The Barbed Wire: SPECIAL EDITION - May 6, 2020

May 6, 2020
Small Counties Urge Release of Federal Funds to Meet COVID-19 Demands
CalPERS Provides Guidance to Employers and Members Amid COVID-19

Small Counties Urge Release of Federal Funds to Meet COVID-19 Demands

On Monday, county administrators/executive officers of all 42 of California’s counties with populations less than 500,000 joined in one voice to urge Governor Newsom to release federal funding to address the unprecedented county demands of reducing and containing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

County governments carry the obligation of implementing directives from the State Department of Public Health, providing safety net services, conducting disease tracking and tracing, and providing other direct health-related services. Yet, California’s counties with smaller populations have not received their allocation of federal CARES funding (cities under 500,000 are also impacted). Immediate allocation of these funds would provide urgent cash flow assistance to small counties struggling with the expenditures that specifically relate to the pandemic response. RCRC was helpful in ensuring all 42 counties signed on to the letter, available here; however, a note of appreciation is in order to the administrative offices in Santa Barbara County for crafting and managing the letter.

In conjunction with the effort made by county administrative officers, in a bipartisan letter to the Governor, members of the Legislature – led by Assembly Member Jim Wood (D-North Coast) - advocated for the distribution of these federal funds to counties and cities with populations under 500,000. Legislators urged that the expeditious distribution of the funds to smaller governments would provide them critical resources to continue meeting the demands of the moment. To date, the Newsom Administration has indicated a release of federal funds will occur after the May Revision is unveiled on May 14th.

CalPERS Provides Guidance to Employers and Members Amid COVID-19

RCRC recently provided feedback to CalPERS on matters impacting counties, active members, and retirees. In the recently updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), CalPERS answered some of the difficult questions being asked, such as:

  • If There Is an Investment Loss, When Will Those Costs Be Reflected in the Valuation Reports and Need to Be Paid? How Long Are Investment Loss-Related Costs Spread Out for Employers?
  • Will/Can CalPERS Offer the Options for Employers to Pay Just Part of Their Annual Unaccrued Asset Liability (UAL) Costs and Defer the Rest Until Either More Is Known About Employers' Revenues or They Are in a Better Financial Situation?
  • What Is CalPERS Current Financial Necessity Policy? What Does It Take to Qualify?
  • If an Employee Is Collecting Unemployment Insurance During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Is Their Time Considered Pensionable Compensation or Compensation Earnable?

We encourage you to read the information provided by CalPERS. All FAQ’s are available online.

In addition, in a letter to stakeholders on Monday, CalPERS CEO Marcie Frost provided an update on several aspects of CalPERS operations:

  • Operations are currently being managed remotely, and a transition back to the offices will begin on June 1 if the COVID-19 data remains stable and continues to improve throughout this month.
  • Phone appointments for retirement counseling were at their highest level last week, while retirement check processing remains unchanged and other operations continue to run well.
  • Significant changes in the annual rate development process with CalPERS health plans have improved transparency and are expected to lead to better rate outcomes for all participants in the CalPERS health program.
  • The 2020 Open Enrollment period is postponed by one week (September 21 – October 16), as CalPERS has delayed the determination of final rates in order to better understand the likely 2021 impact of COVID-19 on the health delivery system and associated costs.
  • CalPERS will cover out of pocket costs for in-network care related to COVID-19 testing and treatment.
  • As of April 30, CalPERS assets were back in positive territory, although market volatility is expected to continue for some time.
  • The next Board and Committee meetings, scheduled for June 15-17, are expected to be in person through a combination of social distancing and video conference.

For more information about each of these operational updates, the letter is available here.

RCRC members with questions or concerns that are not addressed in the updated FAQ or the latest CalPERS Update may contact RCRC Chief Operating Officer/Chief Financial Officer Lisa McCargar by email or phone at 916-447-4809 for help reaching CalPERS for direct assistance.


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.