NACo applauds county leaders’ help on federal aid bill

US Capitol

Much still must be clarified about the latest federal relief package awaiting House action before its full effects on counties are known, said officials with the National Association of Counties via a briefing call on Thursday, March 26.

NACo leaders, however, were pleased with the inclusion of the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund included in the $2 trillion Senate-approved package that’s aimed at state, local and tribal governments.

Deborah Cox of NACo was able to state that:

  • 45 percent of the $150 billion is eligible for direct payments to local units with populations above 500,000; and
  • Such funds were meant for recent expenditures due to the public health emergency and unanticipated costs to local budgets that occurred on March 1 or after.

In Michigan, though, only four counties (Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Kent) exceed the population threshold.

Cox and the NACo briefers said clarity was needed about aid to smaller counties and that there already were “100 different interpretations” of what the relief fund language actually meant.

Cox praised the calls from local county officials during the drafting process for helping to ensure counties would be specifically included in the relief fund.

Also critical is that under the economic stabilization sections of the bill, the U.S. Treasury can purchase debt from state and local units, while the Federal Reserve can participate in the secondary bond market for municipal debt, thereby reducing borrowing costs for counties.

Other key elements to the “CARES” Act identified in the call:

  • $1.32 billion is allotted to community health centers for COVID response – “a definite win for counties,” NACo said
  • Previously planned cuts to hospitals serving the uninsured and underinsured were pushed back to Nov. 30
  • $1 billion for agencies for aging to help them deliver meals, provide home-based services, support care-givers and provide equipment nursing homes to protect residents
  • $400 million for election assistance in the 2020 cycle
  • $56 million for airports in the Essential Air Service program
  • $5 billion for CDBG
  • $45 billion for FEMA disaster relief fund

NACo’s comprehensive analysis of the bill can be found here. As for eventual timing of the funds, the House passed the bill on Friday afternoon, President Trump is expected to sign it later today.

 

Damage from rising water levels will mount, state warns

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) hosted an hour-long seminar Thursday evening to highlight the vulnerability of our natural resources and infrastructure due to record high water levels across Michigan and the Great Lakes.

Presentations by the Army Corp of Engineers and EGLE provided viewers with charts and graphs reporting record levels during 2019 and 2020 for all of the Great Lakes, and the current trajectory for water levels in the coming spring and summer months. The trend is calling for significantly higher water levels and the potential for greater and more costly damage to Michigan’s shorelines, farmland, parks, roads and other critical infrastructure.

The Michigan Department of Transportation estimates it has spent more than $5 million mitigating damage and anticipates that number to reach near $100 million before it’s all over. The Michigan Department of Agriculture reported that more than million acres of farmland could not be planted due to flooding last year, and its projections for the 2020 growing season are just as stark. 

What is most concerning is damages inflicted on municipal infrastructure. These high water levels have affected stormwater systems and sewer systems and caused discharges from combined stormwater and sewer systems. EGLE sent a letter to each entity in possession of a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit asking that they submit a vulnerability analysis to minimize the impact this anticipated rise in water levels will have on existing infrastructure.

The city of Detroit is spending $2 million on temporary dams to help prevent an overload of their combined stormwater and sewer systems. Work is under way to map the potential effects of a one-foot rise in Great Lakes levels, analyze where all of that water is going to go and figure out how best to notify residents of the potential for flooding.

A copy of the presentations will soon be up on EGLS website.

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

 

Urge your county to reply to census today

By now, you’ve probably received the 2020 Census in your mailbox. While national attention is properly focused on COVID-19, it is important to encourage your county residents to count themselves. The census determines congressional representation, as well as federal funding for public health and disease prevention, Medicaid and Medicare, health care centers statewide and other essential services.  

So far, Michigan ranks sixth in the country for census responses at 30.6 percent, compared to 26.2 percent nationwide (you can find an interactive map that includes all 50 states’ response rates here.) In 2010, Michigan had a response rate of 68 percent and our goal this year is 82 percent.

To date, more than 25 percent of census responses in Michigan have been done online, an option available for the first time this year. It is important to underscore that the census only has 9 questions and shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to fill out to completion.

Census takers were scheduled to begin canvassing households that hadn’t yet responded in early April, but COVID-19 has, of course, disrupted that timeline. In the interim, please urge your constituents to fill out the census at their earliest convenience. This can be done online at www.my2020census.gov, over the phone at 844-330-2020 or through the physical form that comes in the mail.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder why it’s never been more critical that all Michigan residents fill out their census form in order to get our fair share of funding for emergency services, police and fire funding, senior programs and more. Help us keep Michigan near the best in the nation!  

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

 

Maintenance is essential activity; counties must facilitate utility work, etc.

MAC is issuing another advisory to all counties regarding your code and permit operations that affect businesses such as utilities doing maintenance work.

Here is what the Governor’s Office says on this issue under her EO:

“Q: Is construction allowed under the executive order?

“A: Some limited forms of construction are permissible, including construction to maintain and improve essential public works like roads, bridges, the telecommunications infrastructure, and public health infrastructure. Construction workers may also undertake such projects as necessary to maintain and improve the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of residences. In addition, businesses may designate construction firms to provide necessary support to the work of the businesses’ critical infrastructure workers. All construction work that is carried out while the order is in effect must be done in accordance with the mitigation measures required under section 5(c) of the order.”

We have received reports of county offices telling callers that they are blocked by the EO from operating the normal coordination process on maintenance work. One example: “Point of call (to MAC) is to discuss some issues the telecom and energy issues are having as local units of government are limiting workforce hours and availability. This has impacted critical projects and emergency repairs around the state when permits are sought or 811 staking is required.”

Please review with your teams to ensure operational/staff support to these activities.

If you have questions on this, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

County leaders, look for survey info in email, mailboxes

With the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak placing tremendous stress on so many of our communities, we’re hoping you might find time to share your experiences through the upcoming round of the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS) program is coming soon to your mailbox.

The MPPS is an annual statewide survey of local government officials conducted by the University of Michigan in collaboration with the Michigan Townships Association (MTA), Michigan Municipal League (MML), and Michigan Association of Counties (MAC).

On March 30, you’ll receive an email link to the new MPPS questionnaire, which asks about the public health and economic challenges your county may be facing because of COVID-19. It also continues the annual tracking of counties’ fiscal health.

The U-M survey team plans to quickly share responses to the COVID-19 questions with other leaders to help the state respond to the crisis, all while carefully protecting your anonymity and confidentiality. Your participation is crucial to the success of the MPPS program.

If you have questions about this research study, you can contact Dr. Debra Horner, Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy, University of Michigan, 5309 Weill Hall, 735 S. State St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109, 734-647-4091, closup-mpps@umich.edu.

Please keep an eye out for your email invitation to take the survey next week. Thank you so much for supporting this effort.

 

State adjutant general details crisis response

On Thursday, the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs released a letter from Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers, the state adujant general, on efforts by the National Guard to assist communities during the coronavirus crisis.
 
Rogers noted, “The Michigan National Guard has approximately 300 personnel already supporting the State of Michigan’s COVID-19 response. Since March 18th, guard members have supported relief activities across the state, with missions including relief planning, assembling and loading critical personal protective gear, and staffing at distribution centers across Michigan.”
 

 

DTE outlines actions taken in coronavirus crisis

DTE has taken the following actions to aid customers and keep employees safe during this challenging, unprecedented time:

  • DTE has all employees who can work remotely doing so, and we’ve kept those essential employees needed at facilities in their roles to maintain both gas and electric service for our customers
  • We are also suspending shutoffs and extend senior programs in response to the coronavirus through April 30
  • DTE has suspended all non-essential work as of March 23 – news release with details below
  • Updates for customers, including Q&A, can be found by visiting dteenergy.com/covid19.

 

On March 3, MAC led delegations of county commissioners and other leaders on visits to Michigan’s members of Congress on Capitol Hill. MAC delivered a list of federal priorities to congressional offices for 2020

MAC members meet with Congressman Fred Upton in his Capitol Hill office on March 3.

MAC President Veronica Klinefelt (left) and Executive Director Stephan Currie (second from left) talk with Congressman Dan Kildee on Capitol on March 3.

MAC members and staff pose with Congressman John Moolenaar after their discussion on March 3.

MAC President Veronica Klinefelt introduces U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow at a special MAC briefing on March 3.

MAC members pose with Congressman Bill Huizenga in his Washington, D.C., office on March 3.

County leaders pose with U.S. Sen. Gary Peters after he made remarks at a MAC Reception on March 3 in Washington, D.C.

Michigan county leaders pose with U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow after she briefed them on March 3 in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill.

 

 

 

 

The 2020 MAC Membership Directory is the ultimate guide to county elected officials across Michigan.

Each of Michigan’s 83 counties has a full listing with names, addresses, phone numbers and emails for all county elected officials. The directory also carries a list of board chairs and vice chairs; full administrator listings; and contact information for human resources and purchasing.

Readers also will find background materials on MAC’s services, full listings for Michigan legislators, both state and federal, and Michigan legislative committee assignments.

Members also can access a digital version of the directory here. Your password information is found on the Table of Contents page of your directory.

MAC appreciates the support of our advertisers for helping make complimentary copies available to all county commissioners and county board offices: 44North; BS&A Software; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan; Clark Schaefer Hackett; CompOne Administrators; CSI – Computer-Systems, Inc.; Delta Dental; Enbridge; Farner Asphalt Sealers; Foster Swift; Grand Hotel; Granger Construction; Great Lakes Communications Sales Inc.; Ibex Insurance Agency; Kitch, Drutchas, Wagner Valtutti & Sherbrook; Kofile Technologies; M3 Group; Michigan County Medical Care Facilities Council; Michigan State Industries; Michigan Works! Association; Mika Meyers Beckett & Jones PLC; Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone; MMRMA; My Community Dental Centers; Nationwide Retirement Solutions; PFM Financial Advisors, LLC; and Spalding DeDecker.

If you see an issue with any of your county’s listings or have updated information, please contact MAC Communications Director Derek Melot at melot@micounties.org to allow for updates to the digital version of the directory.

DHHS budget receives mixed response in committee session

DHHS Director Robert Gordon

As Appropriations subcommittees began work this week on the FY21 budget, Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon presented on his department’s plans in the areas of education and skills; health and families; and climate and water.

While the DHHS budget, overall, is $26 billion, Gordon said the agency consistently has to do more with less. The Legislature has been concerned with spending in the past few budget cycles, specifically as it relates to the management of IT systems and significantly reined in the spending. Gordon discussed the number of freezes initiated on the IT development and increased financial oversight through a DHHS/DTMB governance board.

Deputy Director George Mellos also presented on the departments behavioral health system transformation project that would include new specialty integrated Medicaid plans. The department wants SIPs to manage physical and behavioral health for those with significant needs and allow the community mental health providers to provide safety net services.

Additionally, the director highlighted the governor’s recommendation to increase psychiatric staffing. Northern Michigan legislators reiterated their view of a need for a facility located in Northern Michigan. Rep. Sue Allor (R-Cheboygan) noted that patient transportation from northern counties to the Caro Center in Tuscola County can keep deputies away from other duties for several days.

Lastly, the department highlighted the $5.1 million (General Fund) increase in non-Medicaid funding to community mental health providers. This, however, is coming at the expense of a $5 million increase in the local match rate for counties. In FY20, the Legislature included $5 million to start phasing out the $25 million local match amount required under section 928. The governor reversed this trend in her FY21 budget and moved it to the non-Medicaid line. MAC supports the legislative initiative to phase out the local match requirement and will advocate to have it restored as the departmental budget moves through the Legislature.

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

 

MAC meets with leaders for clerks, treasurers, RDs

MAC Board President Veronica Klinefelt and Executive Director Stephan Currie met this week with leaders of groups for Michigan clerks, treasurers and registers of deeds to discuss legislative priorities for 2020.

MAC’s Deena Bosworth and Meghann Keit briefed on a variety of MAC priorities, ranging from extending the sunset on trial court fee authority to revenue sharing.

Also discussed were bills on the tax foreclosure process; legislation to allow pre-processing of absentee ballots in the wake of Proposal 3’s liberalization of absentee voting; legislation to waive renewal fees for concealed carry permits; and proposed changes to the Open Meetings Act.

“This was an excellent discussion on the numerous issues where our organizations’ members can collaborate for everyone’s benefit,” said Stephan Currie, MAC’s executive director.

MAC appreciates the county leaders who were able to attend in person or by teleconference:

  • Michael Hanley, Saginaw County clerk
  • Laura Brandon-Maveal, Gladwin County clerk and president of the Michigan Association of County Clerks
  • Catherine McClary, Washtenaw County treasurer
  • Patty Niepoth, Antrim County register of deeds
  • Bob Robinson, Eaton County treasurer and second vice president of the Michigan Association of County Treasurers
  • Stewart Sanders, Newaygo County register of deeds and president of the Michigan Association of Registers of Deeds

MAC launched these “county summits” in early 2019 to foster communication and cooperation among the various groups representing county government offices in Michigan. Next week, MAC will host leaders from the groups representing sheriffs and prosecutors.

 

Time to register for 2020 Legislative Conference

The 2020 Michigan Counties Legislative Conference will feature a variety of speakers and events to enhance county officials’ learning and leadership skills.

Please note that this year’s conference runs Wednesday through Friday, April 15-17.

Among the highlights:

  • Plenary sessions on legislative priorities, jail reform proposals and county revenue trends
  • Remarks from senior state officials (Chief Justice Bridget McCormack will headline the panel)
  • 12 workshops designed for MAC members and affiliates over three days.
  • A Legislative Reception on Wednesday evening
  • An Exhibitor Show Reception featuring complimentary beverages and snacks

The conference’s early-bird fee is just $350 for county members, which includes all commissioners, county administrators, medical care facility administrators, treasurers, prosecutors, sheriffs, clerks and registers of deeds. Please note: The early-bird rate ends on March 20, so register soon.

The conference hotel, the Radisson, is offering a special room rate of $135.95 for the event, and is connected to the main conference venue, the Lansing Center, by an enclosed pedestrian ramp.

Complete details are available in our handy Registration Packet.

Or you can begin your registration process by clicking this link. Please remember: All registrations are online only.

 

Fiscal training schedule stretches from Iron River to Lapeer

Training sessions designed to help county leaders on capital project planning and general financial oversight will begin March 4 and continue through the summer.

The Fiscally Ready Communities team, a joint project of the state Treasury Department and MSU Extension, will lead the sessions on capital asset management and planning and general financial oversight!

Please note: These sessions are eligible for credit in MAC’s County Commissioner Academy program. 

Each training is half-day and is FREE. The material is designed for basic to intermediate knowledge or a refresher course for those with advanced knowledge.

Dates and locations for capital planning sessions are:

  • March 4 – Ann Arbor
  • April 2 – Lapeer
  • April 28 – Madison Heights
  • May 14 – Kalamazoo
  • June 11 – Grayling
  • July 8 – Iron River
  • July 9 – St. Ignace
  • Sept. 9 – Saginaw

Plans also are being finalized for sessions in Big Rapids in August. Check the website for updates.

For times and venues, see the registration page. To register for the capital trainings, visit https://events.anr.msu.edu/FRC2020/

Additionally, the team will be leading one Financial Best Practices Overview training on Thursday, May 7 in Grayling, plus a webinar planned for the fall. This training was created in 2019 to provide local governments with information on best practices and policies and procedures.

To register for the high-level overview on May 7 in Grayling, visit https://events.anr.msu.edu/FRC2020/

Please check  Michigan.gov/FiscallyReady for additional information.

 

State offers $250,000 in anti-blight grants to small counties

The State Land Bank Authority has launched a second round of Michigan Rural Community Demolition Grants. Smaller communities in Michigan can apply for a $50,000 grant to help eliminate blight and revitalize their communities.

The funds, available to Michigan county land banks and local units of government in counties with populations under 50,000, are designed to help communities remove vacant and abandoned structures from their neighborhoods and prepare for future developments that spark business investment and provide good jobs for residents. Applications are due Friday, March 13 at 5 p.m.

The maximum award per proposal is $50,000 and can be used toward vacant and abandoned, blighted commercial or residential structures. Proposals will be evaluated based on their anticipated impact in promoting public safety, enhancing economic development, public and private investment in the project and alignment with the community vision or other placemaking efforts.

For more information, visit Michigan.gov/LandBank.

 

Listening sessions on opioid crisis continue March 12

The Michigan Opioids Task Force and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) are hosting a town hall Thursday, March 12, 5:30-6:30 p.m., at the Sterling Heights Community Center, 40250 Dodge Park Road. 

MDHHS and the Michigan Opioids Task Force will share its strategy to address the opioids crisis, seek information about how the opioid epidemic has impacted those in attendance and host a Q&A about the crisis response.

“Information gathered during this event and other town halls will help the state develop a crisis response that is flexible; effective to fit the needs of communities from Detroit to Grand Rapids to Marquette; and informed by the experiences of Michiganders affected by the crisis. About 150 people attended a similar town hall in Detroit in January,” said MDHHS in a statement.

Future sessions will be in:

  • Gaylord on Friday, July 24
  • Escanaba on Wednesday, July 29
  • Flint on Friday, Sept. 25
  • Grand Rapids on Friday, Nov. 6

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

 

Animal welfare grants issued to county shelters

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is issuing $127,240 to 23 recipients of the 2020 Animal Welfare Fund grants. The grants help support the spaying and neutering of shelter dogs and cats to help them be more adoptable. Grants also help support many anti-cruelty and proper care programs and training around the state. Registered shelters also can receive assistance through the grant program for the unrecovered costs of care for animals involved in legal investigations.

“The Animal Welfare Fund is supported by generous Michiganders during tax season when they check the fund’s box on Form 4642, Voluntary Contributions Schedule, with their state tax returns. Since 2010, MDARD has distributed more than $1.3 million to more than 185 local animal shelters. One hundred percent of the contributions made to this fund are used for Michigan animal welfare programs,” MDARD said in a statement.

Among county facilities receiving grants were:

  • Cass County Animal Shelter – $10,000
  • Gratiot County Animal Shelter – $5,000 
  • Kalkaska County Animal Shelter – $2,940
  • Macomb County Animal Shelter – $1,490
  • Newaygo County Animal Shelter – $874
  • Roscommon County Animal Shelter – $10,000
  • Saginaw County Animal Care Center – $8,000
  • St. Clair County Animal Control Shelter – $6,000
  • St. Joseph County Animal Shelter – $7,520

Please note that best practices for animal shelters will be the topic of a workshop at this year’s Legislative Conference in Lansing, April 15-17. For details on the workshop and registering for the conference, check out our Attendee Registration Packet.

For more information on the program, click here.

 

National news from NACo


MAC Participates in Michigan High Water Coordinating Summit

The Department of Energy, Great Lakes and Environment (EGLE) held a summit this week to discuss the weather trends and the devastating issues facing our State to record high lake levels and ground saturation. The summit included representatives from:

  • EGLE
  • Michigan Department of Transportation
  • Michigan Department of Agriculture
  • Michigan Department of Natural Resources
  • Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
  • Michigan State Police
  • US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE)
  • National Weather Service (NWS)
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Michigan Emergency Managers Association
  • Michigan Association of Counties
  • Michigan Association of County Drain Commissioners
  • Michigan Townships Association
  • Michigan Municipal League
  • US Coast Guard

Presentations by the USACE and the NWS provided the group with startling information: the Great Lakes are experiencing the highest precipitation on record and has measured more than 30 inches above the average; record lake levels are expected for Lake Michigan and Lake Huron for the spring and summer of 2020; there has been a record rate of rise in lake levels from January 2013 to January 2015; Lake Michigan alone is up 5.5 feet since 2013 and it is forecasted to go up another 12 – 18 inches by July 2020.  In addition, inland lakes are saturated as is the ground. With the culmination of shoreline erosion, inland lake flooding, and failing septic systems, Michigan is facing serious challenges in protecting homes from falling into lakes, infrastructure being destroyed, and environmental impacts of failing wastewater systems. 

EGLE has been working diligently to issue permits for temporary structures to protect homes and other property from falling into Lake Michigan. The average turnaround for permits is 14 days at this point. The department has prioritized permit processing based on the urgency of the matter and the health and safety of the residents in the area. 

Because no one can prevent the rising water levels, the summit focused the afternoon on modeling differnet scenarios, identifying risks to the community, and discussing which resources would be needed to respond to the events. Additionally, the summit focused on identifying some of the barriers to action and remediation. 

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

 

Trial court funding sunset extension introduced 

Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson) introduced House Bill 5488 to extend the sunset allowing courts to impose reasonable court costs. Under current law, the assessment of these costs would expire Oct. 17, 2020. The bill would extend that date until Oct. 1, 2023. MAC supports HB 5488.

As most are aware, the Michigan Supreme Court, in the Cunningham ruling of 2014, said trial courts lacked clear statutory authority to levy fees and costs on defendants to help ensure operating cost. Understanding the huge gaps this could cause in court budgets, MAC supported the passage of legislation to restore fee authority and to extend that authority through Oct. 2020.

Additionally, in 2017, the Trial Court Funding Commission was established through law, and the work of the Commission ended in Sept. 2019. The Commission recommended five reforms including: 

  • Establishing a stable court funding system, creating a dedicated trial court fund and ensuring more equitable funding across courts
  • Using state-funded court technology to create a uniform and cohesive system
  • Establishing uniform assessments and centralized collections to free court personnel from non-court operations
  • Moving toward a uniform employment system to streamline organizational structure so court operations are less reliant on local finances
  • Creating a task force to implement short- and long-term policy goals

MAC expects legislation to also be introduced this year related to some of these recommendations. The report identifies short and long-term implementation plans so it is anticipated changes will be phased-in over a number of years.  

For further information, contact Meghann Keit at keit@micounties.org.

Opioid briefing this month for local officials 

The Michigan Opioids Task Force and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is hosting a briefing on the state’s opioid crisis response for local government officials.

This briefing is intended for officials who are leading opioids crisis response for a region, county, or locality in Michigan. A range of organizational structures can play this role, from a regional coalition or consortium to a county-level task force to municipal-level planning efforts. These organizations may be led by the local health department or Prepaid Inpatient Health Plan, by the offices of elected officials, by non-profits, or by many others.

Please participate or pass the information along to other potential attendees leading efforts in your county.

The briefing will take place on February 27th from 3 – 4 pm via video conference and will be led by Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Chair of the Michigan Opioids Task Force and Chief Deputy for Health at MDHHS.

To attend, please register at the following link and MDHHS will send you a calendar invitation: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LBZKGCM

Questions can be directed to MDHHS-OpioidsTaskForce@michigan.gov.

 

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