News Categories: General News

30 Jun
By: MAT Staff 0

Township Tuesday Conference Calls

Conference calls with MAT leaders have been particularly popular, so we will be offering them on a regular weekly basis this summer. You’re invited join MAT Executive Director David Hann and General Counsel Steve Fenske to hear the latest updates and ask live questions on any topic.

Recorded calls can be found below was well.

 

Township Tuesday conference call on Tuesdays at 10 AM each week:

Join us by phone: (571) 317-3117 or Toll Free 1-866-899-4679. Access code is 659-961-501.

OR join us by computer, tablet, or smart phone: https://www.gotomeet.me/LeslieRosedahl/townshiptuesday (Make sure to have the GoToMeeting App installed)

 

Listen to the Township Tuesday Call on June 9, 2020

Tuesday June 16, 2020 call experienced technical difficulties and was not recorded.

Listen to the Township Tuesday Call on June 23, 2020

Listen to the Township Tuesday Call on June 30, 2020

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17 Jun
By: MAT Staff 0

State’s Director of Elections offers weekly updates

David Maeda, the Director of Elections with the Secretary of State’s office provides a weekly update of election-related news from their office. While this update has been used primarily by county election officials in the past, Mr. Maeda encourage all local governments to receive the newsletter. Officials interested in receiving the newsletter may sign up for automatic deliver at this link.

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16 Jun
By: MAT Staff 0

COVID-19 and Operating the Township (June, 16th Update)

This article addresses how townships may hold board meetings, operate during the emergency, protections for employees subject to quarantine, and additional information on COVID-19.

On March 13, 2020, Governor Tim Walz declared a public health emergency related to the COVID-19 infectious disease and directed the Minnesota Department of Health to issue guidance on how to prevent and manage the spread of COVID-19. The latest information from MDH can be found here.

Governor Walz later issued Stay at Home orders requiring all Minnesotans to limit movements outside their homes through May 17th, 2020. The limitation to movement outside the home is subject to exceptions described in the Order. The full Executive Order is found here.

On June 10th, Executive Order 20-74 will go into effect, continuing to assist in a slow reopening of the state and its businesses. This order does not change much for townships in the way they should meet and conduct business. The order still asks that Minnesota Department of Health guideline are followed; these guidelines can be found here. The information below is still pertinent, as the operating a township during COVID-19 still provides certain challenges.

Preparedness Plans: As businesses that were initially deemed non-critical were allowed to open, they were required to prepare a “preparedness plan” which requires employers and employees to follow certain procedures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, a sample of which can be found here. As of Minnesota Executive Order 20-74 (7)(d)(i), all businesses are required to create a preparedness plan by June 29th, this include townships. However, if a township does not have anyone working in person, including the clerk, treasurer, or in-person meetings by the town board, a preparedness plan does not need to be passed.

Executive Order 20-74 stated that the State would provide further guidance for preparedness plans by Monday, June 15th. To give increased guidance, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry gave an editable sample preparedness plan created by which can be found here. The DLI and DEED have also given information regarding some business specific issues, which can be found here, as part of giving a broader discussion of reopening businesses under the StaySafeMinnesota guidelines.

Executive Orders: Currently the governor has enacted three types of Executive Orders with certain dates in place, these are the stay-at-home orders, the peacetime emergency orders, and the recently enact stay-safe Minnesota order. The peacetime emergency order, currently set to expire July 13th at 11:59 p.m., is an order allowed by Minnesota Statutes § 12.31, subdivision 2 allowing the Governor the authority to enact other executive orders. The full order can be found here.

As with the previous order, many businesses may reopen in some capacity, and the town board may conduct in-person meetings, so long as they are following MDH and CDC guidelines, holding in-person meetings will be discussed in more detail below.

Polling Places: Many municipalities have had difficulties with knowing whether their polling place would be available for the upcoming elections. Minnesota Statute § 204B.16 requires that a polling place be designated by December 31st, the year prior to the election. However, the Minnesota Legislature passed a law allowing for, in 2020 only, polling places to be designated by July 1st, 2020, more information on this issue can be found here and a click here to download a sample polling place designation resolution.

Township Facilities: A township may begin opening it’s facilities, including but not limited to; boat launches, parks, playgrounds, campsites, and town facilities utilized for rental. Each of these facilities must adhere to guidelines set forth by the most current executive order, MDH, and DEED.

For parks, playgrounds, and launches, the township must follow guidelines as set forth in the most current executive order. Currently, those guidelines would include, frequent cleaning, focusing on high traffic areas and implements frequently touched, like door knobs, and provide assistance in encouraging social distancing.

For facilities open for rental, like the town hall or campgrounds, each are given guidance by DEED. For renting out the town hall, other than for religious services, weddings, or funerals, DEED guidance requires that gatherings remain under 10 people. Meaning that, town halls may rent out, up to 50% capacity for religious services, weddings, or funerals, but only for 10 persons or fewer for all other rental purposes. As for campgrounds, the township may open campgrounds so long as a COVID-19 preparedness plan has been adopted and is being adhered to.

Local government boards may now begin holding in-person meetings with social distancing if they choose to do so. Townships may hold regular board meetings in-person within the framework provided in MDH’s guidelines. Those guidelines require social distancing of at least 6 feet between people. The township may need to reduce the room capacity limit to ensure minimum distance can be maintained. Townships may not prohibit the public from attending a township board meeting.

However, township board are not required to meet in-person. The best-practice is to continue telephone or video meetings during the entire length of the public health emergency in order to prevent any unnecessary public gatherings. They may choose to continue meeting by telephone meetings as described in the Teleconferencing section below.

Township Clerks, Treasurers, and Administrative Staff may be able to Return to Work: Most office workers to return to work under certain circumstances. Office workers may return to work if: (1) the work duties cannot be performed from home; (2) the office area has adequate space for individuals to work while maintaining social distance from any other person;  (3) the township adopts a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan. The Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) describes more details about Preparedness Plans here, and has a Sample Preparedness Plan Template in Word and PDF formats here.

Essential Services During Stay at Home: Local government employees and contractors providing services in “Critical Sectors” may continue their work outside their homes, in the same capacity as previously able to, if they are included in the list of Critical Sectors and their work cannot be performed from home.

Critical Sector employees include: (1) law enforcement, public safety, and first responders; (2) water and wastewater workers; (3) transportation workers who support or enable transportation functions, road construction workers, engineers, including maintenance vehicle operators; (4) public works employees described in the Federal Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) guidance here; (5) necessary building management employees; (6) security workers; (7) elections workers, including town clerks and election judges; and (8) data and computer systems management employees. Other Critical Sector employees are described in the Governor’s Executive Order and the CISA guidelines.

Teleconferencing: Because of the Statewide public health emergency and the status of COVID-19 as a pandemic illness, townships may want to use remote meeting options. They may use teleconferencing statute found in the Open Meeting Law to avoid in-person meetings.

Notice of meetings by teleconference should be posted usual. The board must ensure they take excellent minutes of their proceedings and may consider audio recording these meetings. If possible, the township must allow members of the public to join the teleconference.

Minn. Stat. 13D.021 allows a town board to hold a meeting by teleconference if there is a public health pandemic or emergency declared under Minnesota Statutes chapter 12, and the township meets the requirements of the statute. Minn. Stat. §13D.021 allows telephone meetings if:

  1. The township chairperson decides an in-person meeting or interactive television meeting is not practical or prudent because of a health pandemic or an emergency declared under Minnesota Statutes chapter 12;
  2. All township board members participating in the meeting can hear all other participants;
  3. All members of the public at the regular meeting location can hear all discussion and testimony and votes of the town board’s members, unless attendance at the meeting is not feasible because of health pandemic or emergency declaration;
  4. At least one member of the town board is physically present at the regular meeting location, unless unfeasible because of health pandemic or emergency; and
  5. All votes are conducted by roll call so each member’s vote can be identified and recorded.

COVID-19 has been labeled a pandemic illness by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Governor has declared a public health emergency under Minnesota Statutes Chapter 12. As such, township boards may choose to use teleconferencing for their meetings during the public health emergency.

Please refer to MAT’s resource Options for Meeting Remotely, found here.  For information on how to set-up and use a teleconferencing provider, please use this link.

MAT has also provided three options to townships looking to conduct teleconferenced meetings.

  • Option A: This is where townships would learn how to, and conduct the meeting on their own. Some more information on how to set-up a teleconference service can be found in document number: ES3000A.
  • Option B: MAT will create a teleconference line and train officers on how to use the teleconferencing service.
  • Option C: MAT will create and assist in hosting the teleconference for the township.

For more information of each of these options, please see: https://mntownships.org/news/additional-teleconference-meeting-options-for-townships/, or email OptionB@MnTownships.org or OptionC@MnTownships.org regarding the specific option listed in the email. If the township would like to conduct set-up and host the teleconference themselves, under Option A, please see: https://mntownships.org/news/options-for-conducting-a-town-meeting-remotely/, as well as document numbers: ES 3000 and ES 3000A in MAT’s information library.

Employees & Quarantine: Township employees showing signs of illness should stay home to avoid passing COVID-19 to anyone else. The township may not discharge, discipline, threaten, or penalize any employee, or discriminated in the work conditions of the employee because the employee has been in quarantine or has been responsible for the care of a person in quarantine. Minn. Stat. § 144.4196.

Townships may require employees to use any available sick or paid time off during their time of illness or quarantine. The township is not required to pay employees who are unavailable to work and have exhausted their paid leave. However, the town board may choose to offer additional paid leave or other accommodation to those employees. MDH has encouraged employers to be generous, understanding, and flexible in allowing employees to remain home for illness and to care for those who are ill.

Delegate Duties and Authorities: To accommodate fewer meetings and possibly absent supervisors, town boards should: (1) identify the essential operations that must continue each month; (2) delegate authorities and boundaries to individual supervisors, officers, or employees to manage those operations between meetings; (3) to the extent possible, provide individual spending authority to managers up to a certain limit for expenses that cannot wait for a board meeting; (4) establish procedures and permissions for officers and employees to work remotely; (5) consider any extended leave policies and reasonable accommodations that may be needed as employees become ill, are quarantined, or must care for other individuals; and (6) prepare for backup services to be provided by other employees, officers, neighboring townships or governments, or secondary contractors.

Signatures on Checks: Townships may arrange for checks to be signed or send by only one officer if certain processes and protections are followed. Minn. Stat. 367.18 says that claims audited and approved by the town board, and countersigned by the clerk, become a check on the township’s account once signed by the treasurer. Based on this statute, townships usually require the signatures of the chairperson, clerk, and treasurer for a check to be valid. This statute describes one method by which a township check or payment can be issued but it is not the only method of paying claims.

One option is to use electronic funds transfers (EFT), which is allowed by Minn. Stat. 471.38. An EFT does not have three signatures on the check, and instead relies on the town board approving a claim, the chairperson, clerk, and treasurer signing or indicating their approval on the claim form or in the township board minutes. Additional guidance on the use of EFT can be found here: https://www.auditor.state.mn.us/default.aspx?page=20090724.031 .

A second option is for townships to arrange for their checks to be signed by only one officer if: (1) the township board has audited and approved the claim; (2) the clerk has indicated his or her approval that the board took the action indicated; (3) the treasurer indicates there is money available in the township’s account to pay the claims; (4) the board has delegated the authority to issue the check; and (5) each of these elements are document in the township board minutes.

Last, townships should remember that payroll can be processed without a board meeting based on the authority described in Minn. Stat. 471.38, subd. 2, if the employees’ rates of pay have been set in advance.

Closure of Some Township Amenities: Pursuant the Governor’s Executive Orders in place right now, township recreational facilities, parks, and other outdoor equipment may be opened for groups of 10 or fewer individuals in close proximity to use. Other Indoor facilities such as, senior and youth centers, performance centers, fitness centers, or other recreational facilities may be opened to the public only if allowed under Executive Order 20-63 and the amount of people is limited to 10 or fewer individuals. The Township Hall or administrative offices may be open to the public to maintain services provided by the township, but MDH’s guidelines should be observed as township’s continue to serve the community.

More Information: Some useful links and information can be found at the following websites:

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

CDC’s Facts About COVID-19: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/share-facts.html

Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Guidance: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html

 

 

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16 Jun
By: MAT Staff 0

Legislative Update: Proposed Distribution for Federal COVID-19 Aid

One of the tasks facing the legislature in the Special Session is how to distribute $841 million of Federal CARES Act funding to local governments. Senate File 47 proposes a distribution model in which townships, cities, and counties receive funding for COVID-19 related operating expenses.Use of these funds are restricted to the purposes allowed by Federal law, as we described in this article.

The bill uses population as the measure of the maximum funding available to a town, allowing a township to receive up to $25 per person in the township. If it passes, the initial funding would be distributed by June 30, 2020, and claims for reimbursement could be made until September 15, 2020. The funds must be used for an eligible expense by November 15, 2020, and any unused amount must be returned to the county by November 20, 2020.

All towns would be eligible for CARES Act funding, however, only towns over 199 in population would receive a direct payment from the State for expenses. Towns with population under 200 would need to apply to the county for reimbursement of their COVID-19 related expenses. With proper documentation of expenses, the county must pay the township the amount claimed.

The bill appears to have bi-partisan support and represent a compromise between the House and Senate on the issue. The Senate passed its version of the bill on June 16, and the bill is now in committee in the House.

 

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15 Jun
By: MAT Staff 0

Coronavirus Relief Fund Frequently Asked Questions

The US Dept of the Treasury has released a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) concerning the use of the Federal assistance provided to State and local governments through the Federal CARES Act. The CARES Act funds have been transferred to the states at this point, and now each state is in the process of distributing those funds. However, questions arose about the expenses for which CARES Act funding may be used. The FAQ attempts to describe eligible expenses and program rules.

In general, the CARES Act assistance can only be used to cover expenses that:

  1. are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19);
  2. were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act) for the State or government; and
  3. were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2020.

The FAQ provides more detail about the eligible expenditures. Townships should treat CARES Act money as a restricted fund, similar to State Gas Tax funding, that can be used only for its intended purposes and never transferred to an ineligible purpose. The money cannot be used for revenue replacement, so it cannot be used to pay resident’s property tax bills or utility bills.

Coronavirus-Relief-Fund-Frequently-Asked-Questions(1)

Two of most relevant answers from that document are below:   

The Guidance says that funding can be used to meet payroll expenses for public safety, public health, health care, human services, and similar employees whose services are substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency. How does a government determine whether payroll expenses for a given employee satisfy the “substantially dedicated” condition?

The Fund is designed to provide ready funding to address unforeseen financial needs and risks created by the COVID-19 public health emergency. For this reason, and as a matter of administrative convenience in light of the emergency nature of this program, a State, territorial, local, or Tribal government may presume that payroll costs for public health and public safety employees are payments for services substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency, unless the chief executive (or equivalent) of the relevant government determines that specific circumstances indicate otherwise.

 

The Guidance states that the Fund may support a “broad range of uses” including payroll expenses for several classes of employees whose services are “substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency.” What are some examples of types of covered employees?

The Guidance provides examples of broad classes of employees whose payroll expenses would be eligible expenses under the Fund. These classes of employees include public safety, public health, health care, human services, and similar employees whose services are substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Payroll and benefit costs associated with public employees who could have been furloughed or otherwise laid off but who were instead repurposed to perform previously unbudgeted functions substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency are also covered. Other eligible expenditures include payroll and benefit costs of educational support staff or faculty responsible for developing online learning capabilities necessary to continue educational instruction in response to COVID-19-related school closures. Please see the Guidance for a discussion of what is meant by an expense that was not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020.

More Information can be found at the US Dept of the Treasury’s Webpage for CARES Act support of Local Governments, here.

The maximum amount that each township is eligible to receive through direct distribution (state to township) is found here: CARES Act Fund Distribution to Townships. Townships that do not have a Distribution Amount listed are still eligible for an indirect distribution (county to township).

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08 Jun
By: MAT Staff 0

Governor Walz Announces Gradual Re-Opening of Indoor Dining, Gyms, Entertainment Venues

[ST. PAUL, MN] – Governor Tim Walz today announced Phase III of the Stay Safe MN plan, including a gradual turn of the dial to allow cautious and safe re-opening of indoor dining, gyms, and entertainment venues beginning Wednesday, June 10, 2020. Customers and employees will be either strongly recommended or required to wear masks and will be required to adhere to appropriate social distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Thank you, Minnesotans, for the sacrifices you’ve made to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Governor Walz said. “Thanks to your dedication, we are now in a position to carefully turn the dial toward reopening society. As we move forward, it is more important than ever that we each do our part as we trust and rely on each other to keep our state safe.”

Limited re-opening of dine-in restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues can begin on Wednesday, June 10. Occupancy rates will be limited based on risk, with an overall occupancy maximum of 250 people. All critical businesses are required to develop and implement a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan by June 29, and the Department of Health (MDH), Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), and Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) will publish industry guidance by June 15. Under Phase III of the Stay Safe MN plan:

  • Restaurants can begin offering indoor dining while maintaining social distancing, requiring reservations, and seating no more than 50 percent occupancy.
  • Indoor social gatherings can take place with 10 people or less; outdoor social gatherings can take place with 25 people or less.
  • Gyms, personal fitness and yoga studios, and martial arts may open at 25 percent capacity.
  • Indoor entertainment venues, such as theaters and concert halls, can open at 25 percent capacity.
  • Recreational indoor entertainment venues, such as bowling alleys, arcades, and museums may open at 25 percent capacity.
  • Personal services, such as salons, tattoo parlors, and barbershops, may increase occupancy rates to 50 percent while requiring reservations.
  • Outdoor entertainment venues, such as sporting events, concerts, and theaters may open at 25 percent capacity.
  • Places of worship can increase occupancy rates to 50 percent.

Since the start of Minnesota’s COVID-19 peacetime emergency, the State of Minnesota has prepared for a gradual re-opening by working with the health care sector to expand health care capacity and procure ICU beds, ventilators, and personal protective equipment.

“This safe, steady reopening cannot happen without the commitment and vigilance of all Minnesotans to protect themselves and each other against COVID-19,” said Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan. “We must continue wearing masks, washing hands, staying six feet apart, and working from home when possible. Those practices bought us time to learn about and prepare for the virus – and they will keep us safe during this next phase of our response.”

On May 13, Governor Walz replaced Minnesota’s Stay Home order with a Stay Safe order as Minnesota continues to safely turn the dial back toward normal life. The Stay Safe Plan includes metrics that could trigger a dial back dial back based on the rate of testing, new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Governor Walz has stressed the importance of reopening cautiously and strategically.

“As we face the likelihood of many more months of this disease spreading at various levels in our communities, we must find a way to live with it – accepting a certain level of risk while taking steps to prevent a wave of cases overwhelming our health care sector,” said MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “The goal is to find a proper balance of protections in a way that promotes the best interests of our state. That’s the balance we’re seeking here today.”

Restaurants, salons, and barbershops have been able to offer limited service since June 1. Takeout, curbside, and delivery services have been permitted throughout the pandemic in Minnesota.

“We have asked so much of Minnesota businesses over the past few months, and we recognize what a dire situation many have found themselves in,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. “Today’s announcement is another important step on our journey to safely reopening our state to make economic growth possible. As more businesses begin to reopen and Minnesotans return to more activities we enjoy, we know the risks of possible COVID-19 transmission also increase. It is more important than ever that all Minnesotans do their part to protect themselves and others, and help our state’s businesses remain open by wearing masks, staying six feet apart, and staying home if you feel sick.”

As the Walz-Flanagan Administration works to cautiously adjust the dials in Minnesota, the Governor has taken steps to ensure workers are being protected as more businesses reopen. The Governor signed an executive order preventing workers from being fired for refusing to work in unsafe conditions. Business must continue to protect their employees while also taking steps to protect their customers. More information on worker protections can be found here.

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27 May
By: Steve Fenske 0

New Election Law to Address COVID-19

One of the COVID-19 issues considered by the Legislature this year was how to address the State Primary Election on August 11, and the Statewide General Election on November 3. One early proposal suggested statewide mail balloting for all Minnesotans, but MAT successfully informed the Legislature of the desire in some communities to maintain their local in-person polling places. As a result, town boards have local control of whether they hold an in-person election. Town boards should consider: (1) whether their election judges are still willing to serve; (2) whether their polling place can accommodate social distancing which is expected to be required for both statewide elections; and (3) whether their community wants to have a local polling place this year.

Regardless of the town board’s choice on a polling place, voters who want to vote absentee by mail may do so by requesting a ballot at this link.

The new election law passed by the Minnesota Legislature addresses some local government needs as they address the State Primary Election and State General Election. The new law, 2020 Session Law Chapter 77, is found at this link.

The new law provides the following:

  1. Towns boards may designate a new polling place, if needed, to address social distancing, combined polling places, or any other COVID-19 related election location need. Towns must designate the new polling place no later than July 1, 2020, regardless of the deadline provided in Minn. Stat. § 204B.16, subd. 1. Town boards may designate the new polling place by resolution of the board and provide notice of the change to the County Auditor. Towns changing their polling place must send written notice by registered mail of the change of polling locations to all registered voters within the town at least 25 days before the election. The new law indicates that schools are not supposed to be used as polling places unless there is no other reasonable location is available. Towns using a school as a poling place should consider if any other reasonable public or private location is available to serve as a polling place. Per Minn. Stat. § 204B.16, subd. 1, towns may use a polling place that is up to 5 miles outside the township if no location is acceptable within the township. If no other suitable location is available within the town or up to 5 miles outside the town, the town board may use a school as its polling place.
  2. The period to count absentee ballots is extended up to two days after the election, and any corresponding extension needed for canvassing results is also allowed. There is no change to the time allowed for voters to submit an absentee ballot.
  3. Processing of absentee ballots must begin 14 days before the date of the election. Voters who submitted an absentee ballot may not withdraw their absentee ballot and cast a new ballot once processing of absentee ballots begins.
  4. Federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds and Federal Coronavirus Relief Act (CARES Act) funds in the amount of over $17 million was appropriated for election purposes. Secretary of State Steve Simon indicated his intention that most of that funding be released to local governments for their election administration needs.

To maintain local polling places, townships need to have properly trained election judges. All townships are encouraged to help recruit election judges needed for their township and for any other townships that may need help.

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27 May
By: MAT Staff 0

NATaT Coronavirus Update (updated 5/27/2020)

The House is back in session Wednesday with new proxy voting rules in place – a first in American history. The Senate is also in session but is only scheduled to meet in pro forma sessions on Tuesday and Thursday. The House is likely to consider a bill changing the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to extend the time small businesses have to spend government loans from 8 to 24 weeks.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said it is likely Congress will need to pass more stimulus legislation for the US economy and supported extending the PPP loan program timeframe. The outlook for additional relief legislation, including the HEROES Act and the SMART Act, remains uncertain as Republicans are generally in favor of waiting to see the results of relief legislation already enacted. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said another relief bill is likely “in a month or so.”

The Trump Administration released a report Sunday on a new national coronavirus testing strategy. The report holds individual states responsible for planning and carrying out all coronavirus testing with some federal assistance. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized the Administration report.

 

Capitol Hill. The Congressional Research Service published an overview of FCC-related responses to the COVID-19 pandemic including the Commission’s numerous rules waivers, grants of special temporary authority, and disbursements of CARES Act broadband funds.

Bills and Letters of Interest

S.3778 (Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)) allows the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to waive a requirement that states provide a 20 percent match for the $400 million in election assistance grants included in the CARES Act if circumstances related to the coronavirus prevent them from providing this match.

S.3805 (Sen. Angus King (I-ME)) adjusts PPP rules that have prevented some businesses from fully utilizing the funds to address severe economic impacts of the pandemic, extends loans over a longer period of time, and allows for some flexibility in where the funds can go.

S.3806 (Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS)) requires FEMA to provide a 100 percent cost share for all federal emergency declarations and major disaster declarations during calendar year 2020.

S.3823 (Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)) creates a new formula to ensure the Provider Relief Fund has a dedicated set-aside amount directed towards rural areas of America.

S.3825 (Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)) directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to award grants to establish a Coronavirus Mental Health and Addiction Assistance Network.

S.3827 (Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC)) rebuilds the Strategic National Stockpile and strengthens domestic PPE manufacturing to ensure the U.S. is better prepared for future public health emergencies.

S.3793 (Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)) provides businesses experiencing significant financial hardship as a result of the virus with a refundable tax credit big enough to rehire and pay laid off and furloughed workers up to $90,000 per year, including health care benefits.

H.R.6983 (Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)) creates a federal reinsurance program similar to the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program for pandemic risks in order to promote the availability and affordability of insurance coverage that includes pandemic risks.

H.R.6973 (Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-IA)) allows small businesses to use funds from PPP loans on personal protective equipment for their employees and eliminates the 75% payroll requirement.

H.R.6968 (Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL)) establishes a pilot grant program to deliver healthy meals to children in rural and difficult-to-reach areas who rely on nutritious school-provided meals during the school year.

 

Hearings

There are numerous Congressional hearings taking place this week related to COVID-19, including:

·     May 27, 12pm ET House Ways and Means Committee hearing on “The Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Communities of Color”

·     May 28, 10am ET House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction—Veterans Affairs hearing on “Department of Veterans Affairs—Response to COVID-19”

·     May 28, 10:15am ET House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Workforce Protections hearing on “Examining the Federal Government’s Actions to Protect Workers from COVID-19”

·     May 29, 1pm ET House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation hearing on “The Status of the U.S. Maritime Supply Chain During the COVID-19 Pandemic”

 

Administration. FEMA released a “Community Mitigation Decision Support Tool” gathering all data from the President’s Guidelines for Opening Up America Again including cases, testing results, and hot spot percentages. The tool provides a large variety of coronavirus related data and an account is required for access.

HHS announced a 45-day deadline extension for providers who are receiving payments from the Provider Relief Fund to accept the “Terms and Conditions” for the payments. This grants providers 90-days from the date they received a payment to accept the Terms and Conditions of the loan or return the funds.

Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the Department will be making up to $1 billion in loan guarantees available to help rural businesses meet their economic needs through the Business & Industry CARES Act Program. Agricultural producers ineligible for Farm Service Agency loans may receive funding under this program.

The FCC is partnering with the Institute of Museum and Library Services to promote the use of the $50 million provided from the CARES Act to address the digital divide highlighted by the pandemic.

The CDC published guidance to help prevent exposures to the coronavirus in institutions and communities of faith as states and localities begin to resume normal operations.

HHS is distributing billions in additional relief funds to skilled nursing facilities to assist nursing homes that have faced significant expenses or lost revenue in order to serve the vulnerable senior population during the pandemic.

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22 May
By: MAT Staff 0

Guidance from State Fire Marshal on Building Occupant Capacity

As townships return to in-person meetings, they must continue to maintain appropriate social distance among all attendees. Town boards should establish a room occupancy limit that ensures appropriate social distancing can be maintained. While the Open Meeting Law allows the public to attend town meetings, the occupant capacity of any room should be limited for the safety of those inside. Usually the occupancy limit is placed based on fire safety concerns, but the need for social distancing has provided another reason to limit the room occupancy. The State Fire Marshal provides guidance on determining safe occupancy limits, which can be used to determine the capacity a town board should allow in the meeting room during the COVID-19 pandemic. Click Here to down the Fire Marshal’s Guidance on this issue.

The Board of Supervisors may impose a room capacity limit on their meeting space, but it should be based on the actually capacity of the room to accommodate social distancing. Town Boards should continue to have a teleconference line in use for the use of the public and any town officer who does not want to attend the meeting in person, or who may be unable to enter the room because of room capacity limits.

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21 May
By: MAT Staff 0

LTAP Virtual Workshop: Current Practices for Lightly Surfaced Roads

Minnesota has thousands of miles of gravel and dirt-surfaced roads, and most of them are maintained by counties and townships. One method of preserving the surface (for dust control, stabilization, or to maintain grade) is to apply a light surface treatment. A light surface treatment (LST), also known as a bituminous surface treatment, is a thin layer of liquid asphalt covered with a layer of aggregate with a total application that is 1.5 inches thick or less.

Using LSTs is relatively new, and this free virtual workshop will offer information about how to select the right treatment and successfully apply it. Register to join us live via Zoom, or check the LTAP website after the event to watch the recording.

Date & Time

This workshop will be held virtually on June 10, 2020, from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Registration is required to receive the Zoom link.

Registration

  • Register
  • Cost: Free!
  • Registration contact: Katherine Stanley at sell0146@umn.edu or 612-626-1023

Who Should Attend

This training is intended for county engineering staff/design engineers as well as larger townships and counties with gravel roads that are starting to develop higher-than-average daily traffic rates.

Course Instructor

Dan Wegman, P.E., Braun Intertec, has worked with DOTs and local government agencies in several states with pavement rehabilitation and preventive maintenance strategies. As a former MnDOT construction and bituminous engineer, and with over a dozen years working as a private-sector material supplier, Wegman provides technical insight with respect to materials, construction, and implementation.

Credit

To the best of our knowledge, this course/activity meets the continuing education requirements for 3.0 PDHs. For more information, visit the event web page.

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