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.

 

Expungement bill moves out of Senate committee

A House bill that that would automatically set aside certain felony and misdemeanor convictions moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. The committee, however, did add language to create a specified fund to cover, upon appropriations, costs for implementation, systems upgrades and staffing needs. MAC has requested clarification language to be included to ensure that any cost at the local level are also eligible under the fund.

Still, MAC testified against House Bill 4980, by Rep. Eric Leutheiser (R-Branch), as a large concern outlined in written comments provided on June 11 has not yet be resolved: The legislation requires the Michigan State Police (MSP) database to set aside eligible convictions. However, there is no notification requirement on MSP to send that information to the local clerk and courts. Therefore, MAC is concerned some records may be public at the local level, while MSP has sealed the records. This inconsistency is contrary to the goal of the legislation and causes liability concerns for counties.

Also in committee, Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Eaton) offered language that allows a court to reinstate a conviction that was set aside, if a court has determined the individual has not made a good-faith effort to pay restitution.

The bill waits action on the Senate floor. The Senate has adjourned until late July.

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

 

Senate approves summer property tax deferment bills

Individuals and businesses are one step closer to delaying their summer 2020 property tax payments to March 1, 2021, without penalty after a two-bill package gained Senate approval 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 supported the concept of the legislation. The bills now move to the governor for her signature.

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

 

Elections panel takes testimony on absentee ballots

The clerk/register of deeds for Kent County told the Senate Elections Committee this week that she thinks the mailing of absentee voter applications to all voters is illegal and places additional burdens on county and local clerks.

Kent’s Lisa Lyons made the comments during a hearing by the committee on recent policy changes and actions of Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

Under Proposal 3 of 2018, Lyons said every voter has a right to cast an absentee ballot. However, sahe said no elected official can send a ballot unless the voter has required it verbally or in writing per case law.

Additionally, the committee approved Senate Bills 977-78, by Sen. Kevin Daley (R-Lapeer), which would: make it a misdemeanor to knowingly making a false statement on an absent voter ballot application; make it a felony for knowingly submitting an absent voter ballot application containing or using another person’s name and personal identification information; and would make it a felony for knowingly submitting an application with the intent to obtain multiple ballots for a person. The Michigan Association of County Clerks supports the bills.

Full video of the committee hearing can be found here.

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

 

Law enforcement grant applications due on Aug. 14

County law enforcement and courts that were previously ineligible for direct Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Fund (CESF) grants can now apply for such funds until Aug. 14 at noon.

The Michigan State Police advises that the grant performance period spans from March 1, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021, and all work must directly relate to the prevention of, preparation for or response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

County Sheriff, Jail and County Prosecutor Allocations can be found here.

County Allocations for Circuit/District/Probate courts can be found here.

Applications are due on Aug. 14. Forms and Instructions can be found here

 

MAC offices will be closed on July 3

MAC’s offices in Lansing will be closed on Friday, July 3 to observe the federal holiday for the Fourth of July.

Also, be advised that there will not be a Legislative Update on July 3, due to the national holiday.

Legislative Updates will resume on Friday, July 10.

 

Michigan Senate endorses flexible use of federal CARES Act dollars

The Michigan Senate called on the federal government to ease restrictions on use of the nearly $3.8 billion Michigan has received from the CARES Act via a resolution passed Thursday.

 Senate Resolution 124, by Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Kent), acknowledges the revenue shortfalls for the state and local units of government and implores Congress to allow the use of these funds to help fill the mounting deficits faced by Michigan and local governments. The State is facing a $3 billion deficit for Fiscal 2020, which ends Sept. 30. Without additional flexibility for CARES funds, severe budget cuts across all levels of government are inevitable.

The Legislature and the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also are in discussions about extending the July 1, 2020, deadline for presenting the governor a budget for fiscal 2021, which begins Oct. 1, ,2020. Due to the uncertainty on revenues for next year and over federal assistance, completing a new budget will challenge state leaders. An additional Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference is scheduled for August. At that time, a clearer picture of the budget damage will provide legislators more guidance on their options.

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

 

MAC expresses concern on expungement bill

Counties have concerns with the mechanics of House Bill 4980, part of a package of bills on expunging criminal records, the Michigan Association of Counties told the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety this week.

The committee took testimony on bills to expand the eligibility to remove specific convictions from the public criminal record. HB 4980 would create an automatic process, in which certain offenses would be set aside without requiring a petition process overseen by a judge. 

Countywide elected officials expressed concerns about the automatic provisions during the committee hearing. Prosecutors from Berrien and Marquette also opposed an automatic process and encouraged the committee to preserve the ability of victims to part of the expungement process. Additionally, the prosecutors pointed out that out-of-state convictions will not be considered under the current bill language. Undersheriff Daniel Pfannes of Wayne County also testified in opposition to HB 4980 on behalf of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association.

In written testimony to the committee, MAC noted that recent versions of the bill require certain records in the Michigan State Police (MSP) database to be set aside after a period of seven or 10 years. However, nothing in the bill requires MSP to then transfer a notification to the local court that these records are sealed. Therefore, the record would still be accessible through the court or county clerk. Additionally, changes to state-administered databases may occur, but it is unclear how the system changes will affect local government case management systems and the potential cost attached.

MAC will continue to work with state agencies and legislative leaders to address logistical and fiscal concerns.

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

 

Candidates can now file for MAC Board seats

At the 2020 Michigan Counties Annual Conference in August, MAC members will vote on six seats on the MAC Board of Directors.

Commissioners wishing to serve on the Board, whether incumbents or new candidates, have until July 16 to file official notice of their intent to run. Board terms are for three years.

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.

2020 Board seats

  • Region 1 — 1 seat
  • Region 2 — 1 seat
  • Region 3 — 1 seat
  • Region 4 — 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 July 16, 2020, to Derek Melot (melot@micounties.org) to be eligible. Please also share a brief statement of why you wish to serve on the MAC Board. The information will be shared with voting members on the website prior to the elections

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

 

Policy platform drafts now available for review by members

Platforms that would guide MAC’s policy advocacy for the coming year are now available for review on MAC’s website.

The drafts were crafted by the association’s policy committees and reviewed and approved by the Board of Directors at its June 5 session.

MAC also will be sending the platforms electronically to counties to share with commissioners.

Since this year’s session will be done electronically, the Board also voted to require that all member amendments for the platforms be submitted in writing to MAC by 5 p.m. on Aug. 7. Amendments will not be accepted from “the floor” during the virtual meeting, whose date has not yet been set, but which will occur between Aug. 18-27 during the Virtual Annual Conference.

For questions on the platforms, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Counties advise on opening status

Counties across Michigan reported they have either resumed public access to buildings or on the brink of doing so via emails shared by county administrators this week.

MAC created a summary of these comments and plans that includes responses from 33 counties.

 

Benzie’s work on rural broadband opens Camp Counties series

A case study from Benzie County on their work to expand and improve internet service was the focus of the first of five webinars under MAC’s Camp Counties series.

Robert Russell, one of the leaders of the Benzie effort, walked attendees through the challenges, particularly topographical, and options the Benzie group has encountered over the last two years.

The video from the webinar and Russell’s slide deck are available for 24/7 viewing at the Camp Counties webpage.

Also visit the page to register for upcoming sessions, with the next one, on June 17, to focus on tips for planning and winning millage elections in a COVID world.

 

Nursing home monitoring bill advances

A bill to require nursing homes and medical care facilities to allow residents to place a camera in their room advanced out of a Senate committee this week, despite opposition from the Michigan County Medical Care Facilities Council (MCMCFC).

Senate Bill 77, by Sen. Jim Runestad (R-Oakland), moved out of the Senate Health Policy Committee and to the Senate floor. Under the bill, the resident would have to cover the cost, maintenance and activation of the electronic device. If a resident shares a room with another, written permission must be granted by the other party or their representative.

MCMCFC opposes the legislation due to concerns around the dignity and privacy rights of the resident. According to an article in The Elder Law Journal, “Monitoring technologies that aim to safeguard residents against perceived threats to health and safety can, in so doing, create their own threats to their autonomy and well-being.”

“Most nursing homes already have cameras in hallways and other common areas, but cameras in bedrooms, where residents are being dressed, bathed or receiving other medical treatments, is something that most people would not want for themselves,” said Renee Beniak, executive director of MCMCFC.

Additionally, the larger issue at hand should be addressed regarding resident care: the shortage of nurses and nursing assistant. Without adequate staffing, nurses are put under extreme pressure to care for their residents in a timely manner.

MCMCFC will continue to work to improve the legislation.

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

 

Oscoda moves into new building, 4 years after fire

Oscoda County opened its new Government Building to the public on June 10.

“So far, so good,” reported Clerk Jeri Winton. “It has been a joy to be in the new building after four years of being in a double-wide, and to be able to allow our voters in so they can conduct their business has been great!”

The new building was needed after a fire in May 2016 destroyed the county’s historic courthouse, which was built in 1888 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

 

Court sides with governor on emergency powers in 1945 law

Michigan’s Court of Claims turned aside a challenge to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers under a 1945 state law in a ruling issued Thursday.

Judge Cynthia Stephens rejected the challenge by House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Emmet) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Jackson) that the governor had exceeded her powers.

“It would take a particularly strained reading of the plain text of the (law) to conclude that a grant of authority to deal with a public crisis that affects all the people of this state would somehow be constrained to a certain locality,” Stephens said.

However, Stephens did rule that the governor cannot use a 1976 law to “unilaterally make emergency declarations,” the Associated Press reported. Whitmer had issued emergency orders under both the 1945 and 1976 statutes after the Legislature had declined to extend a state of emergency in late April.

Legislative leaders said they will appeal the decision.

In the meantime, all the governor’s executive orders remain in force.

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

 

Podcast 83 delves into federal aid prospects, state budget crisis

Aid proposals for counties and others continue to float around Capitol Hill, while the state of Michigan has nothing but grim budget news for the next two years, said MAC staffers during the most recent episode of Podcast 83, MAC’s audio briefing on all news and policies related to counties.

Also discussed was the decision this week by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to revise her Stay at Home order for northern regions of Michigan: “Restaurants and bars can open, but at half capacity, and again protocols are just like the rest of the industries that have gone back to work,” explained Deena Bosworth, MAC’s governmental affairs director. “This is all just in time for Memorial Weekend. It’s probably really good news for those Up North.”

On Capitol Hill, said Executive Director Stephan Currie, numerous proposals are in play that would send more rescue funds to Michigan, but they are not all the same: “I think it’s important to note that when you look at the two packages, HEROES vs. SMART, HEROES does provide a lot of flexibility, where SMART does kind of put some guardrails on there, which I think we’re comfortable with going forward. We understand people should not be making pension payments and things like that. This is not just bailout funds. These are funds used to deal with direct revenue loss because of COVID-19.”

Less encouraging was the report from the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference that Michigan is in the hole about $6 billion over the rest of this budget year (FY20) and the next (FY21).

“It takes three to tango,” said Keit, regarding the prickly relationship among Gov. Whitmer, House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Emmet) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Jackson) that must be navigated if budget compromises are to be found in Lansing.

To hear the new episode, or listen to prior ones, visit the Podcast 83 page.

 

New order loosens restrictions on retail activity, social gatherings

On Thursday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued Executive Order 96, loosening restrictions on retail and social activity in Michigan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Locals would gain spending flexibility on roads under House bills

Local road agencies could reallocate their share of state road funding dollars to the roads they determine need it the most under two bills approved by the House this week.  

Current law dictates that 75% percent of the money must be spent on primary roads, leaving only 25 percent for secondary roads. But House Bill 4965, by Rep. Rodney Wakeman (R-Saginaw), and HB 4966, by Rep. Andrea Schroeder (R-Oakland), eliminate the requirements to allocate the funding in a 75/25 split.

This comes in the wake of new asset management plan requirements that created asset mapping. The maps, approved by the State Transportation Asset Management Council, identify the conditions of roads and rank them. The flexibility will allow locals to allocate their resources in a manner consistent with need, instead of restricting the funds according to percentages. 

MAC supports both bills, which now move to the Senate.

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

 

Immunity bill stalls in committee; Whitmer issues new EO on nursing homes

A bill to provide civil and criminal immunity to health providers during the coronavirus crisis got its second hearing this week before the House Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 899, by Sen. Michael MacDonald (R-Macomb) was held over, however, after several committee members voiced concern with the language that provides immunity due to a shortage of PPE and the time frame that runs to Sept. 30, even if Michigan is not then under a State of Emergency.

The bill sponsor and committee members continue to work on potential amendments to the bill.

In other medical news, the governor issued Executive Order 95, rescinding last week’s EO 84 and extending enhanced protections for the health and safety of residents and employees of long-term care facilities. The order took effect immediately and will run through June 17.

The order came shortly after criticism by the Republican majority in the Senate Oversight Committee of the governor’s executive orders relating to nursing homes and safety concerns over admitting or readmitting patients who had previously tested positive for COVID-19.

The new order “…-95 provides for a holistic decision-making process so that COVID-19-affected residents will only be discharged from a hospital to a facility that is capable of safely isolating the resident. In doing so, the order requires all hospital discharges be made consistent with current CDC and DHHS guidance. To ensure residents and employees are receiving the protections it affords, Executive Order 2020-95 authorizes the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to take actions necessary to assure the proper level of care and services in connection with this order.”

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

 

NACo cancels 2020 Annual Conference planned for July

The National Association of Counties (NACo) will not hold its 2020 Annual Conference in July, the group’s board announced this week. Instead, the group will proceed with a virtual Annual Business Meeting, including the election for second vice president, consideration of by-laws amendments and other association business.

The 2020 NACo Annual Business Meeting will be on Monday, July 20 at 2 p.m. on a secure online platform with the ability of NACo members to vote in accordance with NACo by-laws. Participation will be free for all NACo members, but registration is required. Click here to register for the virtual Annual Business Meeting. Voting delegates must complete the credentials form as part of this registration process.

If you are not sure if your county is a NACo member, contact NACo’s John Losh at jlosh@naco.org.

In addition, NACo is planning a virtual membership town hall meeting on Monday, July 13 at 4 p.m. that will include: a forum for second vice president candidates; an overview of proposed by-laws amendments; a status report on voting delegate credentials totals; and a Review of NACo policy resolutions.

 

Rural communities can get federal grants to fight opioid abuse

Rural communities can apply for grants from a $12 million fund to fight opioid abuse under the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (R-CORP), the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced on May 13.

The grant will support the expansion of prevention, treatment and recovery services for opioid and other substance use disorders.

To be eligible, the applicant must serve rural communities at the highest risk for substance use disorder. Rural counties and counties serving rural census tracts within the county are eligible to apply.

Program applications are due by July 13 and HRSA is expected to disburse funding by Sept. 1. Grant funding may be used to support the following activities, many of which fulfill county priorities in addressing substance use disorders in our communities:

  • Distributing naloxone to individuals and organizations;
  • Providing community-based naloxone training;
  • Recruiting and training providers and support staff in medication assisted treatment (NOTE: These grant funds cannot be used to pay providers/support staff to deliver medication assisted treatment);
  • Creating a strategy to reach and engage individuals at high risk of substance use disorders (SUD) or opioid use disorders (OUD);
  • Working with law enforcement to develop a diversion program; and
  • Training providers, administrative staff and other relevant stakeholders to optimize reimbursement for treatment encounters through proper coding and billing.

 

Webinar will aid government leaders in rethinking operations

County leaders are invited to a June 5 webinar on how to evaluate operations and adapt them to current needs.

Leaders across all industries and sectors are currently figuring out how to navigate priorities, customer needs and business operations during the unfolding coronavirus pandemic. Defining a short-term strategy to lead your organization through this health crisis takes resourcefulness, flexibility, a clear vision and the ability to ask yourself some big questions. It’s been proven time and again that the best strategies are built on good information.

Click here to register for this free event, from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., put on by the Lansing firm of Public Sector Consultants, Inc.

 

Staff picks

Revenue meeting paints bleak outlook for Michigan into 2022

The state has a $3.2 billion hole in its current budgets, public finance experts testified today before the state’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference. The conference is used to set revenue targets for elected officials each year. Of that gap, $2 billion is in the state’s roughly $11 billion General Fund, which finances a wide variety of services that counties are mandated to provide.

The outlook for FY21 is little better, with the experts seeing another $3 billion combined revenue drop for the General Fund and School Aid Fund. For FY22, which begins Oct. 1, 2021, the shortfall should be $2 billion.

Data and conclusions provided Friday by the University of Michigan, the Center for Automotive Research, the House and Senate Fiscal Agencies, the Michigan Department of Treasury and the State Budget Office included:

  • 22% of the state’s population is unemployed; and that level will persist through the end of June 2020
  • The state’s payroll tax revenue will be down 9% for FY20
  • One in seven businesses across Michigan will close, resulting in the loss of about 4.9% of jobs in the state
  • Light vehicle sales will be down 50% compared to last year, but should rebound to 2019 levels in 2021 

With only four months left in the current fiscal year, serious decisions about cuts to the programs, services and departments supported by the state’s General Fund are imminent. Of the $3.2 billion FY20 shortfall, about $2 billion is in the General Fund. And the $1.2 billion gap in the School Aid Fund will put additional pressure on lawmakers to find more savings in the General Fund.

Restoring a balanced state budget, as required by law, can happen via a negative supplemental appropriations bill advanced by the Legislature or an executive order from the governor, which only would need approval by the House and Senate Appropriations committees, not the full chambers. The specifics of cuts, and the mechanism to enact them, are not yet apparent.

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

 

Supplemental could provide $1,000 per first responder

Public safety workers could get $1,000 payments under the terms of Senate Bill 690, sponsored by Appropriations Chairman Jim Stamas (R-Midland), which was unanimously approved by the Senate this week.

If the bill is also approved by the House and signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in its current form, first responders could get the payments if their local employers agrees to it, thus qualifying for reimbursement via the state dollars.

The bill allocates more than $500 million of the $3.8 billion of federal COVID relief Funding. It includes large support for counties and their front-line workers, including:

  • $100 million for up to $1,000 one-time, either lump sum or hourly, bonus payments for local public safety officers (police, fire, EMT, 911 etc.) under the following conditions –
  • Requires bonuses be paid by September 30, 2020
  • Allows local units until December 31, 2020, to apply for reimbursement through Treasury
  • Requires that reimbursements be made on a first-come, first-served basis and that the payment be made no later than 45 days after all required information is submitted
  • Sets a maximum award of $5 million to any city, township, village, or county
  • $178M in temporary pay increase for direct care workers as follows –
  • Those already receiving $2/hour under the governor’s order would receive $1 more for $3/hour total
  • Nursing home workers added to receive $3/hour increase (this includes county medical care facilities)
  • Eligibility would be until Sept. 30 and retroactive to April 1
  • $62 million for PPE and testing needs for:
  • Meat plants and other agricultural processing centers
  • Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • Other entities included in DHHS prioritization guidance
  • $125 million in financial help for childcare providers and impacted families
  • $11 million in funding for UIA to hire 300 temporary workers to handle unemployment claims
  • $2.5 million to the Replenish Hospitality Employee Fund to help restaurant workers adversely impacted by closures

 

House committee advances trial court funding bill

Statutory authority extending the ability for Michigan’s trial courts to levy fees, is one step closer to the governor’s desk. This week, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved House Bill 5488, by Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson), thereby keeping court funding stable until long-term reforms can be enacted.

The bill originally extended the authority until October of 2023, but after some committee members expressed concerned with the three-year extension, the bill was amended for a two-year extension. MAC supports this change and encourages the Legislature to continue swift action to ensure a long-term funding solution for our courts.

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%. 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.

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

 

Governor extends deadlines on property tax disputes

A Board of Review now has until July 21, 2020, to hear property tax disputes under a new order (Executive Order 87) issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Thursday night.

The order also directs that Board of Review decisions are due by Sept. 1, 2020. Further, EO 87 pushes back the deadline for commercial and industrial real and personal property tax disputes from May 31, 2020, to July 31, 2020.

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

 

Skilled nursing facilities move into Lansing focus this week

Senate Bill 899, by Sen. Michael McDonald (R-Macomb), which would provide immunity for certain health care workers from civil or criminal liability during the declared COVID-19 state of emergency, or through Sept. 30, 2020, whichever is later, was debated before the House Judiciary Committee this week.

The bill already has passed on party lines in the Senate and many Democratic members of the House committee questioned whether a bill to codify legal protections for hospitals treating new coronavirus patients would protect workers as much as it aimed to protect the hospitals themselves from potential lawsuits. The bill is supported by hospitals and doctors but is opposed by union groups representing hospital staff.

The bill is expected to come before the committee for a vote next week, but uncertain if there will be any changes at this point.

Also this week, the Senate Oversight Committee met regarding the governor’s executive order related to nursing homes (EO 50). Committee members focused on the operation of regional hubs created in the order and questioned Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon and other senior officials at DHHS. A full video of the committee hearing can be found here. 

The governor did re-issue orders, rescinding EO 50 and 51, and extending “capacity for disaster relief child care services for essential workforce” and “protecting residents and staff in long-term care facilities.” The new versions are: 

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

 

There’s still time to sign up for next Treasury webinar on May 18

In partnership with the Michigan Association of Counties, Michigan Municipal League and Michigan Townships Association, the Michigan Department of Treasury is pleased to announce the third joint webinar, “COVID-19 Updates and Resources for Local Governments,” at 2 p.m. on Monday, May 18.

Topics will include an update after the state of Michigan’s May Michigan Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference, an update from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) on project timelines and financing and best practices around local government cash and debt management.

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

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

A fourth webinar is tentatively scheduled for Monday, June 8. Additional information and registration details about this June webinar will be sent in the coming weeks.

The state Treasury Department has developed a website with numbered letters, communications and resources regarding COVID-19 information for local governments and school districts. This website was created to ensure that Michigan communities have access to the most up-to-date guidance and will be updated frequently with information and resources as they become available.

 

Prosecutors group: Governor’s orders valid unless court says otherwise

The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM) – an association consisting of all 83 elected county prosecutors and affiliate member of MAC – issued a statement Wednesday that said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Orders remain in force.

In the statement, PAAM acknowledged the legal challenge brought by the State Legislature against Governor Whitmer over her authority to issue Executive Orders but stated that, because no court has issued a ruling, “the Executive Orders are still in force.”  

This statement comes after Attorney General Nessel issued similar guidance on May 5 to law enforcement across the state where she found the two orders – Stay Home, Stay Safe Order (2020-70) and Places of Public Accommodation Order (2020-69) – to be valid under the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act and asked local law enforcement agencies to continue their enforcement efforts.   

Oral argument was heard today by Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens in Michigan House of Representatives and Michigan Senate v Whitmer, (Case No. 20-000079).

No timeline was set for a decision in the case.

 

Jail Task Force issues memo on gaining COVID funds

Michigan’s Jail and Pretrial Task Force has released a memo to county and city officials as they consider spending options from Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding through the federal Bureau of Justice. Some counties were eligible for funding directly through the federal government, but the remainder will be funded through the state allocation. The Michigan State Police is the lead agency and will provide more information to MAC members when the application and information are available. Until then, county leaders can begin thinking about innovative ways to use funds, with this memo as a reference point.

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

 

Opioid summit information posted to web

The Center for Behavioral Health and Justice at Wayne State University thanks the 360 people who joined us for the first ever Opioid Treatment Ecosystem Community of Practice Summit on May 5, 2020. We have attached a copy of the presentation slides and responses to your questions from the Q&A portion of the event.

Watch the full recording of the event or navigate to a specific section here. 

 

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