The Barbed Wire - May 1, 2020

May 1, 2020
Federal Assistance for State and Local Governments to Offset the Coronavirus Pandemic
Bill of the Week: S 1643 - Forest Management for Rural Stability Act
County Drought Advisory Group – Public Review Draft
Navigable Waters Protection Rule Lawsuit
Coalition Asks State for COVID-19 Solid Waste and Recycling Relief
Governor Newsom Launches Effort to Assist with Food Supply While Assisting Low-Income Food Purchasers
PG&E Announces Partnership to Mitigate PSPS Impacts for the Access and Functional Needs Community
CDFA Distributes Updated Guidance from CDC and OSHA for Meat and Poultry Workers and Employers
Love Is In the Air (Virtually)

Federal Assistance for State and Local Governments to Offset the Coronavirus Pandemic

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that Congress will "probably" pass additional funding for state and local governments in forthcoming coronavirus relief bills. This comes after McConnell suggested last week that states with massive gaps in their budget as a result of the coronavirus pandemic should be allowed to declare bankruptcy. As a possible condition for this funding lifeline, he suggested that any future package would need to include provisions to provide liability protection for health care workers and for businesses and their employees seeking to come back to work.

On Tuesday, President Trump added another possible condition for providing federal assistance to states and local governments, by suggesting that funding could be tied to whether so-called sanctuary cities make adjustments to their immigration policies. The President expressed his hesitation toward granting federal aid to states because he does not want money going to local governments that he considers to have been managed poorly.

Along with our federal partner – NACo – RCRC continues to aggressively push for direct federal assistance to states and counties. Congress allocated $150 billion to states in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act last month. Many state and local leaders say that this is not nearly enough to address their both their costs to address the pandemic as well as falling revenue receipts. The National Governors Association (NGA), chaired by Governor Larry Hogan (R-Maryland), has called for Congress to provide states with a combined $500 billion in federal assistance.

Bill of the Week: S 1643 - Forest Management for Rural Stability Act

RCRC continues to strongly support S.1643, the Forest Management for Rural Stability Act (FMRSA), authored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Larry Crapo (R-Idaho), Jeff Alan Merkley (D-Oregon), James Risch (R-Idaho), and Dianne Feinstein (D-California). FMRSA would create an endowment fund to ensure forested counties receive permanent, long-term payments not subject to the annual appropriations process. The endowment fund would begin with an initial investment from Congress and comprise of annual deposits from payments of the forest revenue sharing program. The interest from this endowment would then subsequently fund the SRS program.

RCRC continues to advocate for the passage of the FMRSA and its incorporation into any relief package that Congress considers in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Forested counties need, especially in these trying times, the stability and predictability of monies for county public works projects (i.e. county roads). In the effort to reach this goal, a number of RCRC-member supervisors have been writing local op-eds to highlight the need to have SRS monies, along with federal Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program monies, be made permanent (see previous BW from Wednesday).

RCRC’s support letters to members of Congress highlighting the need for permanent SRS funding (and PILT) can be accessed here and here.

County Drought Advisory Group – Public Review Draft

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) has released the public review draft of the report, “Small Water Suppliers and Rural Communities at Risk of Drought and Water Shortage Vulnerability and Recommendations and Guidance to Address the Planning Needs of these Communities” (appendices available here). The report assesses the drought risk to small water districts and rural communities, provides recommendations to improve planning for drought and water shortage, and highlights two new web tools that provide vulnerability assessment.

RCRC is reviewing the draft for comment and, upon initial review, several recommendations directed specifically at counties may raise potential concerns. Counties are encouraged to review the report and provide comments. Comments may be submitted to DWR using a webform, or by email and must be received by 5:00 p.m. on June 19, 2020. Two DWR webinars are planned during the comment period, to discuss the report and the risk scoring tool. DWR will announce webinar details at a later date.

Navigable Waters Protection Rule Lawsuit

On Wednesday, a coalition of environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration over the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. The rule, finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in January, is the final replacement of the Obama-era Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, which President Trump vowed to dismantle during the 2016 campaign. It limits federal jurisdiction over smaller bodies of water, a move critics say risks contamination of larger ones used for drinking water but that many states and counties support in response to the original WOTUS rule’s jurisdictional overreach. Environmental groups plan to argue in court that the rule ignores scientific studies showing how the health of larger water bodies is dependent on smaller ones while denying protections guaranteed under the Clean Water Act.

Coalition Asks State for COVID-19 Solid Waste and Recycling Relief

A coalition of local governments and solid waste industry representatives, led by RCRC, requests a number of regulatory delays and additional operational guidance from the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) and the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle). The relief is necessary to help solid waste and recycling operations continue serving residents throughout California during, through and after the coronavirus COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders.

While CalEPA released a statement on April 15, 2020 acknowledging that regulated entities may need compliance assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, specific requests made by RCRC and other organizations on behalf of those managing the solid waste and recycling infrastructures have largely gone unfulfilled by CalRecycle. The coalition is requesting temporary relief from penalties that could result from failure to meet a number of statutory mandates during the pandemic, including solid waste diversion requirements and mandatory commercial recycling and organic waste recycling mandates. Requests also include a delay of implementation of any new major regulations, such as the short-lived climate pollutant organic waste regulations, until at least six months after the pandemic is deemed over by the State, and guidance on which parts of recycling operations count as essential services.

The coalition is seeking to meet with CalEPA and CalRecycle leadership in the short term to discuss the issues outlined in the letter to better provide guidance to the entire solid waste and recycling infrastructure.

Governor Newsom Launches Effort to Assist with Food Supply While Assisting Low-Income Food Purchasers

On Wednesday, Governor Newsom addressed the increasing needs of food banks for additional food stuffs, particularly fresh produce. Using a combination of additional state, federal, and private funding, the Governor is hoping to seed a $15 million campaign to further support the “Farm to Family” program run by the California Department of Food and Agriculture in collaboration with the California Association of Food Banks. In addition, Newsom highlighted the expansion of the CalFresh and other programs to temper the food insecurity for low-income Californians, including a new EBT program addressing the needs of children who receive free or reduced lunch and EBT for online purchasing.

As noted in other arenas, the COVID-19 pandemic has exponentially increased food insecurity with a corresponding increase on demand at California food banks as household income has decreased due to layoffs, furloughs, and reduced hours. For example, in the first three weeks of April, CalFresh saw a 140 percent increase in the number of applications over the same time last year. Meanwhile, the state’s farmers and ranchers have seen their fresh market opportunities decrease by as much as 50 percent. It is hoped this infusion of new monies will offset some of the effects of market loss, albeit modestly, while providing addressing some of the needs of California’s food banks.

The press release is available here.


PG&E Announces Partnership to Mitigate PSPS Impacts for the Access and Functional Needs Community

PG&E has announced a partnership with the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) to help mitigate the impacts of Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events on medical baseline customers and the access and functional needs population. The Disability Disaster Access and Resources Program will enable qualifying customers who use electrical medical devices to access portable backup batteries, transportation, lodging and food assistance, as well as education and outreach to those constituencies.

CDFA Distributes Updated Guidance from CDC and OSHA for Meat and Poultry Workers and Employers

On Tuesday, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) provided county health officers with updated guidance for meat and poultry workers and employers issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). According to OSHA and the CDC, personnel are not exposed to the coronavirus (COVID-19) through the meat products they handle, but the work environments may contribute to potential exposure. The lessons learned from recent incidents in meat packing plants in the Midwest have helped to inform the updated guidance, including recommendations for the creation of a COVID-19 assessment and control plan. The CDC and OSHA advise that all facilities developing plans for continuing operations when COVID-19 is discovered in the workforce or community should (1) work directly with appropriate state and local public health officials and occupational safety and health professionals; (2) incorporate relevant aspects of CDC guidance, including this interim guidance and the CDC’s Critical Infrastructure Guidance; and (3) incorporate guidance from other authoritative sources or regulatory bodies as needed.


As the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow, calls have grown stronger from lawmakers to enact an infrastructure package as a method of boosting the economic recovery. On a Democrat conference call on Monday, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina) discussed his desire to pass an infrastructure package with funding for broadband and water, subsequently follow-up by roads and bridges as his desired order of priority. Representative Clyburn also reiterated his belief that everyone should have access to broadband, especially in rural areas, and compared the necessity to the projects of rural electrification that occurred during the New Deal era.

On the Republican side, President Trump has repeatedly called for increased infrastructure investments for a future coronavirus recovery bill. However, on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said that he would not support infrastructure in a future recovery bill. He stated that “both Democrats and the White House both need to get the message" that infrastructure will need to be a separate bill.

Love Is In the Air (Virtually)

It may be a far cry from a dream wedding, but those wishing to tie the knot in California will be allowed during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. On Thursday, Governor Newsom signed an executive order which allows adults to obtain a marriage license or hold a wedding ceremony via video conference. The Executive Order is effective for 60 days following the issuance of the Order, unless extended at a later date. Read the Order here for details.


Upcoming Hearing of the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (CTCAC), Changes to Affordable Housing Tax Credits in Fire Disaster Counties

On Thursday, May 7th the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (CTCAC) will hold a public hearing on regulation changes to distribute $100 million in additional low-income tax credits for fire disaster counties, including eight RCRC member counties. CTCAC will present an overview of the changes, answer technical questions, and accept public comments at the hearing as well as in writing until the close of business on May 18th. The hearing notice and details can be found here, and the regulation changes are here. Previously, California State Treasurer Fiona Ma announced CTCAC’s intent to clarify the regulations to ensure these disaster tax credits are distributed to areas hardest hit by recent wildfires, see here.

Last year, legislation from Congressman Mike Thompson (D-Napa) provided $100 million in affordable housing tax credits for California counties in 2017 and 2018 disaster areas. These funds are designed to assist rebuilding efforts in communities located in Butte, Lake, Los Angeles, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Orange, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Shasta, Sonoma, Ventura and Yuba Counties which suffered devastating losses due to the Camp Fire, Tubbs Fire, Thomas Fire, and Mendocino Complex Fire.


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

PG&E announced a schedule of 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 6:30 p.m. The first webinar for Butte, Plumas, and Lassen Counties took place on April 29, but upcoming webinars are scheduled as follows:

  • May 6 – Sonoma and Napa Counties (sign up here)
  • May 13 – Placer, Nevada, and Sierra Counties
  • May 20 – Colusa, Yolo, and Solano Counties
  • May 27 – El Dorado, Amador, and Calaveras Counties
  • June 17 – Mendocino and Lake Counties
  • June 24 – Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito Counties
  • July 1 – Humboldt, Trinity, and Siskiyou Counties
  • July 8 – Glenn, Tehama, and Shasta Counties
  • July 15 – Alpine, Tuolumne, and Mariposa Counties
  • July 22 – Merced, San Joaquin, and Stanislaus Counties
  • July 29 – San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Kern Counties
  • August 5 – Tulare, Madera, and Fresno Counties

See a full schedule here. Check back to sign up for future webinars.


Career Opportunity – Tehama County Director of Public Works

Tehama County is seeking applicants for the position of Public Works Director. Applications are due by 5pm on May 15, 2020. See here for details.


RCRC April Board Meeting Canceled – June Board Meeting Slated for Merced County

Due to the worldwide events surrounding Coronavirus (COVID-19), the April meeting of the RCRC Board of Directors has been canceled. The meeting was scheduled to occur in Merced County next week, as it is customary to hold one board meeting a year in the County of the Chair.

Currently, plans are underway to hold the June meeting of the RCRC Board of Directors in Merced County on June 16-18, 2020. As the status of California’s stay-at-home order is re-evaluated in the coming weeks, arrangements are subject to change. The latest information and registration for the June meeting of the RCRC Board of Directors is available here.


WIR Conference Gathering Cancelled - Stay Tuned for Alternative Dates

Due to the rapidly changing coronavirus (COVID-19) situation across the nation, after painstakingly thorough consideration, the 2020 National Association of Counties’ (NACo) Western Interstate Region (WIR) Conference scheduled to take place at Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, has been cancelled. The letter from WIR President, Supervisor Kevin Cann of Mariposa County, to the WIR Board of Directors may be viewed here.

A tremendous program was planned, and the conference team is exploring alternative options for members to utilize, including the possibility of the 2021 Conference being held in California. We encourage you to keep the WIR conference dates on your calendar. And, please plan to participate in virtual meetings and upcoming WIR workshops that may be offered as a partial replacement for Mariposa County in 2020.

For the latest WIR Conference updates, click 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.


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 COVID-19. Check out the Quick Guide to CDBG Eligible Activities to Support Infectious Disease Response for guidance and additional information.


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.


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.