The Barbed Wire: SPECIAL EDITION - March 19, 2020

March 19, 2020
State Legislature in Recess Until April 13th
State Action on the Coronavirus Pandemic
Executive Order Expands Teleconference Meetings Under the Brown Act
Counties Encouraged to Share NACo’s Letter Regarding Coronavirus Response Legislation
Food Production, Solid Waste, and Pet Supplies Should Be Considered as Essential Infrastructure and Services in County Directives/Ordinances
Property Taxes Payment Dates Must Be Adhered To/Counties Can Waive Penalties and Interest
Rural Health Care/Telehealth
AT&T Plans to Help Customers Stay Connected Despite the Coronavirus
Bulletin Board

State Legislature in Recess Until April 13th

As California grapples with the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Legislature suspended the 2019-2020 Legislative Session on Monday, March 16, 2020, and is scheduled to reconvene activities on Monday, April 13, 2020. The suspension will allow legislators to work more closely in their communities that are hit hard by the virus. It should be noted that legislative leaders in either chambers can decide to reconvene or extend the recess if necessary.

During this period, RCRC’s weekly update related to the current status of key state legislation will go into hiatus. However,RCRC staff will continue to monitor and engage with local government partners and other stakeholders on legislation impacting California’s rural counties. For more information regarding state legislative activities, please contact the RCRC Governmental Affairs staff at (916) 447-4806.

State Action on the Coronavirus Pandemic

Before adjourning for the extended Spring Recess amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Legislature unanimously approved legislation that would provide up to $1 billion in new spending to ramp up the state’s effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic. On Tuesday, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 89 and Senate Bill 117 (Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Committee) into law. The spending plan appropriates $500 million for emergency response from the state’s General Fund, with an additional $500 million available if needed.  The spending plan also provides $100 million for protective equipment and cleaning supplies for schools that remain open, and allows schools to maintain funding despite closures.


The spending plan allows the state to open two additional hospitals, assist public health officials, and provide support to nursing homes and childcare facilities. In addition, the funding will also be used to obtain hotel beds for those experiencing homelessness, and to assist local governments in outreach efforts to unsheltered individuals


  • Executive Order N-26-20, which calls on schools to use the guarantee of continued funding to identify options for distance learning and ways to provide meals to school children during school closure.
  • Executive Order N-27-20, which directs state health and social services agencies to redirect resources and staff to ensure the safety of seniors and other vulnerable populations.
  • <Executive Order N-28-20, which allows local governments to halt evictions, slow foreclosures, and ensure basic utilities until May 31st, unless extended.
  • Executive Order N-29-20, which extends the eligibility period for important safety net services, including Medi-Cal health coverage, CalFresh food assistance, CalWORKS, Cash Assistance for Immigrants, and In-Home Supportive Services.  The Executive Order also waives certain provisions of the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act.
  • Executive Order N-30-20, which waives, pending federal approval, this year’s statewide testing for California’s more than 6 million students in K-12 schools.
  • Executive Order N-31-20, which eases restrictions on commercial drivers engaged in support of emergency relief efforts.  The Executive Order also suspends existing law for employers directly impacted by COVID-19.
  • Executive Order N-32-20, which grants local flexibility on spending on COVID-19 homelessness-related efforts.


The California State Association of Counties (CSAC), RCRC’s local government partner, has provided excellent up-to-date state and federal information to local governments 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 has been working diligently to update activities on an hourly/daily basis so that all of California’s counties can remain properly informed.

Executive Order Expands Teleconference Meetings Under the Brown Act

On March 17th, Governor Newsom issued the second of two Executive Orders conditionally suspending certain Brown Act provisions to allow local agencies to hold public meetings "virtually" through teleconferencing, without any physical gathering of people. (The first Executive Order had required agencies to provide at least one physical location from which members of the public could participate in the meeting. The March 17th Order eliminated this requirement.)

Legislative body meetings must still be publicly noticed in accordance the Brown Act, and the agency must provide a means for the public to observe the meeting and provide public comment electronically or telephonically. (For example, livestreaming the meeting and accepting comments by email, similar to a webinar, or allowing the public to dial into the meeting conference call and be "unmuted" during public comment.)  The opportunities for public observation and participation must be included in the meeting notice, and the agency is also required to establish a process for receiving and resolving any requests for reasonable accommodation to allow accessibility to persons with disabilities.  These provisions will remain in effect "during the period in which state or local public health officials have imposed or recommended social distancing measures."

The Executive Order admonishes public agencies to "use sound discretion" in applying these provisions, and counties would be well-advised to defer controversial matters that are not time-critical until normal Brown Act meetings can be resumed.

RCRC member County Counsels are welcome to contact RCRC General Counsel Arthur Wylene if there are any questions.

Counties Encouraged to Share NACo’s Letter Regarding Coronavirus Response Legislation

This week, the National Association of Counties (NACo) penned a letter to leadership in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate outlining priorities in coronavirus (COVID-19) response legislation currently being negotiated. NACo’s priorities include prioritized funding for public health programs, infrastructure and telecommunications development, human services programs, and stable funding for the Federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes and the Secure Rural Schools program.


NACo is urging Congress to act quickly to pass legislation so that counties can implement containment and community mitigation strategies to preserve the health and safety of residents and economic vitality in these communities.  RCRC-member counties are encouraged to share NACo’s letter with their respective members of Congress (please cc RCRC if your county sends a letter).


NACo’s letter to House and Senate leadership can be accessed here.

Food Production, Solid Waste, and Pet Supplies Should Be Considered as Essential Infrastructure and Services in County Directives/Ordinances

The integrity of rural counties’ food production, solid waste, and pet supplies infrastructure and services are one of many areas affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.  RCRC staff have been engaged with state agencies, stakeholders, and RCRC-member counties regarding the inclusion of these critical elements in “Shelter-In-Place” directives or ordinances being considered and/or adopted by counties.

Food Production

RCRC staff have been in close contact with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) leadership. The ag/farm community has also been requesting CDFA and counties to include language along these lines, which is fully supported by RCRC.

CDFA, in consultation with the California Department of Public Health, has released a guidance document. Although many RCRC-member counties have already included provisions similar in tone and language to CDFA guidance, we are sharing with all counties, and encourage adoption of similar language, especially those with significant farm/food processing facilities.  The guidance document is available in English and Spanish.

Solid Waste

RCRC staff are supportive of solid waste collection, processing, and disposal services be included as part of critical infrastructure element. RCRC believes individuals (including employees and contract service providers) are part of essential services that provide solid waste/recyclables collection, processing and disposal, maintenance and systems support at solid waste/recyclable disposal and processing facilities to RCRC-member counties.

Pet Supplies

RCRC-member counties are home to many livestock feed and supply stores that provide important supplies to its communities. RCRC staff, in consultation with stakeholders and RCRC-member counties, are working to have pet supplies be incorporated into “Shelter-In-Placer” directives and ordinances as essential services.

Property Taxes Payment Dates Must Be Adhered To/Counties Can Waive Penalties and Interest

A policy document has been prepared by the California Association of County Treasurers/Tax Collectors (CACTTC)outlining that the April 10th 2nd installment due date for collection of property taxes cannot be moved.  This analysis is due to significant financial obligations for counties in the weeks immediately after April 10th. However, CACTTC’s position is there is sufficient existing authority to waive penalties and interest for those individuals who cannot pay on/before April 10 due to circumstances associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19).  The policy document is available here.

Rural Health Care/Telehealth

Last Friday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted an order to fully fund all eligible Rural Health Care Program services for the current funding year with an additional $42.19 million in funding. This action was implemented to help ensure that healthcare providers have the resources they need to promote telehealth solutions for patients during this coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The FCC noted the importance of funding this program stating “COVID-19 presents serious challenges to healthcare providers, and they need every tool in the toolbox at their disposal, particularly the enhanced connectivity that enables them to provide vital healthcare services to the American public. Today’s Order ensures that rural Americans will have access to the health care services they need.”

AT&T Plans to Help Customers Stay Connected Despite the Coronavirus

A letter on AT&T’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) websitefrom AT&T Communications CEO, Jeff McElfresh, lays out AT&T’s commitment to help customers stay connected throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The company’s actions include the following:

  • Suspending broadband usage caps for home internet customers (no overage fees).
  • Keeping AT&T public Wi-Fi hotspots open.
  • Continuing to offer internet access for qualifying limited-income households at $10/month through the Access from AT&T program.
  • No termination of service of any wireless, home phone or broadband residential or small business customer due to an inability to pay their bill as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – and late payment fees are waived for those customers.
  • Underwriting expenses for a “one-stop” resource center to support eLearning Days from the State Educational Technology Directors Association. It is available to help all educators handle school closings and virtual learning.
  • AT&T FirstNet teams are working closely to keep first responders stay connected.
  • Helping businesses and universities stand-up virtual offices and classrooms with conference call and video conferencing with Cisco Webex Meetings with AT&T.

Since many RCRC-member counties and their residents are serviced by AT&T, folks are encourage to visit AT&T’s COVID-19 website here

Bulletin Board

Deadline Extended: Wildfire Resiliency and Recovery Planning Grant Program

In light of the evolving coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) and the California Strategic Growth Council (SGC) are working on a plan to extend the deadline to submit applications for the Wildfire Resiliency and Recovery Planning Grants.  Although the new submission deadline has not yet been confirmed, there will be a minimum three-week extension to the original March 18th deadline.  Once a revised submission deadline has been established, all applicants who have started applications on the Grants Review and Tracking System application platform will receive a notification from OPR/SGC.


Economic Development Resources for Communities and Businesses Impacted by the Coronavirus

The California Association for Local Economic Development (CALED) has assembled information on programs, resources, response techniques, and tips that may assist business retention efforts during this time.   To visit a page on the CALED website devoted exclusively to resources for communities and businesses impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19), click here. The page will be continually evolving as new resources become available.


Support for Infectious Disease Response

In an effort to help you manage services in your communities during these uncertain times, please see the Quick Guide to CDBG Eligible Activities to Support Infectious Disease Response here.


Small Business Administration Coronavirus Disaster Loan Program

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is now accepting applications for low-interest federal disaster loans for Economic Injury Disaster Loans for small businesses and private, non-profit organizations in designated California counties and other states to help alleviate economic injury caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19). At the time of this writing, all fifty-eight (58) California counties are designated as eligible. To apply, please visit SBA’s Disaster Loan Assistance portal here.