FY20 budget deal uses federal COVID aid to compensate counties for revenue sharing cuts

Legislative leaders and the Governor’s Office reached final agreement this week on a plan to balance the current FY20 state budget by making large cuts to state spending and backfilling them with federal COVID aid dollars.

Of note for counties is a $97 million cut in revenue sharing from the state, backfilled with $150 million in federal aid that has some restrictions.

So, the August revenue sharing payment will not go out as a revenue sharing payment. Instead, the state will be sending out payments to local governments out of a new $150 million pot of CARES funding. The amount that will be sent to each unit eligible for the August revenue sharing payment will be based on their proportion of the total pot of the $97 million that was cut.

If your county, for example, was getting 2 percent of the $97 million, you will get 2 percent of the $150 million.

MAC has confirmed that this will be a disbursement, but it is assumed at this point that counties will have to issue a report back to the State certifying that the funds were allocated to COVID-19-related expenses. Eligible allocations would include non-reimbursed public health and public safety payroll expenditures, personal protection equipment and facility modifications.

In addition to the revenue sharing changes, the budget bill has also extended the July 17 deadline to apply for the payroll reimbursement program. The deadline to apply for that now will be one week from the time this supplemental budget is enacted. This was done to accommodate those entities that were not originally eligible to apply for the funds, included public safety authorities and district health departments. 

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

 

MAC forming workgroup to study options on tax foreclosure

Following a Michigan Supreme Court ruling that gutted the system of tax foreclosures that counties have used for years, MAC will be forming a workgroup to study ways to address the consequences of the decision.

In Rafaeli v. Oakland County, the court ruled county treasurers cannot keep excess funds after a foreclosed property is sold and the overdue tax bill is satisfied. The court said such funds, minus the owed taxes, must be refunded to the former homeowner.

“We are disappointed in the decision,” said Stephan Currie, executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties. “We are still trying to determine the fiscal impact on our members. And we have concerns about the costs to our members of those properties that we end up selling at a loss, and concerns about the loss of funds used to remove blight from our communities.”

Oakland County had argued in the case that keeping the profits was constitutional because the tax foreclosure law gives delinquent homeowners a type of due process, reported Michigan Radio. Therefore, the county reasoned, counties aren’t taking the homeowners’ rightful property, because the homeowner had already forfeited it.

MAC continues its legal analysis of the ruling and will be reporting back to members when that analysis is complete.

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

 

Live talk with Tom Izzo confirmed for Annual Conference

Legendary Michigan State University coach Tom Izzo will address attendees of the 2020 Virtual Annual Conference LIVE on Aug. 20 at 11 a.m., MAC confirmed this week. After his remarks on leadership and team building, the national championship coach will take questions.

The live chat will be one of the highlights of the 2020 MAC Virtual Annual Conference, which will include events on days between Aug. 18 and Aug. 27.

Other highlights include:

  • Plenary sessions that will feature MAC’s Legislative Update, the semi-annual “State of MAC” report and an address by MAC Board President Veronica Klinefelt
  • The Annual Business Meeting, during which members will vote on MAC’s policy platforms for the 2020-21 year
  • Seven policy workshops that will focus heavily on the implications of COVID-19 for counties in the coming months
  • A Virtual Exhibitor Show that will allow attendees to select up to five firms from which to hear 10-minute presentations

The unique nature of this event also brings changes to registration procedures:

  • The conference registration fee is only $50 for members, which includes all county officials
  • Attendees must register by a new deadline prior to the event – Aug. 7
  • MAC will not accept “walk-up” registrations during the conference (this is due to credentialing and election procedures adopted for the conference)

Start your registration with our Attendee Packet.

 

Senate committee approves trial court fee authority extension

Extension of the authority of trial courts to levy costs on defendants is one step closer to enactment this week, after the Senate Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 5488

The bill, by Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson), would extend statutory authority, and maintain the status quo, for Michigan’s trial courts to levy costs to defendants. Currently, that authority expires this October.

The state’s Trial Court Funding Commission said court costs “directly account for as high as $291 million annually in support (most of the 26.2 percent generated). Additionally, approximately $127 million of the annual funds transferred from the State originate from court assessments at sentencing. When totaled, Michigan trial courts are supported, in significant part, by over $418 million assessed to criminal defendants.”

The Commission also reported “findings from the survey of local funding units show that the total cost of Michigan’s court system (outside of the supreme court and court of appeals) amounts to between $1.14 billion and $1.44 billion.” Of the total amount, the percentage of local court operations expenses covered by state general fund is 2.24 percent. The report calls for a rebalancing of state and local funds and makes recommendations for the Legislature to consider for a stable court funding system.

Without completion of HB 5488, a longer-term stable funding solution cannot be worked out as an assurance that courts will not be in financial crisis is the utmost importance at this most difficult financial time for county governments.

Passage of the extension is a key priority for MAC this year. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill when it returns for session work in early August.

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

 

Legislative goals identified for jail reforms

This week, legislative leaders and bill sponsors teed up September priorities to include jail task force recommendations.

The “Smarter on Crime, Better for Communities” campaign focuses on four principal objectives: 

  • Eliminate driver’s license suspension as a penalty for offenses unrelated to dangerous driving
  • Expand the use of arrest alternatives at the system’s forefront, allowing policemen the discretion to issue citations for all misdemeanors and re-identifying some traffic misdemeanors as civil infractions
  • Convert low-level offenses to jail alternatives and eliminate mandates for minimum jail sentences to serve
  • Reduce jail admission for probation and parole violations, which is Michigan’s fifth-most-common reason for incarceration

Senate Bills 1046-51 and House Bills 5844 and 5846-5852 are before the judiciary committees in their respective chambers. MAC will be evaluating each one and partner with other key stakeholders in making policy decisions that conform with MAC platforms.

MAC policy platforms, before the membership this August, were amended to include “continued partnership with the Michigan Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration to support smart criminal justice reform and lessening burdens on county jails while maintaining public safety.”

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

 

Health worker immunity legislation has uncertain fate

Legislation to clarify legal immunity to health workers dealing with COVID-19 cases is headed to the governor after final approval this week by the House and Senate of two bills.

Senate Bill 899 (H-2) clarifies when immunity applies and under specific circumstances.

The immunity will apply during the period from March 10, 2020, to Jan. 1, 2021 and “extend to any death or injury arising out of or resulting from any act or omission by a health care provider or health care facility, including a county medical care facility (MCF) while engaging in one or more of the following activities: 

  • Rendering COVID-19-related health care services to a person with presumed, suspected, or confirmed COVID-19
  • Arranging, scheduling, rescheduling, canceling or postponing the rendering of health care services, including a decision to use telehealth or other remote services instead of an in-person encounter, in reliance on or in compliance with any administrative or governmental agency, division, or department policy, rule, or directive or any executive order or law regarding health care services provided by a health care provider or health care facility
  • Acts, omissions, or decisions resulting from a shortage of necessary resources, including blood products, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals or staffing

However, it is uncertain if Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will sign the bill, as she and legislative Democrats have said they believe the protections go too far.

“The governor put in place liability protections for frontline workers when cases were spiking and she’s prepared to do so again if necessary,” said Whitmer aide Tiffany Brown in a MIRS News Service report. “The only obstacle frontline workers face is the legislative majority that refuses to recognize a state of emergency during this once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic, casting doubt on these protections.

 “This bill attempts to paper over that failure. Moreover, it’s also just bad policy. Immunity should be available in very limited circumstances; it should not be a permanent feature of any emergency, which will only harm the people receiving care.

 SB 956 (H-3) requires the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to do the following:

  • By Aug. 15, 2020, conduct an evaluation of the operation, efficacy, clinical outcomes and performance of each COVID-19 regional hub that was implemented and operating during the state response to coronavirus in nursing homes and provide a detailed report on that evaluation to the House and Senate Health Policy committees.
  • By Sept. 1, 2020, in consultation with hospitals located in each of the state’s eight health care regions, develop a plan based on relevant and updated guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), describing a process to ensure that there is at least one dedicated facility available for coronavirus-positive patients in each of the eight health care regions to provide care only for those ineligible for admission at a hospital, nursing home, or adult foster care facility. DHHS would have to submit the plan to the House and Senate Health Policy committees upon its completion.
  • Beginning Sept. 1, 2020, if a hospital determined that a coronavirus-positive person was not eligible for hospital admission and the person was not a nursing home resident, the hospital would have to transfer him or her to a dedicated facility described above or a field hospital or other facility used as a surge capacity for the hospital.
  • Beginning Sept. 1, 2020, a person who had tested positive for coronavirus and who was being moved from another health facility or agency could not be admitted or retained for care in a nursing home unless the person had since recovered from coronavirus.
  • Beginning Sept. 1, 2020, unless a nursing home could provide care to a coronavirus-positive resident in a physically separate building, the nursing home would have to move the resident to a dedicated facility described above or a field hospital or other facility used as a surge capacity for a hospital.

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

 

MDHHS rescheduling, changing format of opioid town halls­­­­­

The Michigan Opioids Task Force and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) are rescheduling and changing the format of previously announced local town halls on opioids. These town halls will now be in a virtual format.

The following is the new town hall schedule:

  • Northern Lower Michigan (previously the Gaylord town hall), Wednesday, Sept. 23.
  • Flint and Thumb Region (previously the Flint town hall) Friday, Sept. 25.
  • Upper Peninsula (previously the Escanaba town hall) Thursday, Oct. 8.
  • West Michigan (previously the Grand Rapids town hall) Friday, Nov. 6.
  • Macomb and Oakland counties (previously the Sterling Heights town hall) Thursday, Dec. 3

“During the events, state officials will seek to learn more about how the opioid epidemic has impacted different regions of the state. To ensure information gathered reflects the experience of the local communities, residents are asked to only participate in the virtual town hall for the area in which they reside,” the department said in a statement.

More details on how to participate will be provided at Michigan.gov/opioids closer to the events.

In 2018, Michigan recorded more than 2,000 opioid-related overdose deaths and more than 8,000 Michiganders have lost their lives to this epidemic in the last five years. At the town halls, MDHHS and the Michigan Opioids Task Force will share the 2020 strategy to turn the tide on the crisis, seek feedback from the public and host a Q& A about the crisis response.      

A few key questions will guide the conversation:

  • How has the opioid epidemic affected you, your family or your community?
  • What services, programs or policies would you recommend to help address the crisis?
  • How can the state help combat stigma and change the narrative around opioid use disorder?

For more information about the state’s opioids response and available resources, visit Michigan.gov/opioids.

 

Izzo added to 2020 Virtual Annual Conference line-up

A special address from legendary Michigan State University coach Tom Izzo will be one of the highlights of the 2020 MAC Virtual Annual Conference, which will include events on days between Aug. 18 and Aug. 27.

Izzo will address the President’s Gathering scheduled for Aug. 20 during the virtual event, which replaces MAC’s traditional summer conference shelved due to the public health circumstances imposed by the coronavirus.

Highlights of the event include:

  • Izzo’s remarks on Aug. 20, starting at 11 a.m.
  • Plenary sessions that will feature MAC’s Legislative Update, the semi-annual “State of MAC” report and an address by MAC Board President Veronica Klinefelt
  • The Annual Business Meeting, during which members will vote on MAC’s policy platforms for the 2020-21 year
  • Seven policy workshops that will focus heavily on the implications of COVID-19 for counties in the coming months
  • A Virtual Exhibitor Show that will allow attendees to select up to five firms from which to hear 10-minute presentations

The unique nature of this event also brings changes to registration procedures:

  • The conference registration fee is only $50 for members, which includes all county officials
  • Attendees must register by a new deadline prior to the event – Aug. 7
  • MAC will not accept “walk-up” registrations during the conference (this is due to credentialing and election procedures adopted for the conference)

Start your registration with our Attendee Packet.

For questions, send an email to conference@micounties.org.

 

Podcast 83 answers your questions on COVID aid

Millions of dollars are available to counties for reimbursements for public health and safety workers and it’s important to begin filing for aid quickly, MAC Governmental Affairs Director Deena Bosworth said during an episode of Podcast 83 this week.

Bosworth and Executive Director Stephan Currie discussed the aid streams now available under Senate Bill 690, then took questions from viewers of the webinar taped on Monday.

Regarding $100 million in hazard pay for first responders, Bosworth said, “It’s available on a first come, first served basis, so those who apply first are more likely to get the money. … I don’t know how fast it will go.”

On hazard pay, a local unit can receive only a maximum of $5 million, regardless of the amount requested. (FAQ sheet from Treasury on filing for hazard pay.)

On payroll taxes associated with hazard pay, Bosworth said MAC has requested additional guidance on whether state aid will cover those costs to counties.

Bosworth noted that forms and other details can be found on the Michigan Treasury website.

A second sum, $200 million, is to help counties with public health and public safety payrolls. It will have two rounds of payments, with the first applications due today (July 17). (FAQ sheet from Treasury on filing for reimbursements.)

If funds are left from round 1, Treasury will announce a round 2 in August.

“This can cover overtime, normal leave, long-term leave, benefits … you can lump it together and apply for reimbursement,” Bosworth said. If available funds are not sufficient to claims, reimbursements will be prorated.

Podcast 83 is now sponsored by DTE Energy.

For more information on COVID aid issues, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

MAC continues push for trial court fee authority

All during the COVID-19 pandemic, MAC has continued to urge Senate leaders to get House Bill 5488 to the governor’s desk. HB 5488, by Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson), would extend statutory authority for Michigan’s trial courts to levy costs to defendants until Oct. 1, 2022. Currently, that authority expires this October.

The state’s Trial Court Funding Commission said court costs “directly account for as high as $291 million annually in support (most of the 26.2 percent generated). Additionally, approximately $127 million of the annual funds transferred from the State originate from court assessments at sentencing. When totaled, Michigan trial courts are supported, in significant part, by over $418 million assessed to criminal defendants.”

The Commission also reported “findings from the survey of local funding units show that the total cost of Michigan’s court system (outside of the supreme court and court of appeals) amounts to between $1.14 billion and $1.44 billion.” Of the total amount, the percentage of local court operations expenses covered by state general fund is 2.24 percent. The report calls for a rebalancing of state and local funds and makes recommendations for the Legislature to consider for a stable court funding system.

MAC expects movement of the bill when the Senate returns next week and is hopeful it will make its way to the governor’s desk rapidly.

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

 

Single candidates featured in MAC Board elections

A single candidate filed in each of the six races for seats on the MAC Board of Directors, with the filing period closing on Thursday.

Board candidates are:

  • Region 1: Joe Bonovetz (Gogebic)
  • Region 2: Richard Schmidt (Manistee)
  • Region 3: Jim Storey (Allegan)
  • Region 4: Bryan Crenshaw (Ingham)
  • Region 5: Veronica Klinefelt (Macomb)
  • At-large: Stan Ponstein (Kent)

While no candidate is opposed, MAC will still hold regional caucuses at the 2020 Annual Conference, as by-laws require an affirmative vote for a candidate to win a board seat. These candidates will serve three-year terms on the MAC Board, which oversees the association.

 

Election security is theme of NACo, MAC webinars

NACo has set a July 23 webinar on “How Counties Can Continue to Address Ransomware to Ensure Safe and Secure Elections.”

Experts gathered by the National Association of Counties will discuss what ransomware is; attack vectors used; how it impacts state, local, tribal, and territorial government entities; and specifically how it can impact election infrastructure. Presenters also will provide a set of recommendations for protecting networks against a ransomware attack, as well as response steps for those affected by ransomware.

The webinar, which runs from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., is free. Click here to register.

The NACo event follows up on a MAC-sponsored webinar this week in its Camp Counties series on election cybersecurity. Rita Reynolds, chief technology officer of NACo, outlined a variety of tips and techniques that Michigan counties can use to make their websites and virtual workplaces more resilient. To view the recording of that webinar, click here

For more information on MAC’s Camp Counties series, visit the camp page.

 

MCMCFC leader appointed to COVID task force

Michigan County Medical Care Facilities Council Executive Director Renee Beniak has been appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to serve on the Michigan Nursing Homes COVID-19 Preparedness Task Force.

The Task Force was created by Whitmer’s Executive Order 135 as an advisory body in the Department of Health and Human Services to inform the state’s response to a potential second wave of COVID-19 in nursing homes. Some of the main responsibilities of the group will be to coordinate state agencies and industry stakeholders, report on best practices and recommend ways to improve data collection.

“The Task Force will produce a recommendation to the governor for an action plan on how to prepare nursing homes for any future wave of COVID-19 cases by August 31, 2020. The Task Force will dissolve no later than two years after the issuance of the executive order unless the governor orders otherwise.”

 

 

Treasury webinar details deadlines, guidance on COVID funds      

Counties confront a July 17 deadline to apply for reimbursements for public safety and public health payroll and benefit expenses for the employees substantially dedicated to responding or mitigating COVID-19 for the months of April and May 2020, Treasury officials told attendees of a webinar on Thursday.

The Michigan Department of Treasury presented information on the application process for counties and other local governments to receive funds appropriated through Senate Bill 690 from the $3 billion Michigan received in federal CARES Act funds. For those that were unable to watch the hour-long webinar, you can view the recording here.

The department also covered the water utility assistance program, the first responder hazard pay program and the $200 million for reimbursement of public safety and public health payroll and benefit costs for April 2020 through July 31, 2020. 

In response to a MAC question, Treasury said facility staff that have been deployed for cleaning, sanitizing or modifying work spaces to protect against the spread of the virus would be considered eligible as part of protecting public health and safety. If not all of the $200 million dedicated for this reimbursement is utilized in the first round of applications due on July 31, then a second round will be announced in August.  Round 2 will cover the April and May expenses not already reimbursed and any of the same expenses incurred during the months of June and July. These funds will be prorated based on the percentage of the total filed claims, so it may not reimburse 100 percent of the expenses submitted. Distribution of the funds for the first round is anticipated to go out by Sept. 18, 2020, and the second round by Nov. 7, 2020. 

As for the $100 million allocated for a $1,000 per first responder hazard pay program, Treasury said the application period is now through Sept. 30, 2020, but is on a first come, first served basis.

Although MAC read the boilerplate language in Senate Bill 690 to indicate that the funds were either payments ahead of expenditure or reimbursement for those that had the funds to give, the department has not made that clear at this point. It was indicted during the webinar that the payments must be made to the first responders by Sept. 30, 2020. However, the checks from the State to the county would go out no later than Nov. 14, 2020. This would not indicate a pre-payment program. A commitment was made by the presenters to look more into this process. Please remember, these funds are first come, first served, so get your applications moving.

MAC will be hosting a webinar its own webinar at 11 a.m. on Monday, July 13 to discuss these issues in more detail. Click here to register.

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

 

July 13 webinar will brief members on COVID aid details

MAC’s Governmental Affairs Team will brief members on the latest developments in federal and state assistance in combating COVID-19 during a webinar on Monday, July 13.

Click here to register. Space is limited, so please register as soon as possible.

The briefing will start at 11 a.m. and will include:

  • Details on funding from Senate Bill 690
  • Details on the FY20 state budget deal, including the impacts on county revenue sharing
  • A review of the guidance from the Michigan Department of Treasury on filing for reimbursement via federal funds out of the CARES Act
  • A general overview of CARES Act dollars being spent in Michigan

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

 

Registration opens for 2020 Virtual Annual Conference

County officials are encouraged to register now for MAC’s Virtual Annual Conference, which will include events on days between Aug. 18 and Aug. 27.

The virtual event replaces MAC’s traditional summer conference, which was shelved by the MAC Board of Directors due to the public health circumstances imposed by the coronavirus.

Highlights of the event include:

  • Plenary sessions that will feature MAC’s Legislative Update, the semi-annual “State of MAC” report and an address by MAC Board President Veronica Klinefelt
  • The Annual Business Meeting, during which members will vote on MAC’s policy platforms for the 2020-21 year
  • At least six policy workshops that will focus heavily on the implications of COVID-19 for counties in the coming months
  • Regional caucuses that will elect members to fill six seats on the MAC Board of Directors
  • A Virtual Exhibitor Show that will allow attendees to select up to five firms from which to hear 10-minute presentations

The unique nature of this event also brings changes to registration procedures:

  • The conference registration fee is only $50 for members, which includes all county officials
  • Attendees must register by a new deadline prior to the event – Aug. 7
  • MAC will not accept “walk-up” registrations during the conference (this is due to credentialing and election procedures adopted for the conference)

For more information, send an email to conference@micounties.org.

 

Summer property tax deferment bills vetoed

Bills that would have allowed individuals and businesses to delay, without penalty, their summer 2020 property tax payments were vetoed by the governor this week. In her veto letter, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer cited constitutional reasons and overwhelming opposition from schools and local units of government for her decision.

House Bills 5761 and 5810, by Rep. James Lower (R-Ionia), passed both legislative chambers with bi-partisan support. There is an attempt to advance Senate Bill 943, by Sen. Peter MacGregor (R-Kent), to the governor, with changes to the statutory language that may address her concerns. The bill has passed the Senate and is currently in the House. If an agreement with the administration can be reached, MAC anticipates the bill being passed by the House and sent to the governor the week of July 20, 2020. 

If she immediately signs the bill, however, it will be a very short window in some jurisdictions for qualified taxpayers to submit their applications before the property tax bills are due. 

MAC remains neutral on the legislation until such time as we have greater assurances that the Michigan Treasury Department can and will absorb any of the costs associated with administering the program.

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

 

Deadline approaching on opioid litigation

MAC members that are part of the national prescription opiate litigation (case 17-md-2804) multi-district litigation against opioid manufactures, distributors and retailers received notice of a proof of claim deadline on July 30.

“The deadline for cities, counties, municipalities, or other local governments to file proofs of claim in the Purdue Bankruptcy Cases is July 30, 2020, at 5 p.m. EDT. Any Negotiating Class member that wishes to file a claim must do so by that date. Negotiating Class counsel will NOT be filing claims for class members. However, we are advised that an Ad Hoc committee of governmental and other contingent litigation claimants has been formed in the Bankruptcy. That ad hoc committee may be sending additional information concerning the claim process.”

More information can be found in the detailed memo and online here

Those counties that have retained the Bernstein and Weitz & Luxenberg team as counsel will be preparing the form and submitting it on the counties’ behalf.  If you have not retained one of those firms, MAC recommends consulting with legal counsel on the filing notice as soon as possible.

 

July 23 webinar will go over federal COVID grants for jails

Learn about options and details for gaining federal help to respond to COVID-19 in your jails during a July 23 digital Town Hall co-hosted by MAC, the Michigan Municipal League and the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration.

The free event will run from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and will focus on local grants and sub-grants of the federal Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding. Get your questions answered and hear ideas and guidance from the about using the funds in ways that will pay dividends over time.

Speakers will be:

  • Nancy Becker Bennett, division director, Grants and Community Services Division, Michigan State Police
  • Bridget McCormack, chief justice, Michigan Supreme Court
  • Sheryl Kubiak, dean & professor, School of Social Work, Wayne State University

Click here to register.

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

 

State board seeks input on local finance reporting

The Protecting Local Government Retirement and Benefits Act (PA 202 of 2017) requires the Municipal Stability Board to develop best practices, approve of corrective action plans and to monitor those plans. At its June 17, 2020, meeting, the board proposed changes to the Corrective Action Plan Monitoring (CAP): Policies and Procedures document and are seeking public comment.

The proposed revisions are technical changes to the review process timelines outlined in the document. These proposed changes will provide flexibility to the Board in their review of CAP monitoring certifications. These proposed changes allow the board to limit the number of local governments to be reviewed in a month, enabling added focus and support to be given to each local government during their CAP monitoring certification review.

Provide comment on these changes to the board at Treas-MunicipalStabilityBoard@michigan.gov by July 22, 2020.

 

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.

 

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