The Barbed Wire - August 6, 2021

August 6, 2021
EXTENDED! RCRC 2021 Annual Meeting Early Bird Registration Now Available Through August 13th
Governor Newsom Joins President Biden in Second White House Meeting on Western Wildfires
Initial Analysis and Guidance Released for County Leaders on State Broadband Legislation
CPUC Requires Additional Transparency From PG&E On PSPS Decision-Making
CPUC Establishes an Independent Safety Monitor to Oversee PG&E For The Next Five Years
Senate Agriculture Appropriations Includes More Than $7 Billion in Disaster Assistance in Funding Bill
Infrastructure Negotiations Update

EXTENDED! RCRC 2021 Annual Meeting Early Bird Registration Now Available Through August 13th


RCRC's 2021 Annual Meeting "Early Bird" Registration has been extended through Friday, August 13th! Register today.

RCRC's Annual Meeting will be held September 29- October 1 at the Portola Hotel and Spa at Monterey Bay in Monterey County. This year’s program will feature experts discussing a wide range of topics from politics to space exploration, with a keynote address by former U.S. Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta. Additional program details are available here!

Governor Newsom Joins President Biden in Second White House Meeting on Western Wildfires

Last week, Governor Gavin Newson met with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris along with six other Western governors to discuss efforts to further prevent 2021 wildfires. It is President Biden’s second meeting this summer with Western governors on wildfires, last speaking with the group on June 30th when he announced plans to raise pay for U.S. Forest Service firefighters.  During this latest meeting, Governor Newsom criticized the impact that fires from federally controlled land were having on California, expressing that “this was a federal fire and they waited and they saw as the fire took off because they didn't put enough initial assets."  At the meeting’s conclusion, President Biden committed to reaching out to the U.S. Department of Defense about allowing California to continue to access the Pentagon’s sensitive military satellite information, as part of a program to help spot and track wildfires, beyond its current year-to-year requests.

Initial Analysis and Guidance Released for County Leaders on State Broadband Legislation

Following the State of California’s landmark passage of a $6 billion investment in broadband infrastructure, the California Community Foundation has released an initial analysis and guide for county broadband policy leads. The briefing paper, entitled Initial Analysis and Guidance on County Policy Stemming from California’s Historic New Broadband Budget and Policy, was developed on behalf of a coalition of broadband advocates that includes the Rural County Representatives of California, California State Association of Counties, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and others as part of an overall digital equity initiative. The brief is intended to provide counties with an overview of the legislation, the opportunities it presents, and details on important next steps.  

In July 2021 the State of California passed SB 156 following a coalition effort to expand broadband access for all. The legislation provides $3.25 billion to construct a statewide open-access middle mile network; $2 billion, including $1 billion specifically for rural communities, for last-mile network construction; and, $750 million for a loan loss reserve to leverage additional broadband infrastructure investments from local governments, tribal governments, and non-profits. These investments will aid in increased connectivity and affordability for all by making it easier for more internet providers to provide faster, cheaper service throughout the state and creating opportunities for more entities to build last-mile infrastructure in more places.

With so much money and opportunity on the line, a sense of urgency has emerged. However, the brief encourages county partners and economic development professionals to await further details of this historic legislation to be established before moving forward and making any commitments. County leaders have time to make decisions about how to invest American Rescue Plan Act dollars and examine how they can be leveraged and/or used in new ways as a result of this legislation. RCRC encourages all to read the brief and share it with appropriate decision-makers within your county or organization.

CPUC Requires Additional Transparency From PG&E On PSPS Decision-Making

On Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) directed Pacific Gas & Electric company (PG&E) to comply with additional requirements during Public Safety Power Shut-offs (PSPS) when utilizing tree overstrike exposure criteria when determining whether to proactively de-energize power lines including additional noticing, public safety partner coordination, reporting, and assessment of additional emergency resource deployment. Tree overstrike exposure is vegetation and/or hazard trees that may strike electric distribution lines during extreme weather events (such as windstorms). PG&E has identified 5.3 million trees across 25,000 distribution miles that fits that criteria which is estimated to increase the scope, duration and frequency of PSPS events as much as threefold in rural communities. At the request of RCRC, the CPUC will require PG&E to include tree overstrike information in future PSPS pre-season reports and the CPUC will hold a future workshop to report on how tree overstrike criteria impacted PG&E’s PSPS decision-making. RCRC’s letter in full can be viewed here

CPUC Establishes an Independent Safety Monitor to Oversee PG&E For The Next Five Years

On Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) established an Independent Safety Monitor to oversee PG&E’s gas and electric operations, a condition of their 2020 bankruptcy settlement. Earlier this year, the CPUC triggered an “Enhanced Oversight and Enforcement” process, also created through the bankruptcy agreement, for PG&E’s insufficient disclosures and progress on wildfire mitigation efforts discovered through a Wildfire Safety Division Audit in 2020. 

Since 2017, a federal court-appointed monitor has presided over PG&E’s five-year criminal probation conviction stemming from the deadly 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion. The Independent Safety Monitor will be functionally equivalent to the Federal Monitor, which is set to end in January 2022, and will focus on PG&E’s governance processes, risk management processes, recordkeeping management, policy and training, data analytics, as well as the evaluation and performance of safety initiatives. The Independent Safety Monitor is expected to be chosen by the CPUC in November 2020 and begin their duties at the start of the new year. 

RCRC’s letter can be viewed here

Senate Agriculture Appropriations Includes More Than $7 Billion in Disaster Assistance in Funding Bill

On Monday, the Senate Agriculture Appropriations panel voted to approve a draft fiscal 2022 spending bill of $25.9 billion in discretionary funding, with an additional $7 billion in emergency funding to cover crop losses to agricultural disasters in 2020 and 2021. The emergency funding would provide $6.3 billion for the disaster program and a separate $750 million for livestock producers who “experienced looses due to droughts, hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other qualifying disaster.” Additionally, several rural development loan programs would see an increase if the spending bill is approved, including a $6.3 billion increase for the Rural Housing Service pushing the total to more than $30 billion. Despite the seemingly good news for this and the two other FY22 appropriations bill that passed out of committee on Wednesday — the Energy and Water and Military Construction measures were also passed on Wednesday — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) stated that the three bills, “are not on track to cross the finish line out on the floor” because there is no agreement yet on overall spending levels for the new fiscal year, which starts October 1st. 

Infrastructure Negotiations Update

Following the release of the legislative text for the bipartisan infrastructure package over the weekend, the size and scope of its amendment process has become a partisan flashpoint.  Throughout the week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has emphasized the need for a “robust” amendment process and that Democrats must not take steps to “choke off” debate via “any artificial timetable.”  With nearly 300 amendments filed thus far to the bipartisan infrastructure measure, Senate action on the legislation has come to “a crawl.”  In several instances this week, senators have held amendments from colleagues of their own party by objecting to vote on them unless their own priorities are also guaranteed a vote.  Senators say they expect the bipartisan package to come up for a final series of votes as soon as this weekend; however, that timing will depend on whether all Senators feel they have been given enough time to make changes to the legislation.  After two days of voting, the Senate has processed only seven amendments so far.  At this pace, the Senate will likely have to stay in session at least through this weekend before breaking for the August recess, which was originally scheduled to begin this Friday.  Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-New York) reaffirmed this delay when he stated, “we’re going to stay here as long as it takes to get this done. Period.”
On the House side, it remains unclear in what form, if any, the lower chamber will have input on the bipartisan package.  This could come in the form of a conference committee or, more likely, putting various House priorities “in another vehicle” such as the future reconciliation bill.  Once the Senate passes its version of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, they will move to immediately begin the budget reconciliation process by passing a budget resolution.  Nevertheless, House leadership staff has emphasized that a reconciliation bill will not be ready until late September to mid-October, not immediately after the budget resolution is done as it was this Spring.


Announcements regarding hearings, grants, and public comment notices of importance to California's rural counties.


Drought Services Webinar - August 12

The California Cattle Council, Western United Dairies, and California Cattlemen’s Association are hosting a webinar for rural and disadvantaged communities statewide dealing with the economic, environmental, and health & safety effects of devastating drought. This event is open statewide to all community leaders looking for assistance or more information; no membership or affiliations required. For additional information, visit the Western United Dairies website here.

The webinar focuses on:

  • Drought assistance
  • Water infrastructure, including:
    • water supply development
    • water supply improvement
  • Drought resilience
  • Groundwater management
  • Other disaster, utility, and business related programs related to drought and the socio-economic effects

USDA Rural Development program experts will present various programs, processes, and resources offered by the USDA and will be available to answer questions. 

Date: August 12, 2021
Time:  10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Join via Zoom:



State Water Board Requests Feedback for California Water and Wastewater Arrearage Payment Program  

On Thursday, August 19th from 10am to 11:30am the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) is holding a public webinar to survey community water systems to inform future funding and eligibility for $1 billion in COVID-19 economic relief. The California Water and Wastewater Arrearage Payment Program would cover water debt, and potentially revenue loss, from residential and commercial customers accrued during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, including how to register for the event, see here



The Municipal Resource Group, a sponsor of RCRC’s 2021 Annual Meeting, is offering a comprehensive leadership development program for interested participants that starts on August 25th. For more information about the 10-month LX EVOLVE program, please see the flyer here.


Access the State Grants Portal for a Multitude of Funding Opportunities

Billions of dollars are up for grabs to public agencies and other entities, including tribes and businesses. Grant seekers can access a centralized portal of grant and loan opportunities here, or sign up to receive new grant opportunities delivered straight to your inbox. 


Resource pages, deadline extensions, and available programs to assist communities impacted by COVID-19.


Coronavirus Relief Available from the Small Business Administration

The federal Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering several coronavirus relief options to help alleviate the financial hardships resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19). The programs have received an overwhelming number of applications from businesses, so be sure to check the SBA website for the latest updates on the status of these programs.

  • The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides loan forgiveness for retaining employees by temporarily expanding the traditional SBA 7(a) loan program. After initial funding was quickly depleted, the program received an infusion of an additional $310 billion, allowing the SBA to resume the program on April 27, 2020. Be sure to check the SBA website for the most recent information on the application process and availability of funds.
  • The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Emergency Advance provides up to $10,000 of economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing temporary difficulties.
  • SBA Express Bridge Loans can be used to bridge the gap for businesses while applying for a direct SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan; small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly.
  • SBA Debt Relief provides a financial reprieve to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you are interested in programs for other disasters, the SBA Disaster Loan Assistance portal is available here.


Economic Development Resources for Communities and Businesses Impacted by the Coronavirus

The California Association for Local Economic Development (CALED) has assembled resources for communities and business impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19). The page will be continually evolving as new resources become available. To go directly to the CALED resources, click here.


Use of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funds for Infectious Disease Response

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds may be used for a range of eligible activities that prevent and respond to the spread of infectious diseases such as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Check out the Quick Guide to CDBG Eligible Activities to Support Infectious Disease Response for guidance and additional information.


Coronavirus (COVID-19) County Resource Page Available

The California State Association of Counties (CSAC), RCRC’s local government partner, continues to provide excellent up-to-date state and federal information to counties on this ever-changing pandemic event.  We encourage visiting CSAC’s COVID-19 resource page, which contains vital links to all CSAC COVID-19 advocacy letters and resources.  CSAC’s staff continues to work around the clock to update activities so that all of California’s counties can remain properly informed.


Information related to the current status of legislation and regulations impacting California’s rural counties.