The Barbed Wire - July 2, 2020

July 2, 2020
The Barbed Wire Takes a One Week Hiatus, Returning July 17th
RCRC Launches Fourth Annual Rural County Photo Contest
Bill of the Week: SB 474 (Stern)- Development Prohibition in Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones
No Place Like Home Program Funding Awarded to 13 RCRC Counties
Governor Signs State Budget and Budget-Implementation Bills
Governor Signs Bill to Hold PG&E Accountable as Utility Moves to Emerge from Bankruptcy
RCRC Urges CPUC to Modify Proposed Decision to Increase Wireless Network Resiliency
Infrastructure Package Passes the House
Rural Broadband
Hemp Banking

The Barbed Wire Takes a One Week Hiatus, Returning July 17th

While both houses of the Legislature are on recess the week of July 10, 2020, The Barbed Wire will be on a one-week hiatus. The Barbed Wire will return July 17th to provide you with the latest coverage of legislative and other news impacting California’s rural counties. Happy 4th of July!

RCRC Launches Fourth Annual Rural County Photo Contest

The Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) is holding its Fourth Annual Rural County Photo Contest from July 1 through July 31, 2020. The contest invites amateur photographers to capture life in rural California by showcasing the beautiful scenery, activities, communities, history, and charm of RCRC’s 37 member counties.

Photo entries should be sent to photocontest@rcrcnet.orgAll entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. on July 31, 2020 and must include:

  • Location where the photo was taken, including the county in which it was taken; and
  • Photographer’s full name and email address.

The grand prize winner will receive a $50 gift card, and the winning photograph will be unveiled at the September RCRC Board of Directors Meeting. Contest details, a printable flyer, and official rules are available here.

Bill of the Week: SB 474 (Stern)- Development Prohibition in Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones

RCRC has voiced its opposition to the recently-amended Senate Bill 474, authored by Senator Henry Stern (D- Calabasas), which would prohibit all commercial and residential development in Very High Fire Hazards Severity Zones (VHFHSZ)  and State Responsibility Areas (SRA).  RCRC believes the broad and overreaching nature of this bill will hamper the economic viability of rural segments of the state.

SRA land encompasses, in part, fifty-six of California’s counties.  The VHFHSZ incorporates areas for which local agencies have fire protection responsibility, which are often already significantly developed, and not suitable for other economically viable uses if further development is prohibited.  By prohibiting any retail project or even placing a mobile home on family land, this bill would ban anything from a simple Christmas tree farm in one area of the state to a new restaurant in another. Depriving individual property owners of the ability to utilize land or engage in legitimate business also presents potential “takings” challenges, adding associated costs, not only for the affected individual, but to taxpayers of the state.  While RCRC strongly supports the underlying goal of mitigating the loss of life and property in high fire prone areas, SB 474 will be devastating to families and businesses that have called those communities home for generations.

Meanwhile, California continues to struggle with a housing shortage, especially homes affordable to those with low and very-low incomes.  In addition, the increased loss of life and structural damage caused by California’s recent wildfires have caused reconsideration of housing development in fire-prone areas and the further winnowing of available lands for development.  RCRC believes that these challenges require a holistic, equitable, and reasonable policy solution – something that is lacking in SB 474.

RCRC’s letter can be accessed here. This legislation is current awaits consideration in the Assembly Committee on Local Government. If and when the bill will be set for hearing remains unclear at this time. For more information, contact Tracy Rhine, RCRC Legislative Advocate at (916) 447-4806 or

No Place Like Home Program Funding Awarded to 13 RCRC Counties

The California Department of Housing and Community Development announced the award of $195 million in funding Round 2 of the No Place Like Home (NPLH) program. Awards for sixteen supportive housing projects were given to thirteen different RCRC member counties, totally nearly $70 million in funding to those communities. A complete list of awardees can be found here.

The NPLH program was created in 2016 and provides up to $2 billion for the development of permanent supportive rental housing for people living with a serious mental illness who are Homeless, Chronically Homeless, or At-Risk of Chronic Homelessness. Small counties were set aside eight percent of the competitive funding allocations for projects in rural communities. More information on the NPLH program can be found here.

Governor Signs State Budget and Budget-Implementation Bills

On Monday, Governor Newsom signed the State Budget Package for Fiscal Year 2020-21, which included the main budget bill, budget amendments, and eighteen (18) bills related to budget implementation.  RCRC staff prepared an analysis of the 2020-21 State Budget Package and key impacts on California’s rural counties in the latest RCRC Rural Rundown, available here. The Governor’s press release, issued on Monday, addresses the approach to balancing the budget, noting that the 2020-21 budget is balanced through a combination of reserves, triggers, federal funds, revenues, borrowing/transfers/deferrals, and canceled expansions, updated assumptions and other solutions. In his remarks, Governor Newsom states that “the budget makes critical investments to save lives and promote economic recovery while closing a $54.3 billion budget shortfall caused by the COVID-19 recession”.

It is expected that further revisions to the State Budget Package will be addressed in August once the State of California fully counts personal income tax receipts (the tax filing deadline was extended until July 15th).  Furthermore, several issues still need to be addressed before the Legislature adjourns on August 31st – measures pertaining to public safety, realigning juvenile justice, enacting a vaping tax, reform of the Department of Toxic Substances Control, and expenditures from the state’s Cap-and-Trade auction proceeds.

Governor Signs Bill to Hold PG&E Accountable as Utility Moves to Emerge from Bankruptcy

Signed into law by Governor Newsom on Tuesday, Senate Bill 350 is another step in the transformation of Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) as the utility’s bankruptcy proceedings reach conclusion. In a press release earlier this week, Governor Newsom lauds this bill, authored by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), as one which “protects California by giving the state the authority to hold PG&E accountable if the company fails to adhere to public safety policies, and to put safety, reliability, and its customers at the center of its business model.”

SB 350 authorizes the Governor to incorporate Golden State Energy as a nonprofit public benefit corporation to take over ownership and control of PG&E’s assets in the event that the utility fails to emerge from bankruptcy as a transformed entity that is positioned to provide Californians with access to safe, reliable, and affordable service, or if the company attempts to sell its stocks or assets within that proceeding.  Although RCRC did not have a position on the legislation, staff watched it closely through the process alongside the PG&E bankruptcy and reorganization proceedings.

RCRC Urges CPUC to Modify Proposed Decision to Increase Wireless Network Resiliency

RCRC recently submitted comments to the CPUC on its recent Emergency Disaster Relief Program Proposed Decision concerning wireless communications providers.

The Proposed Decision, issued on June 11 is an attempt to prevent future communications system outages like the widespread network failures that occurred during last year’s PSPS events. It requires wireless companies to improve system planning and resiliency to maintain minimum service levels during PSPS events and other emergencies. Minimum service levels are defined as 9-1-1 service, 2-1-1 service, the ability to receive emergency alerts and notifications, and basic internet browsing. It also requires wireless providers to have 72-hours of backup power for a number of facilities.

In its most recent comments RCRC expressed its support for the Proposed Decision as a way to ensure that the public has access to 9-1-1 and emergency services, local governments can effectively disseminate information about and respond to emergencies, and critical facilities can remain operational during a PSPS event or other loss of power.  While supportive of the proposal, RCRC urged the CPUC to:

  • Expand the 72-hour backup requirement (which only applies to facilities in Tier 2 or Tier 3 High Fire Threat Districts) to additionally include those wireless facilities that lost power during two or more PSPS events
  • Require wireless providers to additionally discuss actions that will be taken to minimize service loss when backup power cannot be provided to specific sites or classes of facilities due to a safety risk or where it is impossible or infeasible to deploy backup power
  • Make several other changes to correct factual errors and avoid unnecessary limitations on the scope of the program

The CPUC will formally consider this Proposed Decision at its July hearing.  The Proposed Decision only applies to wireless companies, but similar requirements for wireline communications providers are anticipated to be included in a subsequent proposal. 

RCRC is a party to the CPUC’s Emergency Disaster Relief Program proceeding and urged the adoption of communications system resiliency improvements in comments filed on March 26. 

Infrastructure Package Passes the House

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed its $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill, the Moving Forward Act, that would sharply increase spending on roads and transit, push for deep reductions in pollution, direct billions to water projects, affordable housing, broadband and schools, and upgrade hospitals and U.S. Postal Service trucks. The bill passed largely along party lines after days of debate and amendments, with three Republicans voting “yes” and two Democrats casting “no” votes, ultimately passing with a 233-188 vote. House Republicans have held unwaveringly on the partisan process, noting that their views were virtually ignored as the measure was crafted.  House Democrats said they did not try to garner Republican involvement in developing the bill because they were convinced that Republicans would not go along with the emissions reductions measures they wanted, which are sprinkled throughout the bill. The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate where, in its current form, it is not likely to receive much attention amongst ruling Republicans. However, the core of the bill, the transportation-specific functions, will most likely survive. Though the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously approved its version of the “Highway Bill” (S. 2302) nearly a year ago, the other three committees with partial jurisdiction in the chamber — Banking, Finance and Commerce — have yet to even produce a draft.

Rural Broadband

On Wednesday, Senate Broadband Caucus co-chair Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) along with Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) introduced the Senate companion to the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, which would slate $100 billion for broadband and serves as a messaging boost to House Democrats and the Rural Broadband Task Force.  Key components of the legislation include cash for network buildout and efforts to bolster digital equity and internet adoption.  While the package has already been threatened with a veto from President Trump, it offers a sign of what Congressional Democrats may seek under a potential Joe Biden presidency, especially if they gain seats in Congress

Hemp Banking

On Monday, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which is part of the Treasury Department, released updated guidance for banks and credit unions that service hemp businesses.  The new memo explains changes in reporting requirements and emphasizes that because the crop is no longer a controlled substance, financial institutions do not have to automatically flag transactions that are from legitimate hemp business accounts.  Unlike for cannabis companies, banks and credit unions do not have to automatically file suspicious activity reports solely because a business client is involved in the legal hemp market.


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

Feel “Free” to Fish Days

Saturday, July 4th, as well as September 5, 2020, are free fishing days. While all fishing regulations, such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements, fishing hours and stream closures remain in effect, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced anyone can fish without purchasing a fishing license on these two days. Anglers fishing for steelhead, sturgeon or salmon in the Smith and Klamath-Trinity River Systems must fill out the appropriate report card, see here.


Technical Assistance Available for Sustainable Transportation Equity Project Grant Dollars

The California Air Resources Board has announced an extension to their deadline to apply for Sustainable Transportation Equity Projects (STEP) Technical Assistance. Applications to receive the full scope of Technical Assistance services are due by July 15th at 5:00 p.m., while STEP applications are due no later than August 31st at 5:00 p.m. STEP is a pilot project to overcome barriers to clean transportation in disadvantaged and low-income communities. Up to $2 million is available for planning and capacity building grants, and up to $20 million is available for one to three implementation grants for clean transportation projects. See here for more information.


North State Drinking Water Solutions Network Webinar on July 8

The Northern California Water Association is hosting the inaugural meeting of the North State Drinking Water Solutions Network on Wednesday, July 8, from 2:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. The meeting, being held via webinar, will focus on sharing information regarding:

  • Drinking water challenges in the Sacramento River Basin
  • Updates from the State Water Board regarding new state funding and technical assistance opportunities, including the Safe & Affordable Drinking Water Fund and Administrator Policy
  • Existing non-profit technical assistance and training programs available to small water systems, schools, and others
  • Ongoing efforts by water suppliers to expand access to safe drinking water and the Sacramento Valley Water Quality Coalition’s work to protect surface water and groundwater quality

Representatives from local government, water systems, nonprofit technical providers, landowners, and others interested in advancing drinking water solutions are invited to attend. Additional details are available here.


Career Opportunities

  • Tehama County Seeks Director of Public Works

Tehama County is inviting applications for the position of Director of Public Works. The application deadline is July 6, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. To apply or for more information, see the job bulletin here.

  • Colusa County Seeks Assistant Director of Public Work/Road Commissioner

The county of Colusa is accepting applications for the position of Assistant Director of Public Work/Road Commissioner. The position is open until filled. Details are available here.

  • Butte County Seeks Chief Administrative Officer

Butte County is recruiting for the position of Chief Administrative Officer. The filing deadline is July 20, 2020. To apply or for more information, see the announcement here.

  • SRTA Seeks Chief Fiscal Officer

Shasta Regional Transportation Agency (SRTA) is seeking a Chief Fiscal Officer. Position details are available here. The position is open until filled. See the SRTA website for updates and submission information.


Amendment to the Federal 2019-20 Community Development Block Grant

The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has released an amendment to the federal 2019-20 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA). The NOFA applies to state CDBG non-entitlement cities and counties applying for funding under Community Development activities, Special Allocations for Economic Development, Colonia, and Native American Communities.

This amendment only affects the Economic Development (ED) set-aside and:

  • Removes the competitive process, allowing all applications, both program and project, to be reviewed and approved on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Extends the ED program application deadline to September 15, 2020.
  • Makes other changes to program activity limits and requirements for proof of capacity, while providing more local flexibility in ED program design and implementation.

You can access the 2019-2020 CDBG NOFA amendment and links to the online application here.


PG&E Weekly Public Webinars on Wildfire Safety and PSPS Mitigation Efforts

PG&E is holding weekly public webinars at which it will provide information on local Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) and wildfire safety efforts, including how it will make PSPS events smaller in size and shorter in duration, efforts to install new grid technology and harden electrical infrastructure, and enhanced vegetation management activities.

Webinars will take place on Wednesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Webinars have taken place for Alameda, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Marin, Mendocino,  Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Benito, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Trinity, Yolo, and Yuba Counties. Upcoming webinars are scheduled as follows:

  • July 8 – Glenn, Tehama, and Shasta Counties (join webinar here)
  • July 15 – Alpine, Tuolumne, and Mariposa Counties (join webinar here)
  • July 22 – Merced, San Joaquin, and Stanislaus Counties  (join webinar here)
  • July 29 – San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Kern Counties
  • August 5 – Tulare, Madera, and Fresno Counties

See a full schedule, find information to join a webinar by phone, or view past presentations here. Check back for links to future webinars.


COVID-Related Extensions Possible on CDBG Annual Performance Reports

The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) announced that the State Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) for non-entitlement jurisdictions requires all CDBG Recipients to submit Annual Performance Reports (APRs) documenting any activity that occurred during fiscal year 2019/2020. The reporting period covers July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020. APR documents must be completed and submitted via email to by Friday, July 31, 2020. If the deadline can’t be met due to circumstances caused by COVID-19, please email Francisco Arnaiz outlining the reasons for requesting an extension and the date you expect to submit the report. Additional details are available in the HCD announcement here.


2020 Sustainable Groundwater Management Watershed Coordinator (SGMA) Grant Program

A new 2020 Sustainable Groundwater Management Watershed Coordinator (SGMA) Grant Program is being launched at the Department of Conservation. Grants are being offered for watershed coordinators in parts of the state impacted by implementation of SGMA. Information about the program can be found here. Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. on September 15, 2020. A solicitation and application has been posted here.

Please contact Department of Conservation watershed program staff with questions or comments via email at or phone at (916) 324-0850.


RCRC Annual Meeting in Napa County Cancelled

The RCRC Annual Meeting 2020 has been cancelled as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This meeting was scheduled to occur in Napa County this September. Several factors led to this difficult decision, most notably, current and future state and local government guidelines. Planning is underway to hold a future Annual Meeting in Napa – most likely in 2022 – in order to enjoy the beauty of the County as well as contribute to its economic recovery. More information on the return to Napa will be forthcoming after consideration and action by the RCRC Board of Directors.


Announcements regarding key staffing changes of importance to California's rural counties.


Jared A. Goldman, 48, of Napa, has been appointed general counsel at the California Health and Human Services Agency. Goldman has served as deputy director and chief counsel at the Department of Health Care Services since 2016. Goldman was a partner at Best, Best and Krieger LLP from 2012 to 2016. He served in several positions at the California Prison Health Care Receivership from 2006 to 2012, including chief counsel and staff counsel. Goldman was deputy county counsel at the Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office from 2001 to 2006. He earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $199,368. Goldman is a Democrat.


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

DWR Provides Tips for Holding Online Meetings to Address Groundwater Sustainability Plans


As Groundwater Sustainability Plans are being developed to meet the January 2022 deadline, several counties (and water agencies) have asked for advice for engaging stakeholders and interested parties through online resources. In response to community interest, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) Sustainable Groundwater Management Office has put together examples, tips, and tactics to consider. The DWR tips are available here.


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.