Legislature backs nearly $1 billion for COVID responses

A large infusion of aid for local governments, first responders and health workers lacks only Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s signature after the Legislature approved Senate Bill 690 this week.

The bill, by Sen Jim Stamas (R-Midland), includes $880 million drawn from federal revenue allocated to Michigan through the CARES Act that established a $150 billion fund for state and local governments.

(Learn more about the legislation via a video episode of Podcast 83.)

Of this sum, local governments that didn’t receive direct federal aid would get $200 million. To receive funds, counties must submit by July 17 their public safety and public health payroll expenditures for the months of April and May. Expenditures are not eligible if they have been, or will be, reimbursed by any other federal funds (FEMA, HHS, DOJ, etc.).

Another $100 million is set aside for hazard pay for first responders. For these funds, counties must apply for payment or reimbursement through the Michigan Department of Treasury by Sept. 30. Payments and reimbursements will be made on a first-come, first-served basis. Eligible employees include law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, 911 operators, local corrections officers, airport public safety officers and ambulance operations personnel.

Direct care workers, including those in county medical care facilities, will see a $2 per hour temporary increase beginning July 1 and running through Sept. 30. The $120 million set aside for this also will cover costs incurred by the employer, including payroll taxes, due to the increase. Eligible workers include registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, competency-evaluated nursing assistants and respiratory therapists.

Other key elements in the bill are:

  • $25 million in grants for PPE, testing and testing equipment to priority providers
  • $60 million for a rental assistance program
  • $155 million in small business restart grants
  • $29 million for additional unemployment insurance agency employees
  • $1.4 million for the Bureau of Community and Health Systems to conduct COVID-19 infection control surveys in medical care facilities

The bill was sent to the governor for final approval, and she has released a statement of support, while also alluding to additional relief in the future:

“While it is good news that more than $850 million is now appropriated for additional relief across the state, much more work lies ahead to ensure that schools and local communities will have the funding and resources they need.”

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

 

Podcast 83 discusses eventful legislative week

Deena Bosworth and Meghann Keit of MAC’s Governmental Affairs Team run down an eventful week in Lansing in a video episode of Podcast 83, MAC’s podcast on all news and things county-related in Michigan.

To view the newest episode, visit the Podcast 83 page on the MAC website.

 

Virtual options under Open Meetings Act extended to July 31

County boards can continue to hold public meetings remotely under the Open Meetings Act due to a new order signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Thursday night. Executive Order 129 extends a previous EO allowing such meetings during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to July 31, 2020.

“As we continue our efforts to flatten the curve and prevent a second wave of COVID-19, it’s important for public bodies to be able to continue holding meetings and the public to participate in those meetings,” Governor Whitmer said in a statement. “By allowing for remote meetings, public bodies and residents can continue practicing safe social distancing while also ensuring meetings remain open, accessible and transparent to the public.” 

Public bodies must meet the following criteria when holding a public meeting remotely:   

  • Ensure two-way communication for members and the public to hear and address each other when speaking.   
  • Provide adequate notice to the public of the meeting.   
  • Post a public meeting notice on their website.   
  • Permit participants to record or broadcast the public meeting.    
  • Allow participants to address the public body during a public comment period.   

For technical tips on conducting remote sessions, visit MAC’s COVID-19 Resources Page

 

Senate votes to reset FY21 budget deadline

A law requiring the Legislature to deliver a budget to the governor by July 1 would be set aside for the fiscal 2021 budget under a bill approved by the Senate this week.

Senate Bill 963, by Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-Ingham), would nullify the requirements of Public Act 160 of 2019 for this cycle, in deference to the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on tax collections.

The rules under PA 160 would resume next year.

The delay measure is now before the Michigan House of Representatives.

The state’s budget year starts on Oct. 1 and state leaders already agreed to hold a special Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference in August to give lawmakers a better idea of how much revenue will be available for the FY21 budget.

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

 

Summer property tax deferment bills pass House

Individuals and businesses could delay their summer 2020 property tax payments to March 1, 2021, without penalty under a two-bill package passed by the House unanimously this week.

House Bills 5761 and 5810, by Rep. James Lower (R-Ionia), state that entities wishing to delay payments must submit an affidavit to their local tax collecting unit attesting to financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic by Aug. 28, 2020, to qualify.  Once a local unit has collected the affidavits, it would submit those to the county for tallying and submission to the Michigan Department of Treasury. Then, it would be incumbent upon the state to borrow enough money to make up for those unpaid taxes for all the taxing units, so locals do not run in to significant cash flow issues during the deferment period. 

MAC has worked closely with the bill sponsor, the Michigan Association of County Treasurers, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the other local government associations in the development of the legislation. Although significant progress has been made on the bills, MAC remains neutral on the legislation until such time as we have greater assurances that Treasury can and will absorb any of the costs associated with administering the program.

The bills move to the Senate and could be reviewed as early as next week.

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

 

CoPro+ launches PPE Program to save counties money

CoPro+, MAC’s cooperative purchasing program especially designed for counties and other public entities, has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by creating a robust new program to give public entities the best possible prices and services on Personal Protective Equipment.

Visit the CoPro+ homepage to start learning details about the program and how it can serve your needs.

The cooperative also is expanding its social media presence. Look for information on new vendors and deals via Facebook and Instagram.

Please check back to our site regularly for new details on deals and ordering.

 

Ballot experts talk ‘shoebox’ voters and more on Camp Counties webinar

Who are “shoebox voters”? What are the critical two weeks in any millage election campaign? Due to Proposal 3 of 2018 and the coronavirus pandemic, what percentage of voters are expected to cast ballots by mail in August and November?

These questions and more were tackled this week by Adrian Hemond and Scott Bean of Grassroots Midwest in the second of five Camp Counties webinars, “Planning and Winning Millage Elections in a COVID World.”

The webinars, supported by Enbridge, Envirologic and other corporate partners, were started to replace MAC’s regular Regional Summits, which were cancelled due to the coronavirus.

To see the election presentation, and register for upcoming events, visit the camp page on the MAC website. All webinars are free for MAC members.

 

State orders more COVID testing in medical homes

New COVID testing requirements for residents of medical care facilities were ordered this week by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The order, effective immediately, requires such facilities to test in the following manner:

“i. Initial testing of all residents and staff;

  1. Testing of all new or returning residents during intake unless tested in the last 72 hours;

iii. Testing any resident or staff member with symptoms or suspected exposure;

  1. Weekly testing of all residents and staff in facilities with any positive cases among residents or staff, until 14 days after the last new positive;
  2. Testing of all staff in Regions 1 through 5 and 7, at least once between the date of this order and July 3, 2020;
  3. Weekly testing of all staff in regions of medium or higher risk on the MI Safe Start Map”

To see which region your county is it, please check the MI Start map.

The order also requires facilities to complete a plan for conducting testing consistent with the above requirements, no later than June 22. The plans must be executed no later than June 29.

Failure to comply with the testing order is “subject to a $1,000 fine for each violation or for each day that a violation continues. Any violation of the order by a facility regulated by LARA shall be referred to the agency for determination whether to pursue additional enforcement action as it deems appropriate.”

Also, signed by the governor this week was an extension of “Enhanced protections for residents and staff of long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.” EO 123 continues to require transfer to a regional hub if a dedicated unit is not available and provide requirements facilities must meet such as canceling all communal dining. The order continues through July 12. 

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

 

Indigent Defense Commission approves FY21 grant contract

An indigent services grant contract for fiscal 2021 was approved by the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (attached) this week.

The new contract reflects changes developed in conjunction with MAC and member counties and includes removal of the excess grant from the previous year to the total authorized budget on page 1. Removing this allows contracts to be executed in a timelier manner, as statute does not require excess funding to be reported until Oct. 31. Any unused funds will be reduced in the second and third disbursements equally.

The disbursement schedule is unchanged, with 50 percent advanced within 15 days of the executed agreement, and then two 25 percent payments on May 15 and Aug. 14 in 2021.  See letter to stakeholders.

The new contract also ensures that county-commission disputes or unresolved documentation issues do not hold up funding for uncontested services or the issuance of grant contracts. Some counties have encountered problems in the past due to disputes over a couple of line items that held up the larger portion of their funding.

The commission also began its review of compliance planning and cost analysis of local systems. That work will continue at its next meeting on Aug. 18. The meeting packet can be found here. The commission meeting was also recorded and can be viewed at the commission site.

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

 

Grants available for Child/Parent Legal Representation program

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is inviting each circuit court that did not apply for the FY20 IV-E Child and Parent Legal Representation (CPLR) Grant to apply for the upcoming fiscal year, 2021. Grant funds will run through Sept. 30, 2021, with an effort to get a start date of those funds as close to Oct. 1, 2020, as possible.

Through this grant, the department will make a claim for title IV-E eligible legal representation expenditures paid by the court. Eligible expenditures are costs from legal representation of a child and/or parent in child protective proceedings where at least one child is placed in out-of-home placement (foster care). MDHHS will determine the type and amount of eligible expenditures and provide the court the applicable title IV-E funds.

Note: If you have been participating in the FY20 CPLR Grant cycle or were on the original FY20 list but withdrew, please look for an email from the MDHHS-IVE-LRGrant@michigan.gov.

Your Intent to Apply for FY21 must be submitted by July 1. Courts will need to estimate the amount the county plans to spend on parent attorneys and LGALs in foster care cases in FY21, but the amount can be changed later if it needs to be.

See an FAQ sheet here.

Questions about the grant application and process may be submitted to MDHHS-IVE-LRGrant@michigan.gov.

 

Revenue sharing increase highlights Gov. Whitmer’s FY21 budget

Michigan counties would see a $5.7 million boost to state revenue sharing payments under spending plans released today by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for fiscal year 2021.

In her second budget plan, Whitmer advises the Legislature to appropriate $232.2 million in statutory revenue sharing for counties, a roughly 2.5 percent increase from FY20 levels, from an $11 billion General Fund. The governor’s proposal would extend a recent trend of modest increases in revenue sharing as Michigan emerged from the Great Recession.

Whitmer also is recommending $7.2 million to support recommendations of a joint county-state Jail and Pretrial Incarceration Task Force and $40 million in grants for local governments to address flooding and infrastructure issues created by rising water levels around the state.

“Any increase is good news for our members, who are still struggling with the effects of the Great Recession and state limitations on property tax revenue,” said Stephan Currie, executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties. “Still, in other areas of the budget, resources to counties are flat or even trending downward.”

Currie noted such areas as:

  • Funding for county veteran services grants: $2 million recommended for FY21, down from $4 million in FY20.
  • Funding for Secondary Road Patrol for county sheriffs: $11.1 million recommended for FY21, down from $13 million in FY20.
  • Reimbursements to county jails for housing state prisoners: $14.8 million recommended for FY21, flat from FY20.
  • Funding for “essential local public health services”: $51.4 million recommended for FY21, flat from FY20.

“We agree with the governor’s remarks this week that funding for local services is a crisis created by many decisions over many years in Lansing. We appreciate her commitment to a conversation on addressing that trend. Now is the time to do so, when Michigan’s economy is moving at a solid pace,” Currie argued.

FY21 Estimated Revenue Sharing by County

For more information on the state budget, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Who controls your county buildings?

A bill discussed in the Senate Local Government Committee this week would mandate that a local unit of government allow an elected official to place his or her non-political constituent informational materials in their buildings.

Senate Bill 719 sponsor Sen. Peter Lucido (R-Macomb) also referenced a substitute to the bill that prohibits anyone from denying access to an elected official who wished to hold a constituent informational meeting at any state or local governmental office that is open to the public.

MAC testified in opposition to the legislation on the grounds that the Legislature should not enact a law prescribing what a county must do in buildings owned by the county. The bill and substitute bill, as written, do not limit the places within county buildings where any elected official from the area can place their materials or hold public meetings. And they would not allow a county to deny a time or place for such meetings, even if other meetings or functions were already scheduled for the space. Further, they do not limit the quantity of materials that may be placed anywhere an elected official chooses, nor do they specify that access can be denied when the buildings are not open for business.

MAC will continue to work with the bill sponsor to protect local control of locally owned facilities. For more information on this issue, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Senate committee briefed on child welfare corrections

The Senate Families, Seniors and Veterans Committee heard an update (attachment) from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) on state’s Children Rights modified Implementation Sustainability and Exit Plan (ISEP). Senior Deputy Director for the Children’s Services Agency (CSA) JooYeun Chang provided an overview from since the state became the subject of federal scrutiny after it settled Dwayne B. v Granholm (U.S. Eastern District Docket No. 06-13548) in 2008, which led to a consent decree requiring several state changes.

The hope was that the ISEP could help DHHS exit federal monitoring within the next few years. But in 2018, a child welfare audit showed the state had undercounted the number of abused, and that homes used by relatives for child placement did not meet safety standards.

In June 2019, the ISEP was modified again in recognition of progress to the MDHHS child welfare system resulting in a focused agreement on six principles: safety, children’s needs, families and communities, placement, reunification and permanency and services. Chang emphasized progress to reduce CPS call wait times by centralizing the intake process and noted the number of dropped or abandoned calls had fallen from 1,400 to below 150, as of January.

Based on the tweaked agreement, to exit the ISEP, MDHHS must meet all conditions and maintain performance standards for at least two consecutive reporting periods. And it cannot have any outstanding requests for corrective action plans. Twenty-six jurisdictions are under a similar consent decree to Michigan’s.

The state also is implementing new federal requirements under the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018. The governor’s FY21 budget includes $8.6 million for programs to prevent children from entering foster care and to reduce the utilization of residential care for foster children. According to the governor’s plan, costs will be offset by estimated savings of $11.3 million ($5.3 million General Fund) resulting from fewer children entering the foster care system. The governor also is requesting $20.6 million to complete the first phase of the replacement of the Michigan Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (MiSACWIS) with a cloud-based system. And the budget calls for $11.3 million ($5.8 million General Fund) for this new system as a fiscal year 2020 supplemental appropriation. The entire upgrade for all phases is planned to be completed by FY25.

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

 

Bills would redistribute funds from bottle deposits

A bipartisan package of bills intended to prevent bottle deposit fraud would also redistribute funds generated by unclaimed bottle deposits, sponsors told a House committee this week.

House Bills 5422-5425 received a hearing this week in the House Regulatory Reform Committee.

The heart of the bill package is HB 5423, by Rep. Brandt Iden (R-Kalamazoo), which would reconstitute how the “escheat” money (or unredeemed deposits) is spent. Current law divides the money this way: 75 percent to the Cleanup and Redevelopment Trust Fund for contaminated site cleanup and remediation and 25 percent to reimburse dealers/retailers for losses. HB 5423 would revamp that formula: 20 percent would go to new reimbursements for distributors, 25 percent would continue to reimburse retailers, 15 percent would go to a new Bottle Enforcement Fund to crack down on fraud and abuse and the remaining 40 percent would be split between the Cleanup and Redevelopment Trust Fund and the Renew Michigan Fund, which funds recycling grants, solid waste planning and contaminated site cleanup. Each year, unclaimed deposits generate about $40 million in revenue.

Since the bottle deposit law was adopted via voter initiative in the 1970s, any change would require a ¾ vote in each chamber.

MAC does not yet have a position on these bills.

For more information on this issue, contact Michael Ruddock at ruddock@micounties.org.

 

Deadline is Feb. 21 on veteran service grants

Counties that filed Letters of Intent now have until Feb. 21 to formally apply with the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) for the FY20 County Veteran Service Fund grant monies.

Per law, each grant award will consist of a $50,000 base payment. Per capita payments also will be processed based on the county’s veteran population. MVAA will review applications between Feb. 21 and Feb. 28. It will announce awards and denials on March 2.

An FY20 supplemental appropriation included $4 million for the fund after months of negotiations between the Legislature and the Governor’s Office. The letter from the agency states, “(T)he goal and intent of these grant dollars are to enhance and improve county veteran service operations in an effort to connect more veterans to their benefits and provide consistent access to services throughout the state.”

If counties have any questions about uses of the funds, please consider connecting with surrounding counties or MAC. For questions of MVAA, contact MVAAGrants@michigan.gov.

For other questions or information, contact Meghann Keit at keit@micounties.org.

 

 

State offers free naxolone to county jails

County jails may request naloxone via a new portal built by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). The department eventually plans to offer the drug, used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, to a variety of community organizations. MDHHS is recommending counties issue the drug to high-risk individuals at discharge from jail. (See the letter sent to Michigan sheriffs from MDHHS.)

You can access the portal here.

For more information, contact Jared Welehodsky of MDHHS at 517-284-4761 or welehodskyj@michigan.gov.

 

Feb. 11 webcast to focus on broadband gap

County leaders are encouraged to view a Pew Charitable Trusts webcast, “How to Bridge the Broadband Gap: A Conversation with State Leaders,” which will run from 9 a.m. to noon on Feb. 11.

“Though access to high-speed, reliable internet is an increasingly critical tool for modern American life, the Federal Communications Commission estimates that at least 21 million Americans still lack broadband access. Other counts suggest this number could be as high as 162 million. Although much of the conversation about expanding broadband access has focused on the federal and local levels, states are taking decisive steps to expand this critical service to communities that lack it or are underserved.

Tune in for insights on: 

  • New research on 5 steps to effectively expand access
  • State promising practices
  • “Universal truths” of successful initiatives

Click here for details and to watch live on Feb. 11.

 

Newsletter to focus on solutions to opioid crisis

As part of the Opioid Treatment Ecosystem initiative, the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice at Wayne State University is developing a Community of Practice with a network of counties who are focused on expanding opioid antagonist treatment and implementing overdose prevention activities.

The center has developed a newsletter with information we hope you find helpful in your efforts to strengthen the treatment ecosystem in your community. In future newsletters, the center will provide information on training and funding opportunities, address shared barriers and highlight the success of county efforts.

To be placed on the newsletter delivery list, email “OTE” to CBHJ@wayne.edu.

 

National news from NACo

On Jan. 1, 2021, counties must have a plan and changes in place to comply with the law on E911 (Enhanced 911 services).

A March 24 webinar, sponsored by MAC and Abilita, will help answer your questions concerning E911 compliance.

Consider this: An employee at your office has a medical emergency after normal working hours with nobody around. He or she dials 911 from a desk phone and the ambulance arrives at your location. However, since it is after hours and the building is more than 20,000 square feet on multiple floors. The first responders are delayed finding the individual that dialed 911. This is a possibility; and the situation can be even more complicated if there are multiple buildings tied to one phone system through VoIP technology.

The E911 law was enacted to change this.

Among questions explored in the 45-minute webinar will be:

  1. What is E911 and why a new law in Michigan?
  2. What is required for compliance?
  3. Who does this apply to?
  4. Is there any ongoing maintenance involved with this?
  5. What if we don’t do anything?

The webinar will run from 11 a.m. to noon on March 24. It is free and open to staffers at any MAC member county. To register, click here.

After the March 24 presentation, a recorded version will be placed on the MAC website for 24/7 viewing through the rest of 2020.

The Michigan Counties Workers’ Compensation Fund (MCWCF) has awarded grants to agencies in eight counties to help reduce employee accidents and injuries.

These sums are part of the MCWCF’s Loss Prevention Grants Program, started in 2014. With this round of grants, totaling more than $23,000, the MCWCF has now handed out about $100,000.

“The growth of our Loss Prevention Grants Program is one of the most impressive recent developments at MCWCF,” said Timothy K. McGuire, the fund’s executive director. “These investments are part of a virtuous circle for our members and the fund overall.”

See the full list of recipients.

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