The Barbed Wire - May 15, 2020

May 15, 2020
House Passes CARES Act 2.0 (HEROES Act)
Governor Newsom Releases May Revision of the 2020-21 State Budget
County Supervisors Continue to Raise Public Awareness of the Need for Permanent PILT and SRS Funding
Bill of the Week: Assembly Bill 2168 (McCarty) – Electric Vehicle Charging Stations, Permit Application Approvals
Legislative Committees Pass Two Public Safety Power Shutoff Bills
BULLETIN BOARD
CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) ASSISTANCE

House Passes CARES Act 2.0 (HEROES Act)

On Tuesday, Democrats in the House of Representatives unveiled their second round of coronavirus stimulus funding, a roughly a $3 trillion bill called the “Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act“ (“HEROES Act”). Subsequently, late Friday evening, the House narrowly voted to approve the measure – H.R. 6800 - by 208 to 199 (the final vote fell mostly on party lines with nearly all Democrats voting to approve and all but one Republican opposing). The current version of the HEROES Act is expected to stall in the U.S. Senate, facing resistance from Senate Republicans and the White House. The legislation includes $1 trillion for states and local governments, among a number of other large components (direct payments, continuation of enhanced unemployment benefits, etc.). The bill does not include liability protections over pandemic-related lawsuits, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has said must be in any future legislation. Find a one-pager on the HEROES Act here, a resource on the state and local relief provisions here, a section-by-section summary here.

RCRC priorities in the HEROS Act include:

State and Local Funding
The HEROES Act provides more than $1 trillion to state and local governments, including $915 billion in flexible aid—which can be spent for any purpose, including to backfill revenue losses—in installments over the next year. The funds are allocated in four tranches: by jurisdiction (i.e., the same amount to each state), by population, by COVID-19 caseloads, and by unemployment. The jurisdictional and population-based distributions of $667 billion can be calculated now and will not change. The remaining $248 billion cannot be allocated yet, as it will depend on health and job statistics as of the spring of 2021. According to the Tax Foundation, California is estimated to receive $20,056,428,415 for state aid and $53,731,591,473 for local aid.

Broadband
The HEROES Act provides $1.5 billion through the Federal Communication Commission’s E-Rate Program for schools and libraries to purchase hot spots and “connected devices” to help facilitate distance learning throughout the length of the emergency. The measure also creates a pool of $4 billion to provide up to $50-a-month subsidies to low-income families or laid-off and furloughed workers in order to help pay their internet service bills throughout the end of the pandemic.

Cannabis Banking
Cannabis banking legislation was included in the HEROES Act, drawn directly from the SAFE Banking Act, which passed the House with bipartisan support in September. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado), chief sponsor of the stand-alone bill that is being included in the new broad package, previously raised the issue in a Democratic Caucus meeting and said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) supported it. Senator McConnell has disparaged House Democrats for including cannabis banking language in their latest coronavirus relief package, calling the proposal "not something designed to deal with reality." Even supporters of cannabis banking have questioned whether it should be a priority during a public health crisis. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota) stated that while the SAFE Banking Act is good policy, “this Covid-19 relief package is not the place for it.”

Infrastructure
The HEROES Act would allocate $15 billion for state departments of transportation (DOTs) to retain workers and continue infrastructure projects. It would also give more than $15 billion to public transit grants, including $750 million in grant funding for some rural intercity bus service providers. House Transportation Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-Missouri) criticized the infrastructure sections of the bill as “costly and partisan.”

SALT Tax
The HEROES Act eliminates the $10,000 itemized deduction cap on state and local taxes for 2020 and 2021. This provision is likely to be removed in future rounds of negotiations because it is unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic. Furthermore, like many other provisions in this Democrat proposal, Senator McConnell has also criticized this provision, tweeting “House Democrats’ huge new bill would cut taxes for blue-state millionaires…This is their effort at coronavirus relief?”

Public Payroll Credit
The HEROES Act would allow state and local governments to claim the new employee retention credit created in the March CARES Act by allowing employees to use it to offset a greater share of workers’ pay. The legislation would also expand and extend tax subsidies designed to offset the cost of employees offering their workers family and medical leave.

United States Postal Service
The HEROES Act provides $25 billion for revenue forgone due to the coronavirus pandemic, plus language providing additional protections to postal workers. Additionally, $15 million is provided for the Postal Service Inspector General for oversight of this funding.

Governor Newsom Releases May Revision of the 2020-21 State Budget

On Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled his May Revision of the 2020-21 State Budget (May Revision). Traditionally, the Governor’s May Revision is an exercise to more accurately reflect revenue and expenditure projections, and then apply those projections to the overall spending package as proposed in January. However, this year’s May Revision comes amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and a fiscal situation that saw a $5.6 billion surplus turn into a projected $54.3 billion state budget deficit in a four-month span. The May Revision reflects a strategy to balance the budget by cancelling previously proposed expenditures and utilizing loans, federal funds, reserves, and other new revenue sources to close the estimated deficit.

Governor Newsom highlighted the careful prioritization that the extreme change from January to May would necessitate for COVID-19 resources and recovery. These priorities include supporting job creation and economic recovery, ensuring schools can reopen, and expanding programs for the lowest income families, as well as continue significant investments in wildfire mitigation efforts.

The Rural Rundown, RCRC’s analysis of the Governor’s 2020-21 May Revision of the State Budget, can be accessed here.

County Supervisors Continue to Raise Public Awareness of the Need for Permanent PILT and SRS Funding

Two recent opinion pieces published by media outlets in Inyo County and San Benito County, with the assistance of the National Association of Counties (NACo) and RCRC, continue to raise public awareness of the need for permanent funding of the federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program and the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program to help counties continue to deliver critical services to residents.

The pieces by Supervisor Matt Kingsley of Inyo County (available here) and by Supervisor Chris Lopez of Monterey County and Supervisor Anthony Botelho of San Benito County (available here) focus on why funding is so critical for the survival and economic recovery of rural counties. Like earlier pieces by their fellow RCRC Board Members Supervisor Rex Bohn of Humboldt County, Supervisor Les Baugh of Shasta County, and Supervisor Sherri Brennan of Tuolumne County, the primary message of each opinion piece is to urge Congress to enact two separate pieces of legislation to permanently fund PILT and provide long-term security of the SRS program.

There is already bi-partisan legislation designed to provide funding for PILT and SRS. In the U.S. House of Representatives, the Permanently Authorizing PILT Act (H.R. 3043) would make PILT a permanent, fully funded program moving forward. In the Senate, the Forest Management for Rural Stability Act (S. 1643) would create a permanent endowment to support SRS with permanent payments made directly to forested counties.

Read RCRC’s support letters for these two efforts in Congress here: SRS and PILT.

Bill of the Week: Assembly Bill 2168 (McCarty) – Electric Vehicle Charging Stations, Permit Application Approvals

As a result of RCRC and its local government partners’ efforts to oppose Assembly Bill 2168, authored by Assembly Member Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), this bill will not move forward at this time. AB 2168 provides a deemed approved permitting scheme for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, regardless if a municipality had a streamlined process in place pursuant to current law.

More specifically, AB 2168 would require 1) applications to install EV charging stations to be deemed complete within five business days by a building official in local jurisdictions, and 2) such applications to be deemed approved within 15 business days after the application was submitted if the respective building official has not issued a permit and if the building official has not made findings that the proposed installation could have adverse impacts on public health and safety. RCRC’s coalition letter can be viewed here.

AB 2168 was expected to be heard by the Assembly Local Government Committee this week; however, the author declined to take reasonable committee amendments that would have, among other things, provided a recognition and exclusion of municipalities compliant with the streamlining methods implemented by Assembly Bill 1236 (Chiu; 2015).

At the March 11, 2020 RCRC Board of Directors Meeting, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) ZEV Unit gave a presentation on the state’s EV charging compliance per AB 1236; see memo here. AB 1236 mandated all municipalities to streamline electric vehicle charging station permits in order to expedite the availability of EV charging stations. Rural jurisdictions with a population less than 200,000 received a delay in implementation but were ultimately required to comply by September 30, 2017.

Since AB 1236 went into effect, few counties have taken formal action to adopt a model ordinance for a streamlined EV charging permitting process. While many local jurisdictions are meeting the spirit of the law and continue to grant EV charging permits to homeowners and for larger commercial stations, the majority of local governments are not meeting the letter of the law. RCRC encourages member counties to adopt AB 1236-compliant EV charging measures. GO-Biz continues to offer assistance to local government agencies and businesses alike on ZEV readiness and AB 1236 compliance, including best practices and streamlining templates (see here).

For more information utilize the GO-Biz contact form here or reach the ZEV unit at zev@gobiz.ca.gov.

Legislative Committees Pass Two Public Safety Power Shutoff Bills

This week, two important public safety power shutoff (PSPS) bills advanced through the legislative process. RCRC has strongly supported both Senate Bill 862 (Dodd), which the Napa County Board of Supervisors co-sponsored with Disability Rights California, and Assembly Bill 2178 (Levine).

SB 862 makes three important changes to mitigate the impacts of PSPS events on local governments and medically-sensitive residents. First, it clarifies that a state of emergency or local emergency can be declared for PSPS events. At RCRC’s suggestion, it also establishes baselines for the siting of and services provided by community resources centers during a PSPS event. Finally, it expands the universe of medically-sensitive individuals for whom electrical corporations shall develop protocols to mitigate the impacts of PSPS events. Napa County Supervisor and RCRC Board Member Diane Dillon was a key witness testifying in support of the bill in the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee, which passed it with a vote of 12-0. The bill now proceeds to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

AB 2178 similarly clarifies that PSPS events qualify as events for which a state of emergency or local emergency can be declared. This change will help ensure that local governments have greater flexibility to respond to PSPS events, seek financial assistance from the state to pay for PSPS-related expenses, and protect residents from price-gouging. RCRC testified as the principal witness in support of the bill in the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee where it passed with a vote of 20-0. It now proceeds to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Access RCRC’s letters of support here: SB 862 (Dodd) and AB 2178 (Levine).

BULLETIN BOARD

First Groundwater Sustainability Plans Public Comment Period Ending Today

Public comments on the first set of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) are due today (May 15, 2020). The next comment period closes June 3, 2020. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) extended public comment periods for submitted GSPs by 30 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. DWR encourages public review and comment on submitted plans which show how local water agencies plan to manage groundwater basins for long-term sustainability. Comments can be posted and viewed online on the DWR SGMA Portal. Information about how to comment on a plan can be found in fact sheets in English and Spanish. For questions, email sgmps@water.ca.gov.

 

RCRC Annual Meeting in Napa County Canceled

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.

 

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 today (May 15, 2020). See here for details.

 

County Drought Advisory Group Webinar

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) has organized two webinars for the sixth CDAG stakeholder meeting to discuss and gather input on the Draft Report and Risk Scoring Tool released on April 14, 2020. This will be a 2-day meeting:

  • Part 1 for the sixth CDAG meeting will be held on May 27, 2020 from 9 a.m. to noon via webinar only. The purpose of this part is to review, clarify, discuss, and receive comments on the drought and water shortage risk scoring and tool. Webinar registration information and further details can be found on the event page here.
  • Part 2 of the sixth CDAG meeting will be held on May 28, 2019 from 9 a.m. to noon via webinar only. The purpose of this part is to discuss and receive comments on the Draft Report recommendations addressing drought and water shortage contingency planning for small water systems and rural communities. Webinar registration information and further details can be found on the event page here.

Agendas for both webinars will be posted to their respective event pages prior to each meeting.

 

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. Webinars have taken place for Butte, Lassen, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sierra, Sonoma, and Yuba Counties. Upcoming webinars are scheduled as follows:

  • May 20 – Colusa, Yolo, and Solano Counties (sign up here)
  • 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 or view past presentations here. Check back to sign up for future webinars.

CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) ASSISTANCE

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.