee on Military, Veterans and Homeland Security took up a package of bills this week designed to reimburse local units of government for the lost revenue associated with the Disabled Veterans Property Tax Exemption.

When the exemption was enacted, the estimated cost to local units of government was projected to be minimal and the law made no provision for any reimbursement from the State. Now, years later, locals are faced with approximately $1.7 billion in taxable value exempted on more than 20,000 parcels.

House Bills 4624, 4625 and 4626, by Reps. Beau LaFave (R-Dickinson), Jeff Yaroch (R-Macomb) and Kevin Coleman (D-Wayne), would reimburse local governments through the current Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) system. The bills would not change veteran eligibility, nor would they require the veteran do file any additional paperwork (in fact, it would make it easier for veterans by allowing them to apply for the exemption once every 5 years, as opposed to every year).

In a joint letter with other local government groups, MAC supported the concept, particularly reimbursements to local governments and streamlining the process for veterans.

No votes were taken on the bills in committee, but MAC anticipates the conversation to continue in 2021.

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

 

MAC still needs your voice on 4-year terms

While legislation to enact four-year terms for county commissioners awaits action on the Senate floor, MAC again asks members to add their individual and collective voices to the campaign.

Senate Bill 242, by Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Dickinson), and SB 245, by Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Oakland) would bring four-year terms to Michigan in the 2024 presidential election cycle. Enactment of these bills would end Michigan’s status as one of just five states with two-year terms on all commissioners.

The bills are now on the Senate floor.

MAC continues to encourage commissioners to add their voices to the four-year term effort. As of Thursday afternoon, 61 county leaders had responded. Please add your voice to this effort today by clicking here.

MAC also requests that counties adopt official resolutions of support for the legislation. To download a template for this purpose, click here. If you pass such a resolution, please send a copy to Hannah Sweeney at sweeney@micounties.org.

As of Thursday, the following counties had advised MAC of passage of such resolutions: Allegan, Alpena, Bay, Cheboygan, Clinton, Emmet, Genesee, Houghton, Ionia, Manistee, Marquette, Newaygo, Ontonagon, Van Buren and Wexford.

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

 

Check out past podcast episodes on YouTube

There will not be a live episode of Podcast 83 on Monday, May 10. However, every video episode of MAC’s Podcast 83 is now available on MAC’s YouTube channel, including the May 3 live session in which MAC’s Stephan Currie, Deena Bosworth and Meghann Keit discussed state budget news for fiscal 2022.

The upcoming schedule is now:

  • Monday, May 10 – No podcast
  • Monday, May 17 – 3 p.m. (registration will open on Friday, May 14)
  • Monday, May 24 – 3 p.m. (registration will open on Friday, May 21)
  • Monday, May 31 – No podcast (Memorial Day)
  • Monday, June 7 – 3 p.m. (registration will open on Friday, June 4)

 

Muskegon rebates license fee to eateries; more assistance on way for food sector

Acting on a motion by the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners, the Health Department there this week sent checks to nearly 800 food service entities in the average amount of $365, WZZM reported.

The funds are reimbursement of license fees, which the Muskegon Board decided to reduce by 90 percent for 2020 and by 50 percent for 2021. For the 2020 year, the total reimbursed was more than $225,000, WZZM reported.

“We all want the restaurants to survive,” Muskegon County Board Chair Bob Scolnik told WZZM. “We all want the county to thrive, we want people to prosper, we want the economy to start growing again and this was just a little something we could do to try and help that.”

And more help is on the way.

MAC joined with the state and other organizations on April 30 to tout the resumption of the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

The fund includes $9.5 billion in set-asides specifically for smaller businesses: $5 billion for applicants with 2019 gross receipts of not more than $500,000; $4 billion is set aside for applicants with 2019 gross receipts from $500,001 to $1,500,000; and $500 million for applicants with 2019 gross receipts not more than $50,000. Recipients would not be required to repay the funding if the funds are used for eligible expenses no later than March 11, 2023. 

For more information on the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, visit sba.gov/restaurants or in Spanish at sba.gov/restaurantes.  

 

MAC marks milestone with all-woman Government Affairs team

By Alyssa McMurtry/Gongwer News Service

Deena Bosworth

For the first time, the Michigan Association of Counties government affairs team consists of only women who are no strangers to the Capitol community but have still faced challenges when advocating for their agenda in a field that has historically been dominated by men.

While the current team at MAC marks the first time that advocacy group has had an all-women team heading its government affairs, there’s also a multi-client firm with an all-women staff, RWC Advocacy.

Those at the organizations spoke about the challenges they face in the lobbying world and what priorities they hold this year as the Capitol community begins moving toward normal operations following the coronavirus pandemic.

Deena Bosworth is at the helm of the three-person governmental affairs team, leading it as director. Ms. Bosworth is well known around Lansing and has worked as communications and legislative director for the House of Representatives and director of legislative affairs for former Attorney General Mike Cox. …

Read the entire article at this link.

 

Counties to receive millions in outdoors grants

Counties including Antrim, Berrien, Cheboygan, Gogebic, Houghton and Muskegon are among local governments receiving $37.8 million in grants from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed House Bill 4469 this week.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund is a restricted fund that was established in 1976 to provide funding for public acquisition of lands for resource conservation and outdoor recreation, as well as for public outdoor recreation development projects. It is funded through interest earned on funds derived from the development of publicly owned minerals.

The legislation enacts the recommendations from the Trust Fund’s board for development and acquisition projects to improve Michigan’s outdoor recreational opportunities, including trail systems, camping, fishing, and Great Lake and river access. This year the board recommended $27.3 million for acquisition grants and $10.5 million for development grants. MAC is supportive of these efforts to increase the quality and quantity of Michigan’s outdoor recreational activities.

  • To see the full list of counties receiving acquisition funding and intended projects, click here.
  • To see the full list of counties receiving development funding and intended projects, click here.

 

Join MAC for webinar on community wellness

Are you starting to feel like the hardest part of the global pandemic may be behind us? As vaccines begin rolling out around the world and glimpses of normal life start returning, we’ve been wondering what impact all of these changes might be having on people’s well-being.

So, this spring, researchers at The Wellbeing Lab headed out into Michigan to measure the well-being of 1,500 people representative of Michiganders to ask, “How are we doing” and delved into how people were boosting their levels of thriving and reducing their levels of struggle at this time. Survey data shows valuable forms of wellbeing support their families and community had been providing and what actions their workplaces and bosses were taking that were having a positive impact.

Want to know what was found?

Join us for a special event for our members, where Louis Alloro of The Wellbeing Lab will give highlights of the 2021 Michigan Community Wellbeing Report. Discover the roles struggle, psychological safety, families, allyship and vaccinations have played in helping people care for their well-being, and the practices you can implement in your own community. And we will discuss ways of intelligently applying these findings as a network.

Use this link on May 11 at 10:30 a.m. to enter the webinar.

Louis Alloro is social entrepreneur creating and facilitating highly sought after, evidence-based learning experiences helping teams and entire organizations and communities dig deeper and reach higher, thereby creating a collective impact. Since 2018, he’s collaborated with the Michelle McQuaid group in creating content for The Change Lab and The Wellbeing Lab. Since 2008, he has trained and certifies thousands of practitioners, companies and communities in applied positive psychology and wellbeing science, including cohorts from Midland, Mich., who he helped form a regional Wellbeing Coalition.

 

Bills for 4-year terms in advance in Senate

The Senate Local Government Committee advanced legislation to enact four-year terms for county commissioners at a Thursday hearing where Allegan County Commissioner Jim Storey and Dickinson County’s Joe Stevens testified in support of the bills.

Senate Bill 242, by Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Dickinson), and SB 245, by Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Oakland) would bring four-year terms to Michigan in the 2024 presidential election cycle. Enactment of these bills would end Michigan’s status as one of just five states with two-year terms on all commissioners.

In his testimony, Storey said, “In short, county commissioners are responsible for overseeing county governments whose job is service delivery, every day of every week of every month of every year. Being distracted from this service delivery, not legislative, function by short elected terms disserves the residents we share.”

The bills now move to the Senate floor.

MAC continues to encourage commissioners to add their voices to the four-year term effort. As of Thursday afternoon, 54 county leaders had responded. Please add your voice to this effort today by clicking here.

MAC also requests that counties adopt official resolutions of support for the legislation. To download a template for this purpose, click here.

As of Thursday, the following counties had advised MAC of passage of such resolutions: Genesee, Cheboygan, Bay, Ionia, Manistee, Van Buren, Clinton, Houghton, Marquette, Allegan, Newaygo, Emmet, Ontonagon and Wexford. If your county passes a resolution, please send a copy to Hannah Sweeney at sweeney@micounties.org.

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

 

Governor announces COVID reopening benchmarks

Michigan’s COVID restrictions would recede as the state hits various vaccination benchmarks under a plan unveiled by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday.

Her “MI Vacc to Normal” plan has four phases tied to statewide vaccination rates, with provisions kicking in two weeks after the benchmark is hit:

  • 55% of Michiganders (4,453,304 residents) — allows in-person work for all sectors of business.
  • 60% of Michiganders (4,858,150 residents) — increases indoor capacity at variety of venues and lifts curfew on restaurants and bars
  • 65% of Michiganders (5,262,996 residents) — lifts all indoor % capacity limits, requiring only social distancing between parties and further relaxes limits on residential social gatherings.   
  • 70% of Michiganders (5,667,842 residents) — lifts the Gatherings and Face Masks Order such that MDHHS will no longer employ broad mitigation measures, unless unanticipated circumstances arise, such as the spread of vaccine-resistant variants

“The MI Vacc to Normal challenge outlines steps we can take to emerge from this pandemic as we hit our vaccination targets together,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “On our path to vaccinating 70% of Michiganders 16 and up, we can take steps to gradually get back to normal while keeping people safe. “

For the latest information on COVID, visit MAC’s COVID Resources Page.

 

Legislative Conference highlights 4-year terms, federal COVID aid

The top official in the Michigan House of Representatives signaled support for four-year county commissioner terms and critical federal guidance on how to spend $1.9 billion in COVID aid for Michigan counties is expected as early as next week were two of the highlights of the 2021 Michigan Counties Legislative Conference this week.

The gathering, held virtually for the second consecutive year, featured three plenary sessions plus more than a dozen workshops for MAC members and members of the Michigan County Medical Care Facilities Council (MCMCFC).

House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Clare), speaking during a recorded Legislative Roundtable, said he would support four-year terms for county commissioners. Legislation to enact such terms are now in the Michigan Senate and are a MAC legislative priority for 2021.

During a Thursday plenary session, Matt Chase, executive director of the National Association of Counties (NACo), said the U.S. Treasury may release guidance as early as next week on how counties can spend direct investments from the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP). Chase and NACo President Judge Gary Moore of Boone County, Ky., urged counties to be sure to have all of their technical requirements fulfilled to receive their first allotment of ARP funds.

Following Chase and Moore, MAC Executive Director Stephan Currie introduced the first graduating class of MAC’s County Commissioner Academy. Members are:

Mary Ellen Babcock, Huron County Teri Freehling, Berrien County
Vaughn Begick, Bay County Bryan Kolk, Newaygo County
Ed Boettcher, Antrim County Charles MacInnis, Emmet County
Joe Bonovetz, Gogebic County Roseann Marchetti, Cass County
Mike Chappell, Van Buren County William Miller, Oakland County
Toni Drier, Emmet County  

Currie also announced at the conference that MAC plans to return to in-person events with the 2021 Regional Summits in late July and the 2021 Annual Conference Sept. 26-28 on Mackinac Island.

Watch for registration alerts for these events starting in early June.

 

Supplemental budget bill spending $3.5 billion goes to full House

An FY21 supplemental budget bill, House Bill 4420, by Rep. Thomas Albert (R-Kent), passed out of the House Appropriations Committee this week, allocating $2.5 billion in federal COVID relief funds and $992.3 million from the state’s General Fund. Included in that amount are:

  • $25 million for PFAS remediation grants, $15 million of which is for municipal airports
  • $40 million for high-water infrastructure grants to plan for severe weather impact and grants to address flooding, erosion and other coastal issues
  • $300 million for the local road and bridge fund
  • $400 million in return-to-work grants, which is for $1,000 each per person who returns to work and leaves the unemployment system
  • $100 million in nursing facility grants to provide a $20 per Medicaid day increase to facilities that have experienced a decline in their average daily census
  • $100 million for grants to increase the number of long-term pediatric psychiatric inpatient facilities ($85 million for a new Hawthorn center; $15 million for mental health care improvements in emergency rooms
  • $19.8 million to meet new requirements of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act
  • $6.5 million for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics Demonstration Program
  • $7.5 million to support public access, through a website, to documents and digital images of documents filed in courts

The bill will be up for consideration in the full House next week. If approved, it would move to the Senate.

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

 

MAC-opposed court mandates bill advances

Despite opposition from MAC, the Michigan Association of County Clerks and other stakeholders, House Bill 4164, by Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Oakland), passed the House 61-49 this week. The bill would require a court to allow the public to access, through a website, the register of documents and digital images of documents filed in that court by Jan. 1, 2023.

Currently, the state, through the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO), is moving toward a MiFILE system for electronic filings, but it is not expected to be done by 2023. In fact, the soonest SCAO has said it could be done, if funded properly, is 2025. The House supplemental funding plan does include $7.5 million toward this effort, but that bill is not finalized. Nor does HB 4164 ensure any local court costs are covered by the state, rather than their local funding unit.

The bill now moves to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, chaired by Sen. Roger Victory (R-Ottawa). MAC urges members to use our Advocacy Center to reach out to your senators and also rally opposition from your county clerks, chief judges and their staffs.

For questions, please contact Meghann Keit-Corrion at keit@micounties.org.

 

Legislation to waive food safety fees advances in Senate

Legislation that would impair funding for local health departments to ensure safe food establishments cleared the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee this week, despite opposition from MAC and the Michigan Association of Local Public Health.

Senate Bills 353-54, by Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Benzie), would waive annual state and local licensing and application fees for food establishments from May 1, 2021, to April 2022.

MAC raised concern with the introduced version that waived the fees that are due by April 30, arguing most business owners would have already paid these fees by the time this legislation passed. MAC offered solutions in which restaurants could seek reimbursements through the state, while holding local health departments harmless, however the solution was not accepted.

Under the committee-passed version, to the extent that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) or a local health department had charged and collected a license fee for a food service establishment license that was valid for the above license year, MDARD or the local health department would have to refund the license fee.

MAC strongly opposes as food service license fees cover 50 percent to 75 percent of the cost of food safety activities at the local level. While some counties may choose to waive the local fee, they do so because their budget can sustain it and they can replace the lost revenue. Others may not be so fortunate and should not be told by the state how to control their county budgets.

In a time when our county public health officials and staff have been under so much pressure responding to COVID, while continuing to manage a host of other responsibilities, this is not the time to reduce their revenue levels with no state funds to backfill them.

A better way to aid financially troubled restaurants, MAC and others argue, is found in the newly reopened Restaurant Revitalization Fund, operated by the federal Small Business Administration.

This COVID relief fund will again be accepting online applications starting May 3.

Please share this link with any eateries in your county that need assistance.

For more information on this issue, contact Meghann Keit-Corrion at keit@micounties.org.

 

Podcast 83 resumes live sessions on Monday, May 3

After a one-week hiatus for the Legislative Conference, MAC’s Podcast 83 team returns to the web on Monday, May 3 to discuss legislative action in Lansing and Washington, D.C.

To register for the live event, which starts at 3 p.m., click here.

Links to past episodes can be found on the podcast webpage, while every 2021 video episode is now available on MAC’s YouTube channel.

 

Mental health agencies launch advocacy campaign

The Community Mental Health Association of Michigan (CMHAM) issued an advocacy tool to voice opposition and caution to a proposal in the Michigan Senate “that would once again take up physical health/behavioral health integration.

“Much like the 298 process from a couple years ago,” CMHAM wrote, “this new proposal would shift the Medicaid financing and managed care functions from the public PIHP system to private Medicaid Health Plans. We once again have significant concerns with this type of proposal, which we have shared directly with Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey’s office – integration MUST begin and focus at the patient level on the ground not at the financial level and there MUST be public accountability / public governance in order to protect Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens.”  

MAC continues to support a public mental health system, which gives local control and oversight to our counties to ensure quality and accessible services for all residents.

County leaders can also use this advocacy tool and share it with colleagues and community members. Members are encouraged to speak to your legislators before these bills get introduced and ask that they revisit the Section 298 Workgroup Final Report recommendations and OPPOSE any integration plan that does not include key recommendations: MUST have public governance and MUST be integrated at the point of service delivery not financial integration for individuals on the Medicaid program.

Click this link to log in and send your message.

 

Sample proclamation offered for Public Health Week

Counties are encouraged to pass proclamations in support of Michigan Public Health Week, which will be May 9-15 this year.

MAC is part of an alliance of groups and agencies that sponsor the Home Hometown Health Hero awards each year. Recipients of the award are usually honored during Public Health Week.

As we all know, COVID has put a huge strain on the entire health field, with local public health staffs facing the added complication of being in charge of health orders and activities that have angered some Michigan residents.

A sample proclamation is here for counties who wish to add their voice of support to these public servants working on our behalf.

For more information on Michigan Public Health Week, click here.

 

Join NACo for Trivia and Networking Night on May 6

The National Association of Counties (NACo) is excited to announce a new series of virtual trivia and networking nights, which will take place on a regional basis between now and the NACo Annual Conference in July. Connect with colleagues from your region, receive a special gift from NACo – and compete for the title of County Trivia Champion.

Join us for the Central and Upper Midwest Regional Trivia and Networking Night on Thursday, May 6 at 5:30 p.m. EDT/4:30 p.m. CDT. Additional details and the registration link are below.

Click here to register.

Michigan county leaders will compete against colleagues from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

  • How will this work? Attendees who register will receive a Zoom link. Teams will be assigned randomly and sent into breakout rooms to answer three rounds of questions. The team with the most points wins.
  • Can I invite other county officials? NACo members and county staff from the states listed above are invited to this event. Please feel free to share with your colleagues or county staff.
  • How long will the event last? Teams will compete over three rounds of trivia that will include seven to eight questions each. The total event will last one hour.

 

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