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COVID-19 message to MTA members—Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Dear MTA members:

Portions of the state will reopen retail, office work that can’t be done remotely, and restaurants and bars with limited seating starting Friday. Yesterday, Gov. Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-92, allowing for the reopening in two Michigan regions (Regions 6 and 8 in the state’s MI Safe Start Plan) covering the entire Upper Peninsula and 17 northern Michigan counties.

The executive order and news reports, including MTA’s initial social media posts on the order, indicated that townships have authority to take more cautious approach, such as requiring outdoor-only seating. It is MTA Legal Counsel’s opinion that while townships do have police powers for the public health, safety and welfare including business licensing ordinances, and could arguably implement greater restrictions in that regard, such restrictions could be subject to legal challenge, and could not conflict with local health department regulations. A township must have a clear, defendible basis for such greater restriction. In addition, any such restrictions at the township level would need to be implemented via ordinance and could result in enforcement issues. If your township is considering such regulations, we strongly advise you to consult with your local legal counsel.

All businesses that will reopen must adopt the safety measures outlined in Executive Order 2020-91, which was also signed yesterday. This means they must, among other things, provide COVID-19 training to workers that covers, at a minimum, workplace infection-control practices, the proper use of PPE, steps workers must take to notify the business or operation of any symptoms of COVID-19 or a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, and how to report unsafe working conditions. Restaurants and bars will also have to limit capacity to 50% of their normal seating, to keep groups at least six feet from one another, to require their servers to wear face coverings, and to follow rigorous disinfection protocols. Under the order, retail stores must also limit the number of customers, based on square footage.  

MTA believes that township offices must follow the protocols outlined in EO 2020-91, Sections 1, 2 and 7.

Region 6 includes Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Crawford, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Presque Isle and Emmet Counties. Region 8 covers the entire Upper Peninsula. 

Updates to MTA resources to reflect the new orders will be available soon, and posted to our Coronavirus webpage.

Additional COVID-19 news and updates include:

  • The audio version of the MTA Q&A webinar, “Considerations for Re-Opening Your Township Hall,” is now available. Presented by MTA Member Information Liaison Cindy Dodge and MTA Legal Counsel Seth Koches, the informative free event explored considerations a township board must undertake in a preparedness plan, including how to develop such a plan and identify critical workers, and what preventive measures can be taken to minimize risk, and more critical information. 
  • All registered voters in Michigan will receive an application to vote by mail in the August and November elections. Of the 7.7 million registered voters in the state, about 1.3 million are on a permanent absent voter (AV) list, and their local election clerk mails them applications to request to receive ballots ahead of every election. The state Bureau of Elections will be sending absentee voter applications to any voters who are not already on a permanent AV list or have not requested an AV application from their local clerk. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has stated that federal CARES Act funding will be used to pay for the mailing. 
  • Video and audio recordings, as well as the PowerPoint presentation, of the Michigan Department of Treasury’s COVID-19 Updates and Resources for Local Governments” webinar from May 18 are now available. Topics covered include an update following the May Michigan Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference, an update from the Michigan Department of Transportation on project timelines, and financing and best practices around local government cash and debt management. Treasury’s next webinar, held in partnership with MTA, the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan Association of Counties, will be on June 8. Watch MTA publications for details.

MTA’s Coronavirus webpage continues to be updated regularly, so check back often for new resources and guidance impacting Michigan’s townships. MTA staff, communicationsonline learning optionswebsite (including our Find a Township and Find a Township Official look-up pages), Twitter and Facebook pages remain available to keep you connected and informed. Community Connection is also a great place to post questions or see how your fellow townships are responding to the crisis.

Thank you for your continued support and for your leadership as you guide your communities during this time. Please do not hesitate to reach out to MTA with any questions or concerns you may have.
 


Neil Sheridan,

MTA Executive Director

COVID-19 message to MTA members—Thursday, May 14, 2020

Dear MTA members:

Immediate assistance requested—public safety costs

Deadline: Close of business Monday, May 18, 2020

MTA has been working with the State Budget Office for local government funding and we need your immediate assistance in compiling public safety costs (salaries and benefits) for townships statewide for April 2020.

We would appreciate if you would take a few moments to complete this survey—providing the total salary and benefit costs for your township for the month of April 2020. Public safety salary and benefit costs include those for police, fire, EMS, 911, etc.—including on-call run pay and benefits.

Thank you for your anticipated response in meeting the May 18 deadline.

Additional COVID-19 news and updates include:

  • video recording of our latest MTA Q&A webinar, “Returning to Work,” are now available. Presented by MTA Member Information Liaison Cindy Dodge and MTA Legal Counsel Seth Koches, the informative free event explored considerations a township board must undertake in a preparedness plan, including how to develop such a plan and identify critical workers, and what preventive measures can be taken to minimize risk, and more critical information. An audio version will be posted to our Coronavirus webpage soon. Several new resources from the webinar are also available:
  • Officials can still register for the Michigan Department of Treasury’s upcoming COVID-19 Updates and Resources for Local Governments” webinar, held at 2 p.m. on Monday, May 18. Registration is limited. Topics will include an update following the May Michigan Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference, an update from the Michigan Department of Transportation on project timelines, and financing and best practices around local government cash and debt management. This free webinar is in partnership with MTA, the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan Association of Counties. Participants can submit questions until noon on Friday, May 15.
  • While townships can reach out to their county emergency coordinators to secure necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), the Michigan State Police Emergency Management Division has also shared the following resources to assist Michigan businesses—including townships—on where to procure PPE to keep their workers safe. Townships can also share this information with local businesses that may need help procuring PPE.
  • Gov. Whitmer has signed Executive Order 2020-79, which lifts certain requirements of the application process for Michigan youth to obtain a work permit. The order, in effect until June 8, suspends the requirements of Youth Employment Standards Act to allow work permits to be mailed, emailed, faxed or sent via the web rather than the previously required in-person submission.  
  • The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, an association consisting of all 83 elected county prosecutors, issued a statement on the state’s COVID-19 enforcement efforts. While the state legislature has filed a legal challenge against Gov. Whitmer over her authority to issue executive orders, the Association stated that, because no court has issued a ruling, “the executive orders are still in force.” Attorney General Dana Nessel issued similar guidance on May 5 to law enforcement across the state where she found the two orders—Stay Home, Stay Safe Order (2020-70) and Places of Public Accommodation Order (2020-69) —to be valid under the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act and asked local law enforcement agencies to continue their enforcement efforts.

MTA’s Coronavirus webpage continues to be updated regularly, so check back often for new resources and guidance impacting Michigan’s townships. MTA staff, communicationsonline learning optionswebsite (including our Find a Township and Find a Township Official look-up pages), Twitter and Facebook pages remain available to keep you connected and informed. Community Connection is also a great place to post questions or see how your fellow townships are responding to the crisis.

Thank you for your continued support and for your leadership as you guide your communities during this time. Please do not hesitate to reach out to MTA with any questions or concerns you may have.
 


Neil Sheridan,

MTA Executive Director

COVID-19 message to MTA members—Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Dear MTA members:

Yesterday, Monday, May 11, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined the MTA Board of Directors for a briefing on COVID-19 and Michigan’s response to the crisis—including the impact on the state budget, the need for additional federal stimulus funding, and insights into the stages of recovery and reengaging while mitigating risk

Whitmer told Board members, “It is my great hope that with your partnership, and with you continuing to educate people in your community, that you encourage people to stay vigilant, to do what we know will prevent community spread, and that we can continue to work together. We’ve got a lot that we are going to need to tackle together. It is going to be awhile before we can say that we are recovered economically or health-wise. But we are on the route. And we just need to stay vigilant, and that’s why I appreciate your leadership.”

You can watch Whitmer’s briefing here, and listen to an audio-only version here.

Sen. Jim Stamas, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, also held a briefing with members of MTA’s Executive Committee and MTA Board members from the senator’s district last week on the state budget process amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Sen. Stamas emphasized the importance of local officials sharing with their state senators and lawmakers the impact that COVID-19 is having on their communities. "I appreciate it, and look forward to working with you," he said. "Only together will we get through this."  Video and audio versions of Sen. Stamas’s briefing are available.

Additional COVID-19 news and updates include:

  • Register now for the Michigan Department of Treasury’s upcoming COVID-19 Updates and Resources for Local Governments” webinar, held at 2 p.m. on Monday, May 18. Registration is limited. Topics will include an update following the May Michigan Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference, an update from the Michigan Department of Transportation on project timelines, and financing and best practices around local government cash and debt management. This free webinar is in partnership with MTA, the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan Association of Counties. Participants can submit questions until noon on Friday, May 15.

Download the full fiscal strategies guide here. The memos are put together in partnership with public finance experts from universities, consulting firms and research institutions from around the state. MTA has long partnered with CLOSUP, notably on its Michigan Public Policy Survey.

  • Following the extension of numerous executive orders last week, MTA has updated several of its resourcesQ&A on Township Considerations for COVID-19 Planning and Guidelines on How to Conduct Meetings under Executive Order 2020-75 and the Open Meetings Act.
  • MTA member officials can register for a free hour-long webinar from the Michigan Municipal League, Supporting Mental Health During the Coronavirus,” held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 14This session will share valuable guidance on how leaders can cope with extreme personal and professional stressors, and adjust to changes in how we all connect and work. This webinar will also include action-oriented tools for leaders to bolster commitment and efforts to support employee mental health at this time.

MTA’s Coronavirus webpage continues to be updated regularly, so check back often for new resources and guidance impacting Michigan’s townships. MTA staff, communicationsonline learning optionswebsite (including our Find a Township and Find a Township Official look-up pages), Twitter and Facebook pages remain available to keep you connected and informed. Community Connection is also a great place to post questions or see how your fellow townships are responding to the crisis.

Thank you for your continued support and for your leadership as you guide your communities during this time. Please do not hesitate to reach out to MTA with any questions or concerns you may have.
 


Neil Sheridan,

MTA Executive Director

COVID-19 message to MTA members—Tuesday, May 7, 2020

Dear MTA members,

Numerous executive orders have been signed and announcements have been made in the past 24 hours impacting townships, including extensions of the “stay home, stay safe” executive order as well as the order allowing public bodies to hold remote meetings, and details about the state’s MI Safe Start Plan to re-engage the Michigan economy.

The “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order was extended to May 28 today by Gov. Whitmer. Under Executive Order 2020-77, Michiganders must continue to remain in their homes except to run critical errands, engage in safe outdoor activities or go to specified jobs. The order also allows manufacturing workers, including those at Michigan’s Big 3 auto companies, to resume work on Monday, May 11. Manufacturing facilities must adopt measures to protect their workers from the spread of COVID-19.

The six pandemic phases in the MI Safe Start Plan are: uncontrolled growth, persistent spread, flattening, improving, containing and post-pandemic. Gov. Whitmer today indicated that the state is currently in stage three, which indicates “the epidemic is no longer increasing and the health-system's capacity is sufficient for current needs.” The plan was developed with leaders in health care, business, labor and education. 

Last night, the governor signed Executive Order 2020-75, extending the previous order allowing public bodies to conduct remote public meetings during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. The new order expires on June 30, 2020.

Under the order, township boards and commissions subject to the Open Meetings Act can use conference call or video conferencing to continue meeting and conducting business during the coronavirus crisis. Certain procedures must be followed to ensure meaningful access and participation by both members of the public body and the general public. The EO also clarifies that the public body may use technology to facilitate typed public comments that can be read to or shared with members of the public body and other participants to satisfy the requirement that members of the public can be heard by others during the meeting.

MTA’s Q&A on Township Considerations for COVID-19 Planning and Guidelines on How to Conduct Meetings under Executive Order 2020-48 and the Open Meetings Act will be updated shortly to reflect the new EOs.

The governor has also signed:

  • EO 2020-74—Encouraging the use of electronic signatures and remote notarization, witnessing, and visitation during the COVID-19 pandemic (Rescission of EO 2020-41). EO 2020-74 is effective through June 30.

  • EO 2020-76—Temporary expansions in unemployment eligibility and cost-sharing (Rescission of EO 2020-57). EO 2020-76 remains in effect during the declared states of emergency and disaster.

Additional COVID-19 news and resources include:

  • Per EO 2020-70, the construction industry can return to work today (Thursday, March 7). Social distancing guidelines described in section 11(i) of the order must be followed. The state Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity has also issued Return to Work Guidelines for Construction Industry. In addition, townships must provide the necessary support services under 6c of the order, which allows in-person governmental activities to support resumption of certain industries. Townships must have a preparedness plan and proper guidance regarding their interaction with these contractors. MTA Legal Counsel is preparing such a preparedness plan, which will be shared via email and MTA’s Coronavirus webpage when available.

  • Register now for our upcoming FREE MTA Q&A live webinar, “Considerations for Re-Opening Your Township Hall,” to be held at noon on Tuesday, May 12. Hear from MTA Member Information Services Liaison Cindy Dodge and MTA Legal Counsel Seth Koches on planning efforts to consider as you prepare to return to the township hall. From risk management to safety guidelines, physical screening to confidentiality, townships must ensure their workplace (and workforce!) is prepared for a safe return. Share your questions in advance when you register, or ask during the webinar.  

MTA’s Coronavirus webpage continues to be updated regularly, so check back often for new resources and guidance impacting Michigan’s townships. MTA staff, communicationsonline learning optionswebsite (including our Find a Township and Find a Township Official look-up pages), Twitter and Facebook pages remain available to keep you connected and informed. Community Connection is also a great place to post questions or see how your fellow townships are responding to the crisis. One recent conversation shared examples of installing plexiglass partitions to provide separation between township officials and employees, and the public.

Thank you for your continued support and for your leadership as you guide your communities during this time. Please do not hesitate to reach out to MTA with any questions or concerns you may have.
 


Neil Sheridan,

MTA Executive Director

COVID-19 message to MTA members—Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Dear MTA members:

With more than 70 executive orders issued since March, there can be some confusion about which order means what—both for township officials and their residents. Here’s a quick review of orders impacting townships, and their deadlines:

  • EO 2020-70 (Rescission of EO 2020-59)—Better known as the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, this order is in effect until May 15. Under the order, Michiganders must not leave their homes except to run critical errands, engage in safe outdoor activities, or go to specified jobs. EO 2020-70 allows the May 7 resumption of some types of work that present a very low risk of infection, including construction, real-estate activities, and work primarily performed outdoors. Businesses must adopt measures to protect their workers against the spread of COVID-19, which are outlined in the order.
  • EO 2020-69 (Rescission of EO 2020-43)—This order, in effect until May 28, temporarily closes certain “places of public accommodation”—including libraries, recreation centers and museums, as well as theaters, bars, casinos, and more. Under the order, restaurants are limited to carry-out and delivery orders.  
  • EO 2020-68—This order declares a state of emergency and state of disaster across the state under the Emergency Management Act of 1976, and is effective through May 28. Declaring states of emergency and/or disaster allows the governor to activate applicable relief forces, and promulgate executive orders, rules and regulations deemed necessary to protect life and property or to bring the emergency situation under control. Please note the state of emergency declaration, effective to May 28, does NOT change the “stay home, stay safe” order, currently in effect until May 15.
  • EO 2020-48 (Rescission of EO 2020-15)In effect through May 13, the order temporarily changes the Open Meetings Act (OMA) to allow public bodies to conduct their meetings electronically, while also facilitating public participation. Township boards and commissions subject to OMA can use conference call or video conferencing to continue meeting and conducting business during the coronavirus crisis. (Note: With its expiration next week, MTA has been in frequent contact with the governor’s office on this order, which is being reviewed by the Executive Office.)
  • EO 2020-38This order, in effect through June 4, relaxes requirements for responding to Freedom of Information Act requests made by mail or fax during the COVID-19 emergency. The order allows townships to defer portions of requests that would require workers to report to work in-person.

To reflect any new orders, MTA has updated several of its resources: Q&A on Township Considerations for COVID-19 PlanningCemetery and Parks Management due to COVID-19 and Guidelines on How to Conduct Meetings under Executive Order 2020-48 and the Open Meetings Act.

After receiving inquiries about their validity, Attorney General Dana Nessel issued guidance to all local law enforcement agencies today that EOs 2020-70 and 2020-69 are valid under the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act and asking agencies to continue their enforcement efforts.

Gov. Whitmer has also signed Executive Directive 2020-5, creating a Michigan COVID-19 Office of Accountability to provide oversight of all spending to address this crisis. The office must report regularly on its work to the governor and the state budget director. The state legislature has also created a Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic, comprised of 10 House and Senate members, to examine the status and efficacy of governmental actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan.

Additional COVID-19 news and resources include:

  • Register now for our upcoming FREE MTA Q&A live webinar, “Considerations for Re-Opening Your Township Hall,” to be held at noon on Tuesday, May 12. Hear from MTA Member Information Services Liaison Cindy Dodge and MTA Legal Counsel Seth Koches on planning efforts to consider as you prepare to return to the township hall. From risk management to safety guidelines, physical screening to confidentiality, townships must ensure their workplace (and workforce!) is prepared for a safe return. Share your questions in advance when you register, or ask during the webinar.  
  • Missed this week’s Michigan Department of Treasury’s “COVID-19 Updates & Resources for Local Governments” webinar? A video recording, along with the PowerPoint presentation, are available. Topics covered include Michigan economic forecasting, a Federal Emergency Management Agency update, the state budget process, and local government budgeting and projections. Watch MTA emails for information on upcoming free Treasury webinars on May 18 and early June. The webinars are a partnership among Treasury, MTA, the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan Association of Counties.
  • A new emergency order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) shortens the time frame hospitals and funeral directors have to contact individuals with authority over disposition of the body of a deceased individual, and the amount of time that individuals/families have to make a decision regarding burial decisions/arrangements. Due to these new requirements, MTA Legal Counsel recommends that townships ensure a contact person is available during regular business hours if contacted for funeral arrangements, with the expedited timeframe.
  • Learn more about the federal Public Assistance Grant Program at upcoming virtual applicant briefings hosted by the Michigan State Police to provide an overview of the program, discuss eligibility requirements, and explain the project application and reimbursement processes. The program supports communities’ recovery from major disasters by providing assistance, life-saving emergency protective measures, and restoring public infrastructure. Applicants must participate in the briefings to be eligible for funding.
  • The National Association of Towns and Townships (NATaT) released its fiscal impact survey of the COVID-19 crisis on the nation’s communities. According to Michigan respondents (roughly 10 percent of MTA-member townships responded), the total fiscal impact is $24.2 million, with an average impact of $192,511. The largest anticipated impact is on fire and emergency services, and most respondents said they would draw down on reserves to make up for the impact. The survey will help NATaT, and MTA, educate lawmakers about how best to aid cash-strapped towns and townships in further pandemic relief packages.
  • Townships can share with their frontline workers, residents and others two new services that seek to provide information and assistance during this time. When visiting the state’s Coronavirus response webpage, visitors can use “Robin,” a new automated online assistant to easily access the latest information about the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of MDHHS’s “Stay Home, Stay Well” initiative, a crisis text line is now available, allowing a confidential text conversation with a crisis counselor, simply by texting the keyword RESTORE to 741741.  
  • To keep our members educated and informed in the midst of social distancing, MTA is offering a free trial for our online learning options to all MTA members. Elected officials, managers and deputies have been sent an email with details on the free trial, which includes access to 10 of our "Essentials" online courses. Appointed board/commission members, township employees and volunteers can be added by emailing education@michigantownships.org. The trial is available through all of May and June—access today!
  • We have resumed fulfillment of MTA publication orders! We had halted sending out MTA book orders, due to the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order. However, recent changes in guidance for certain retail services has allowed us to resume this MTA member service. Our completed revised edition of Authorities & Responsibilities of Michigan Townships is in stock—order yours today!

MTA’s Coronavirus webpage continues to be updated regularly, so check back often for new resources and guidance impacting Michigan’s townships. MTA staff, communications, online learning options, website (including our Find a Township and Find a Township Official look-up pages), Twitter and Facebook pages, and Community Connection remain available to keep you connected and informed.

Thank you for your continued support and for your leadership as you guide your communities during this time. Please do not hesitate to reach out to MTA with any questions or concerns you may have.

 


Neil Sheridan,

MTA Executive Director

COVID-19 message to MTA members—Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Dear MTA members,

On Friday, Gov. Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-59 extending the stay-home order until May 15 to further reduce the spread of the coronavirus throughout the state. In addition to lifting various restrictions for retailers, outdoor activities and travel, Section 11 of the order also specified government agencies that remain open for in-person work must adhere to sound social distancing practices and measures” to limit exposure to COVID-19, including:

  1. Developing a COVID-19 preparedness and response plan, consistent with recommendations in the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
  2. Restricting the number of workers on premises to no more than is strictly necessary to perform the in-person work
  3. Promoting remote work to the fullest extent possible
  4. Keeping on-premises workers and patrons at least six feet from one another to the maximum extent possible
  5. Increasing facility cleaning and disinfection, and adopting protocols to clean and disinfect in the event of a positive COVID-19 case in the workplace
  6. Adopting policies to prevent workers from entering the premises if they display respiratory symptoms or have had contact with a person with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis
  7. Any other social distancing practices and mitigation measures recommended by the CDC
  8. For in-person work permitted under sections 10(c) through 10(e) of the order—which includes “maintenance workers and groundskeepers who are necessary to maintain the safety and sanitation of places of outdoor recreation,” the following additional measures must be taken:
    1. Barring gatherings of any size in which people cannot maintain six feet of distance from one another
    2. Limiting in-person interaction with clients and patrons to the maximum extent possible, and barring any interaction where people cannot maintain six feet of distance from one another
    3. Providing personal protective equipment such as gloves, goggles, face shields, and face masks as appropriate for the activity being performed
    4. Adopting protocols to limit the sharing of tools and equipment to the maximum extent possible and to ensure frequent and thorough cleaning of tools, equipment, and frequently touched surfaces

The order also directs residents and workers to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces, and states that employers—including townships—must provide their employees with non-medical grade face coverings. After numerous issues were reported by employers being unable to procure sufficient masks/coverings for employers, state Attorney General Dana Nessel released guidance encouraging local law enforcement to consider an employer’s good faith efforts to provide the required masks in taking enforcement actions.

MTA has updated its Q&A on Township Considerations for COVID-19 Planning and Cemetery and Parks Management due to COVID-19 to reflect changes from EO 2020-59.

Yesterday, Monday, April 27, the governor also discussed the next phase of loosening the stay-home restrictions. View the PowerPoint presentation from yesterday’s press conference, which includes details on the MI Safe Start plan, here.

Additional COVID-19 related updates include:

  • There is still time to register for MTA’s upcoming live Q&A webinar, “Township Cemetery and Park Management During the COVID-19 Crisis,” being held tomorrow, Wednesday, April 29 at noon. During this free hour-long session, MTA Member Information Services Liaison Cindy Dodge will answer your questions on burials and funeral services during the crisis, as well as maintaining township properties including parks and cemeteries.  
  • MTA is once again partnering with the state Department of Treasury, along with the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan Association of Counties, on free webinars on “COVID-19 Updates & Resources for Local Governments.” The next webinar is slated for May 4 at 2 p.m. Topics will include Michigan economic forecasting, a Federal Emergency Management Agency update, the state budget process, and local government budgeting and projections. Please register and submit your questions on the registration page. Note that these webinars are limited to the first 1,000 registrants, though they are recorded for those who are unable to participate. Due to high demand, please register only if you are able to participate. A third webinar is tentatively scheduled for May 18, following the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference.

Access Treasury’s first webinar via video and audio recordings, as well as the PowerPoint presentation. During that webinar, Treasury estimated that sales tax revenue collections are expected to be significantly lower—possibly up to 50 percent—and will affect state and local revenues.

  • Ensure businesses in your township know that the second round of Paycheck Protection Program—$310 billion—opened yesterday, Monday, April 27. According to the state of Michigan, this round is expected to be exhausted quickly. In addition, $60 billion in loans and grants has been added to the Economic Injury Disaster Advance Loan program, and agricultural enterprises are eligible for the disaster assistance for the first time.    
  • As announced in our April 21 COVID-19 message, COVID-19 testing has been expanded to include all essential workers who are reporting to work in person. Any person reporting to work as essential personnel who has contact with the public outside of their home qualifies for the testing, regardless of whether they’re demonstrating symptoms. See testing guidance from the state here and find testing locations here. 
  • In MTA’s latest COVID-19 Video Update, MTA’s 2018 Conference keynoter Brett Culp reminds today’s township leaders that you are not alone during this difficult time. Watch “Leadership in challenging times” for a message from Brett, including three tips on staying strong and leading your community through this crisis. An audio-only version is available as well. 
  • The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has ended its month-long suspension of open burning and has begun issuing burn permits. Burn permits in the southern Lower Peninsula are issued by local fire departments and governmental offices, while permits are issued through the DNR in the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula. Open burning of yard debris and brush was suspended March 26 to make firefighters available for emergencies related to COVID-19 and to protect first responders. With more favorable conditions occurring as Michigan moves toward the “green-up” of vegetation where plants and trees are leafing out and filled with sap, fire potential can now be regulated based on local fire danger ratings. 
  • Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson today encouraged voters to return May 5 absentee ballots as soon as possible. Benson noted a nearly 12 percent response rate in cast AV ballots thus far—with voter turnout for May elections typically hovering around 13 percent.

MTA’s Coronavirus webpage continues to be updated regularly, so check back often for new resources and guidance impacting Michigan’s townships. MTA staff, communicationseLearning opportunitieswebsite (including our Find a Township and Find a Township Official look-up pages), Twitter and Facebook pages, and Community Connection remain available to keep you connected and informed.

Thank you for your continued support and for your leadership as you guide your communities during this time. Please do not hesitate to reach out to MTA with any questions or concerns you may have.
 


Neil Sheridan,

MTA Executive Director

COVID-19 message to MTA members—Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Dear MTA members:

In MTA’s latest “COVID-19 Video Update,” State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer offers details on training, resources from the state Bureau of Fire Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as his insights into personal protection equipment for your fire department. An audio-only version is also available for those who prefer to listen or who have trouble streaming video.

The fire marshal is also hosting a town hall-style chat via Zoom tomorrow, Wednesday, April 22 at 3 p.m. This informal webinar is focused on encouraging open and honest discussion, for questions, concerns and solutions to issues you are experiencing.

Additional COVID-19 related updates include:

  • Based on projections from the state Department of Treasury yesterday during its “COVID-19 Updates & Resources for Local Governments” webinar, sales tax revenue collections are expected to be significantly lower—possibly up to 50 percent—and will affect state and local revenues. This decline will impact June and August constitutional revenue sharing payments. Access the webinar, which offered insights into the local government economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, state resources and federal funding information, via video and audio recordings, as well as the PowerPoint presentation. 
  • MTA, along with the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan Association of Counties, have called on the state to share a portion of the federal CARES Act funding with Michigan’s local governments. Said MTA Executive Director Neil Sheridan, “An equitable distribution of the state’s CARES Act funding is crucial to the ability of our local governments to serve their communities, both now and as we emerge into the new unknown ‘normal’ following the crisis.” 
  • COVID-19 testing has been expanded to include all essential workers—such as township fire, police and emergency services personnel, among others—who are reporting to work in person. Any person reporting to work as essential personnel who has contact with the public outside of their home qualifies for the testing, regardless of whether they’re demonstrating symptoms. This will help identify asymptomatic cases that may be unknowingly spreading the virus. Testing has also been expanded to all Michigan residents who are experiencing symptoms. See testing locations here. 
  • As mentioned in an email to MTA members yesterday, a federal court ruling issued yesterday morning regarding today’s (April 21) filing deadline does NOT impact those seeking township office. The original April 21 filing deadline remains for those seeking township office. The state Bureau of Elections released guidance on the court order.
  • Townships can apply for the federal FY 2020 Distressed Cities Technical Assistance program, which provides small local governments facing long-term economic challenges impacted by a natural disaster with accessible and comprehensive technical assistance that will help improve financial management practices. Applications for the program are accepted on a rolling basis.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance Grant Program provides supplemental disaster grant assistance to government organizations. These grants include costs for personal protection equipment and overtime costs for first responders during the COVID-19 crisis. MTA encourages townships to create a user account at the Public Assistance Grants Portal to track any eligible expenditures. Additional information is expected from FEMA in early May.  
  • The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) applies to all employers—including townships—and our nation’s guardsmen and reservists are being called to duty to protect the health and well-being of all Americans. The U.S. Department of Labor, Veteran’s Employment and Training Service has released a new DOL Fact Sheet on USERRA during COVID-19, answering frequently asked questions. 
  • Gov. Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-55, establishing the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, as the pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color throughout Michigan. Comprised of Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon (or a designee), Chief Medical Executive Joneigh Khaldun, and 24 other governor appointees, the task force will study the issue, make recommendations and reach out to community leaders and local government officials to ensure stakeholders in impacted areas are informed, educated and empowered.
  • Townships can embed on their website, for free, a visualized map that renders live coronavirus cases data by county, from Munetrix. The interactive map visualizes various data in a live, interactive and scalable manner, with the most recently reported government data, including the number of cases, number of deaths, as well as cases and deaths per 100,000 population, sortable by county, council of government and other geographic criteria, as set by the user.

MTA staff, communicationseLearning opportunitieswebsite (including our Find a Township and Find a Township Official look-up pages), Twitter and Facebook pages, and Community Connection remain available to keep you connected and informed

Thank you for your continued support and for your leadership as you guide your communities during this time. Please do not hesitate to reach out to MTA with any questions or concerns you may have.

 


Neil Sheridan,

MTA Executive Director

COVID-19 message to MTA members—Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Dear MTA members,

Our first “MTA Q&A” live webinar, being held tomorrow, Wednesday, April 15 at noon, reached capacity in record time! But don’t worry! We are recording the hour-long webinar, which will include MTA’s Member Information Services (MIS) team of Mike Selden, Catherine Mullhaupt and Cindy Dodge answering your questions about township operations during this time of crisis and constant change due to COVID-19. Both the video, as well as an audio version for those who may have trouble streaming video, will be available as soon as possible; watch our Twitter and Facebook feeds, coronavirus webpage and Thursday’s COVID-19 email update for links to access the recordings.

Not participating in Wednesday’s webinar, but still have a question you’d like answered? You can still submit questions for MIS to field, possibly during Wednesday’s “MTA Q&A” or during a follow-up live webinar. Email your questions to emily@michigantownships.org. We are also expanding our attendance capacity for future events to accommodate the high demand.

MTA’s latest COVID-19 Video Update is a “Legislative Update” with Government Relations Director Judy Allen, who discusses MTA’s involvement during the COVID-19 period, including work with the governor’s office and state departments. Learn more about the state budget, supplemental funding and the federal stimulus bills, and their impact to your township. An audio-only version is available on our Township Talk page. (If you’ve missed any of our previous COVID-19 Video Updates, use the links below to watch them now. Check out Catherine Mullhaupt’s “Temporary extension of FOIA response times,” Cindy Dodge’s “COVID-19’s impact on processing payroll and working from home,” and Mike Selden and Catherine’s “Exploring and explaining Gov. Whitmer’s ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ executive order” videos today.)

Additional COVID-19 news and guidance:

  • Last night, Gov. Whitmer signed several executive orders, including EO 2020-43, which extends the previous order closing “places of public accommodation,” including libraries, museums and recreation centers, as well as dine-in restaurants, bars, movie theaters and more. EO 2020-43 is in effect until April 30.
  • Thirteen members of the Michigan congressional delegation have sent Gov. Whitmer a letter urging her to “consider the needs of small and mid-sized cities and towns” in Michigan when she distributes funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act approved by Congress in late March for state, local and tribal governments to respond to COVID-19 cases. Based on estimates, Michigan will receive $3.87 billion with roughly $910 million being allocated directly to local units of government with populations of 500,000 or more. However, there’s nothing that requires states to allocate any money to local governments. Additionally, the funding cannot be used to backfill lost revenue (such as lost revenue sharing dollars) or replace previously budgeted items. States are unable to act on any of the funding until the U.S. Department of Treasury provides guidance. According to the National Association of Towns and Townships (NATaT), guidance from Treasury could be released as early as this Friday, April 17, with funds likely to be released on or around April 24. (Visit NATaT’s Coronavirus Guidance webpage for regular updates from the federal level.)
  • MTA is partnering with the Michigan Department of Treasury, along with the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan Association of Counties, on a free webinar, COVID-19 Updates and Resources for Local Governments, held at 2 p.m. on Monday, April 20. Topics will include local government economic impacts, state resources and federal funding information. Register now.
  • Gov. Whitmer has ordered U.S. and Michigan flags lowered indefinitely to honor those who have lost their lives due to coronavirus. To lower flags to half-staff, flags should be hoisted first to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The process is reversed before the flag is lowered for the day. 
  • The State Bar of Michigan is giving free legal help to the front-line COVID-19 workers— medical workers and first responders—in preparing wills, medical powers of attorney and financial powers of attorney. For more information, call (800) 968-0738.
  • Students and their families in your township may receive temporary food assistance, following approval of the state’s Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program, which provides temporary funding to address emergency food needs and avert financial hardship for families affected by the pandemic. Food assistance benefits will go to Michigan families with students ages 5-18 eligible for the state’s free or reduced-price school meal program. This includes families currently receiving Food Assistance Program benefits as well as those not currently enrolled in the program, and will reach approximately 895,000 students. 
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released The COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide for rural leaders looking for federal funding and partnership opportunities to help address the pandemic. (Information for local governments appears on page 3.) The USDA also announced a second application window for the Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program. Townships are among eligible entities that may submit electronic applications, beginning today, April 14, and no later than July 13, 2020. (Paper applications will not be accepted.)

MTA’s Coronavirus webpage continues to be updated regularly, so check back often for new resources and guidance impacting Michigan’s townships. MTA staff, communicationseLearning opportunitieswebsite (including our Find a Township and Find a Township Official look-up pages), Twitter and Facebook pages remain available to keep you connected and informed. Several COVID-19 related conversations are happening on Community Connection, including on how small townships are managing meetings and creating online permit forms.

Thank you for your continued support and for your leadership as you guide your communities during this time. Please do not hesitate to reach out to MTA with any questions or concerns you may have.

 


Neil Sheridan,

MTA Executive Director

COVID-19 message to MTA members—Monday, April 6, 2020

Governor signs Executive Order 2020-38 protecting workers who handle FOIA requests

Last night, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-38 relaxing certain requirements for responding to FOIA requests during the COVID-19 emergency. This action was taken to protect public employees who handle Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and allows public bodies to defer portions of FOIA requests and appeals that would require employees to be in the office to fulfill a request. This Order is effective through June 4, 2020.

Below is a summary provided by MTA Legal Counsel on the FOIA provisions revised last night by the governor’s Executive Order. The Order provides:  

  1. If a public body receives a FOIA request by mail, fax or hand delivery (not email), the public body has 10 business days to respond via U.S. mail or fax after actual receipt of the request. This also applies to appeals of FOIA decisions.
  2. Actual receipt is when an employee physically opens the envelope or takes the fax off the fax machine.
  3. This does not require the public body to have someone physically report to the office to check the mail or fax if this would not otherwise  be performed.
  4. If COVID-19 response efforts, compliance with an emergency order or mitigation recommendations related to COVID-19 interferes with timely grant or denial of a request or appeal, then the public body may respond by extending the period as long as deemed necessary but not beyond June 4, 2020, or by an extension order of the governor. The public body must respond, but this allows an extension to make a decision on the request beyond the normal 10 business day extension under FOIA.
  5. If a public records request requires in-person efforts, such as in-person search, inspection, examination, preparation or production of public records, by the requestor or public body, a public body may defer that portion of the request until the expiration of the order or any order that follows from it.
  6. If the public body defers the in-person search, then in the public body’s response, it must explain this action, its reasons, and the ability of the requestor to amend the request to exclude the deferred portion of the request. The requestor may then inform the public body that it is amending its request in this way.
  7. During the COVID-19 state of emergency, public bodies must still respond to FOIA requests as expeditiously as possible and by electronic means to the extent practicable.

Below is the press release from the governor’s office last night regarding Executive Order 2020-38:

Governor Whitmer Signs Executive Order Protecting Workers Who Handle FOIA Requests

LANSING, Mich. — Governor Gretchen Whitmer today signed Executive Order 2020-38, which relaxes requirements for responding to FOIA requests made by mail or fax during the COVID-19 emergency. This action will protect workers who handle FOIA requests by allowing public bodies to defer portions of requests that would require workers to report to work in-person. The Executive Order takes effect immediately and ends at 11:59 p.m. on June 4, 2020.

“During a time of crisis, it’s crucial that Michiganders have access to the information they need to stay safe. My administration is committed to ensuring that while also protecting public health and encouraging social distancing,” Governor Whitmer said. “This Executive Order encourages public bodies to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests in a timely manner and in the safest way possible.”

Under the Executive Order, a public body must respond to a request received at its physical office via U.S. mail or fax within 10 business days after an employee receives and views the request. If a request requires a search of physical records it will be deferred until after the state of emergency and disaster declared in Executive Order 2020-33 is lifted.

The Executive Order also requires public bodies to communicate in writing with the person filing the request if they are unable to fulfill the request without a search of physical public records. The person filing the request then has the option to amend their request to include electronic records only. If a public body is unable to fulfill a request in the timeframe they specified because of remote work and social distancing, then a written notice will be sent to the person filing the request to explain why there is a delay.

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

 

COVID-19 message to MTA members—Thursday, April 2

Dear MTA members:

On Wednesday, April 1, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-33declaring a state of disaster and expanding the earlier COVID-19 emergency declaration. The governor also asked the state Legislature to extend the declared state of emergency and disaster for up to 70 days. The Legislature is expected to convene on Tuesday, April 7 to adopt a concurrent resolution, but it is uncertain at this point the length of time that it will expand the declaration. We will provide an update on the Legislature’s actions in next Tuesday’s COVID-19 update. The new declarations in EO 2020-33 may not affect the expiration dates of the many other emergency executive orders.

Additional COVID-19 news and guidance:

  • Let small business owners in your community know that, starting Friday, April 3, they can enroll in the U.S. Treasury Department’s Payment Protection Program (PPP). MTA is working with the Small Business Association of Michigan to help get the word out to Michigan communities and businesses about the program, which authorizes up to $349 billion toward job retention and certain other expenses. The program is first-come, first-served. By April 3, a Michigan-specific website dedicated to the program will be live to provide information on the program, a checklist and documents needed to apply, instructions on how to connect with a bank and/or finding a lender, and a budget tool to track and ensure the loan is forgiven. A sample PPP loan application has been released by the U.S. Treasury Department.
    • Starting April 3, 2020, small businesses, sole proprietorships and nonprofits can apply for and receive loans to cover their payroll and other certain expenses through existing Small Business Association (SBA) lenders. 
    • Starting April 10, 2020, independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply for and receive loans to cover their payroll and other certain expenses through existing SBA lenders. 
  • Due to Executive Order 2020-20 that extended presidential primary canvassing deadlines, including the state canvass to April 30, security of presidential primary election materials has not yet been released. According to the state Bureau of Elections, for jurisdictions with a May 5, 2020 election only, security of materials is released as outlined in the bureau’s release of security memo. For those not having a May election, security won’t be released until after the canvass is complete. In addition, no state and county procedure audits have been scheduled, and none will be conducted until further notice. The bureau will provide further updates on post-March audit procedures as the situation evolves.
     
  • In a video message, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel stated that first responders can receive critical health information needed to protect them without violating the federal Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA). The issue arose following a concern from first responders that they lacked sufficient information about those who have tested positive with COVID-19 to protect themselves when they respond to calls for assistance from members of the community. According to Nessel, in this case, HIPAA would allow information about a person who tested positive for COVID-19 to be shared with Central Dispatch and communicated to first responders whenever those first responders may be at risk of COVID-19 infection or when a first responder can reasonably prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to health or safety. When sharing this information, however, reasonable efforts should be made to limit the information disclosed to the minimum necessary to accomplish the purpose of the disclosure, such as only sharing with the first responders handling the call for assistance.
     
  • The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity has released a new set of emergency rules to declare, for workers’ compensation purposes, that certain employees, including first responders, suffer a compensable personal injury due to COVID-19. The rules provide detail on injuries that apply and definitions of affected workers and application of other rules.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice released a coronavirus prosecution guide to state and local law enforcement to help identify cases for possible federal civil action or criminal prosecution. The guide provides a description of types of conduct being seen around the country to take advantage of the opportunity created by the pandemic. 

Our Coronavirus webpage continues to be updated daily, so check back often for new resources and guidance impacting Michigan’s townships. MTA staff, communicationseLearning opportunitieswebsite (including our Find a Township and Find a Township Official look-up pages), Twitter and Facebook pages, and Community Connection remain available to keep you connected and informed

Thank you for your continued support and for your leadership as you guide your communities during this time. Please do not hesitate to reach out to MTA with any questions or concerns you may have.

 


Neil Sheridan,

MTA Executive Director

COVID-19 message to MTA members—Tuesday, March 31

Dear MTA members:

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed several new executive orders in the past few days impacting townships.

  • Under Executive Order 2020-27voters for the May 5 election are encouraged to vote absentee to avoid making the normal large gatherings of voters at polling precincts a threat for transmission of COVID-19. Local jurisdictions must maintain at least one polling place for those who wish to vote in person or for any individual unable to vote by mail. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommendations for polling places to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The order also allows the Department of State to assist local clerks in mailing absentee ballot applications to every registered voter, and to provide absentee ballots directly to new registrants. Read more here.

  • Executive Order 2020-28 requires the reconnection of public water supply services to residences that have had water service shut off. The order requires public water suppliers to immediately identify residences in their service area that do not currently have water service and to make best efforts to restore service to homes where the service has been disconnected due to non-payment or damaged infrastructure. The order also includes reporting and accountability requirements. Read more here

MTA Member Information Services Liaison Cindy Dodge offers insights and information in MTA’s latest COVID-19 Video Update on “Processing Payroll and Working from Home.” This video guidance covers a wide range of topics, from just how does “work from home” work, can you still be in to the office, does the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and Emergency Family Medical Leave Act affect your township, as well as other payroll issues. An audio-only version is also available if you are not able to stream the video. Additional MTA videos include: 

Additional COVID-19 updates include:

  • The 2020 Census is underway and households across America are responding every day. Completing the 2020 Census is more important than ever before. Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding go to hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads and other resources based on census data. And it has never been easier or safer to respond, whether online, over the phone or by mail—all without having to meet a census taker. In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. Census Bureau has adjusted some 2020 Census operations and timelinesWhat’s your township’s response rate so far? Find out here.

  • The U.S. Congress passed a nearly $2 trillion stimulus measure, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, providing relief for both the private and public sector, as well as individual Americans. The National Association of Towns and Townships (NATaT) has a summary of the CARES Act, beginning with emergency appropriations for the various federal agencies. A March 30 Coronavirus Update on the federal response and COVID-19 Federal Broadband Policy Update are also available from NATaT.

  • The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) hosted a webinar on “Sharing Best Practices during a Pandemic” with a panel of local officials, including Orion Charter Township (Oakland Co.) Supervisor Chris Barnett and Pittsfield Charter Township (Washtenaw Co.) Supervisor Mandy Grewal. Townships of all sizes can take away some key practices and insights from this free, one-hour seminar, which SEMCOG has made available to all MTA members. (Thanks, SEMCOG!)

  • Township officials can also register now for a Michigan Municipal League webinar with U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, who has been on the front lines of the new CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion stimulus package designed to counter the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sen. Peters will share a first-hand account of the stimulus as well as the national response to the COVID-19 crisis.

  • MTA Legal Counsel has provided MTA with sample electronic meeting notices for township board meetings, special board meetings (including with a public hearing), and planning commission and authority board meetings. Both PDF and Word versions are available on our website.

  • The state of Michigan has launched a new webpage for both volunteers and those in need during this time. All Michiganders can volunteer their compassion and commitment to fighting this virus, and saving health and lives. Your time, talent and donations will have an impact now.

  • Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has posted additional guidance, via a YouTube video, answering questions on COVID-19, essential services, explanations about recent executive orders, and more. Additional video updates are expected and can be found on www.michigan.gov/ag.

  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, under the federal CARES Act, signed an agreement between Michigan and the U.S. Department of Labor to implement Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Compensation programs that grant benefits to workers who do not already qualify for state unemployment benefits. Workers include self-employed, 1099-independent contractors, gig, and low-wage workers who can no longer work because of the pandemic. The agreement also increases weekly benefits for all unemployed workers by $600 a week for up to four months and extends benefit payments from 26 to 39 weeks. 

  • Let your township residents know to be extra vigilant for federal stimulus scams. The state Department of Treasury is warning that, with many taxpayers receiving federal stimulus checks directly deposited into their banking accounts, scammers are boosting their phishing attempts and phone scams to obtain personally identifiable information. In the latest round of reports, scammers are targeting taxpayers and tax preparers in an attempt to change direct deposit information so they can intercept federal checks. 

  • Michigan’s Public Safety Broadband Program has announced that the Connecting Michigan Communities Grant Program process has been delayed. While local governments are not direct applicants of the program, they may be informal partners with internet service providers.

  • The state Department of Natural Resources is reminding residents that they are still able to go outside and enjoy nature as long as you practice proper social distancing. MTA has received several reports of townships being inundated with anglers, and the DNR’s recent message notes that fishing is allowed, but offers the reminder to “keep it local.” Extensive travel is allowed only for essential needs. 

MTA staff, communicationseLearning opportunitieswebsite (including our Find a Township and Find a Township Official look-up pages), Twitter and Facebook pages, and Community Connection remain available to keep you connected and informed

Thank you for your continued support and for your leadership as you guide your communities during this time. Please do not hesitate to reach out to MTA with any questions or concerns you may have.


Neil Sheridan,

MTA Executive Director

COVID-19 message to MTA members—Thursday, March 26

Dear MTA members:  

Yesterday, you may have seen MTA’s first COVID-19 Video Update, where our Director of Member Information Services Michael Selden and MTA Staff Attorney Catherine Mullhaupt explored Gov. Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order, what it means for townships—particularly those holding budget public hearings, annual meetings of the electors, and even regular board meetings—as well as some things that we are still seeking answers to.  

Our foray into video guidance for our members continues with two short how-to videos on holding a meeting via teleconference or video conference. We know this is new technology for a lot of our member townships, so we reached out to The Shumaker Technology Group (STG), whom many townships will know from our On the Road vendor showcase and the MTA Expo, to create a simple how-to videos to walk you through the process. In addition, STG created a how-to PDF for the video conference software Zoom. We have also added some steps to our MTA Virtual Meeting Resources for Public Meetings document, specifically for Zoom and GoToMeetings, two commonly used services, as well as small changes that could be added to a township agenda that is being held virtually. Our thanks to Andrew, Kyle and the entire STG staff for putting these videos together for our member township officials!  

There’s been a flood of additional new COVID-19-related updates in the past few days. The following are updates and information pertaining to townships: 

  • Our Coronavirus webpage has been revamped to make it more navigable, as we continue to add information and resources to it daily. So, if you are visiting the page and it looks a little different, don’t worry! All of the information is still available, but has been divided up into new/key issues near the top of the page, and separate sections for the various sources of information when you scroll toward the bottom. 

  • The State of Michigan is posting Frequently Asked Questions on the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order. Questions and answers are being added regularly.   

  • The state fire marshal and Bureau of Fire Services has issued information to assist fire departments in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 while providing emergency medical services within their communitiesspecifically regarding personal protective equipment (PPE) and planning for a COVID-19 response. 

  • In partnership with the Michigan Library Association, MTA has created two signs that could be posted at your township hall/offices and township library letting residents know about internet/broadband access 

  • The state Department of Natural Resources has announced that permits for open burning will be suspended across the state, to help ensure emergency response resources are available when needed. Because firefighters often work closely together on scene and when traveling to and from incident locations, the suspension of burn permits also will help protect first responders and fire fighters from infection by the novel coronavirus. Open burning in some parts of the state may still be allowed in areas where the ground is still snow-covered. Check Michigan.gov/BurnPermit to see when restrictions are lifted. 

  • Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has provided some guidance on enforcing the governor’s executive orders, saying that reports of order violations—other than price-gouging—be reported to local law enforcement. News reports indicate that local law enforcement organizations are seeking additional clarification, and we will share any updates with our members as they become available.  

  • Some guidance has been issued by the state Bureau of Construction Codes on whether construction is allowed during this time. Read the BCC’s response here. 

  • The U.S. Department of Labor has issued new required workplace posters that must be posted to be in compliance with the Families First Response Act and the Emergency Family Medical Leave Act. As employers, townships must comply with state and federal regulations that require certain workplace postings to inform employees of their rights under the law. They can be downloaded for free. Townships may also wish to email them to their employees during this time.  

  • new Executive Order (2020-24) suspends the requirement for someone seeking unemployment benefits to request a registration and search waiver from their employer and allows anyone with an active unemployment claim to receive up to a six-week benefit extension. The order runs through April 22. 

  • The Michigan Liquor Control Commission has extended the 2020 liquor license expiration date from April 30 to May 31, 2020. Due to the license extensions, the date for local units of government to object to renewals for specific licenses is also extended—to April 30, 2020. 

  • new FEMA Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic: Public Assistance Simplified Application Fact Sheet supplements Fact Sheet: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Emergency Protective Measures and provides an overview of the FEMA Public Assistance application process for recipients and applicants requesting reimbursement related to federal emergency and major disaster declarations for COVID-19. 

  • The Michigan Department of Transportation is cancelling spring Adopt-A-Highway pickups, slated for April 18-26 and May 9-17 around the state. The program is currently planned to resume with the statewide summer pickup, scheduled for July 18-26. For more information, visit www.Michigan.gov/AdoptAHighway. 

  • USDA Rural Development has taken a number of immediate actions to help rural residents, businesses and communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.  


  • The Michigan Press Association has reached out to MTA to share the need for any press conferences to also be held via video- or teleconference. Working with the media to get township news and updates out to residents—as well as share good stories about what’s happening in your community during this time—remains of importance. 

MTA staff, communicationseLearning opportunitieswebsite (including our Find a Township and Find a Township Official look-up pages), Twitter and Facebook pages, and Community Connection remain available to keep you connected and informed.   

Thank you for your continued support and for your leadership as you guide your communities during this time. Please do not hesitate to reach out to MTA with any questions or concerns you may have. 

 

COVID-19 message to MTA members—Thursday, March 26Neil Sheridan,  

MTA Executive Director 

COVID-19 message to MTA members—Wednesday, March 25

Dear MTA members: 

Like many of our member township officials, MTA staff is working remotely as we navigate these ever-changing times of COVID-19 in our state, nation and around the world. Like you, we are also learning new technologies and methods to reach those whom we serve. And we know that at times like these, sometimes it is nice to just see a familiar face or hear a familiar voice. So, today, we are pleased to present our first MTA COVID-19 Video Update. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CzAEZx3uS4.

Today’s message is from our Director of Member Information Services Michael Selden and MTA Staff Attorney Catherine Mullhaupt. Mike and Catherine share some guidance about the governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order, and what it means for townships—including those townships that are holding budget public hearings, annual meetings of the electors, or even regular board meetings in the next few weeks. Can you still meet in person? How does video conference or teleconference work for meetings? Mike and Catherine answer some of the questions that we are hearing most from our members, and what they know now—as well as some questions for which we are still seeking answers. They also touch on handling FOIA requests during this time. If you are unable to watch the video, the audio is also available as a special edition of our “Township Talk” podcast.  

Watch for more video updates from MTA—they’ll  be sent via email right to your inbox, will be posted to www.michigantownships.org/coronavirus.asp, as well as to Community Connection, and our social media channels (TwitterFacebook and YouTube). Please let us know what you think, and how we can continue to serve you during this time.

 


Neil Sheridan,

MTA Executive Director

COVID-19 message to MTA members—Monday, March 23

Dear MTA members:

This morning, Gov. Whitmer issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order (2020-21), directing all Michigan businesses and operations to temporarily suspend in-person operations that are not necessary to sustain or protect life. The order also directs Michiganders to stay in their homes unless they’re a part of that critical infrastructure workforce, engaged in an outdoor activity, or performing tasks necessary to the health and safety of themselves or their family, like going to the hospital or grocery store. The order goes into effect 12:01 a.m. tomorrow, March 24, 2020, and will last at least the next three weeks.

We know that are a lot of questions from our member officials about this new "Stay Home, Stay Safe" executive order. MTA has been working with our Legal Counsel to ascertain the impacts on our townships, and has created a new “MTA Q&A of Township Considerations for COVID-19, per Gov. Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-21.” Some of the key issues noted in the new MTA guidance are:

  • Township board members are considered “workers who are necessary to sustain or protect life.” That means you can continue to hold township meetings—either in-person, taking the necessary precautions, or via telephone using a teleconference service, or a video call. (Note: In addition to our guidelines for holding virtual meetings and teleconference resources page, we are also working on a how-to video for townships using a conference call or video conference for the first time. We know this is new territory for a lot of you!)
  • This means that the budget public hearing, annual meeting of the electors, final meeting of the March board of review, and possibly the election commission meeting to appoint election workers can be held in one of those three manners.
  • Additional “workers necessary to sustain or protect life” include law enforcement, first responders, public safety, public works workers, and others.

Additional detail is provided in today’s updated guidance document on EO 2020-21. We are also working to provide video updates and additional podcasts on a variety of facets impacting townships as we navigate these uncertain and ever-changing times (look for those soon!).

We also certainly recognize that you may continue to have additional questions as the situation evolves and new considerations arise. We ask that you continue to offer your questions through our online survey—we are checking the responses daily. They are helping to guide both what we share with the Whitmer Administration as they create new guidelines and orders, and also help us to make sure that we are serving your needs.

Additional new COVID-19-related updates pertaining to townships, and that could also be helpful to share with residents, include:

  • The federal Department of Homeland Security has announced flexibility for filing Forms I-9. All U.S. employers (including townships) are responsible for completion and retention of Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States (including elected officials). On the form, the employer must verify the employment eligibility and identity documents presented by the employee and record the document information on the Form I-9. 
  • Plante Moran is holding a free, 45-minute webinar on “COVID-19: Responding to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” which provides paid sick leave, free COVID-19 testing, expands food assistance and unemployment benefits, and requires employers to provide additional protections for healthcare workers.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau announced that the 2020 Census door-knocking campaign will be delayed until May 28 and the end date will be pushed from July 31 to August 14.
  • The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has been tasked with providing economic assistance to certain small businesses affected by losses related to COVID-19. You can find more information—and additional resources—that may be helpful to businesses in your township on MEDC’s Resources for Michigan Businesses During COVID-19 webpage.
  • The Federal Communications Commission has announced a new COVID-19 Consumer Warnings and Safety Tips webpage to alert consumers to scam phone calls and texts related to the COVID-19 virus. 
  • The Michigan Press Association (MPA) has developed a method to post emergency coronavirus public meetings on www.mipublicnotices.com. Email emergencypublicnotices@michiganpress.org with the notice and what county you are in, and MPA will take it from there. 
  • The state Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity has updated its resources for employers and employees.

Our Coronavirus webpage continues to be updated daily, and MTA staff, communicationseLearning opportunitieswebsite (including our Find a Township and Find a Township Official look-up pages), Twitter and Facebook pages, and Community Connection remain available to keep you connected and informed

Thank you for your continued support and for your leadership as you guide your communities during this time. Please do not hesitate to reach out to MTA with any questions or concerns you may have.
 


Neil Sheridan,

MTA Executive Director

COVID-19 message to MTA members—Thursday, March 19

 

Dear MTA Members,

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation in Michigan and the nation continues to rapidly evolve, your staff at the Michigan Townships Association will continue do our best to keep you informed of critical updates and issues and how they may impact your township. Our intention for now is to send COVID-19-specific communications twice a week, with additional breaking news items sent as needed, and information in our weekly Township Insights enewsletter as well.

  • Last night, Gov. Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-15, temporarily changing the Open Meetings Act to allow public bodies to conduct their meetings electronically, while also facilitating public participation. Under the order, which currently lasts until April 15, 2020 at 11:59 p.m., township boards and commissions—including the township board, zoning board of appeals and planning commission—that are subject to the Open Meetings Act can use conference call or video conferencing to continue meeting and conducting business during the coronavirus crisis. Certain procedures must be followed to ensure meaningful access and participation by members of the public body and the general public. We know that this technology is new for many townships, and are working to provide additional guidance and recommendations to townships on how to accomplish this. We have created an “MTA Guidelines for Conducting Meetings under Executive Order 2020-15 and the Open Meetings Act” and updated our “Township Considerations for COVID-19 Planning” document. Please note that townships may continue to hold in-person meetings, as long attendance does not exceed the current prohibition assemblages of 50 people in attendance.
  • Learn what the governor’s executive order means for your township and how to run a virtual meeting at a FREE webinar hosted by the Michigan Municipal League (MML) at noon on Friday, March 20. Steve Mann, principal with Miller Canfield, will discuss legalities and Dene Westbrook, MML’s director of Internal pperations, will review remote-access technology options for communities. Register online now.
  • We are continuing to seek your questions and concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on township operations to share with the Whitmer administration. Please share your questions or concerns via this online survey. (You can also copy and paste the survey link in to your browser: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/J6RCMP9) Thank you for your participation; your questions will help to guide which issues are most critical to township government and its operations during this time.
  • Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has announced that she is exploring options for the May 5 election, saying “All options are on the table, including conducting the election by mail.” Benson said that she hopes to take action soon.
  • The USDA has announced a free Update for Rural Partners, Providers, and Communities on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Response webinar, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to be held Monday, March 23.
  • In terms of employer guidance, MTA is creating a guidance document on “Township Employees Working Remotely,” which will be posted to our Coronavirus webpage soon. In addition, the state Department of Labor and Economic Growth has posted information for employers considering potential layoffs during this time.
  • Our Coronavirus webpage continues to be updated daily, including updated executive orders, including another announced yesterday temporarily extending deadline to redeem property for nonpayment of delinquent property taxes; information on utility services
  • The Michigan Army National Guard has been called up to assist the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services with assembling and loading critical personal protective gear, such as gloves, gowns, and face shields, which will then be delivered to local public health departments.
  • MTA publication orders will not be shipped until the beginning of April (this is subject to change). MTA staff, communications, eLearning opportunities, website (including our Find a Township and Find a Township Official look-up pages), Twitter and Facebook pages, and Community Connection continue to be available to keep you connected and informed

We know that this is a lot to navigate, and our commitment to you is to keep you as informed as possible. We thank you for your continued support and for your leadership as you guide your communities during this time. Please do not hesitate to reach out to MTA with any questions or concerns you may have.

Neil Sheridan,

MTA Executive Director

COVID-19 message to MTA members—Monday, March 16

 Dear MTA Members,

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation in Michigan changes rapidly, your staff at the Michigan Townships Association will do our best to keep you informed of critical updates and issues and how they may impact your township.

  • The governor’s administration has sought MTA’s assistance in ascertaining how COVID-19 is impacting our members and their operations. Please share your questions or concerns via this online survey. (You can also copy and paste the survey link in to your browser: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/J6RCMP9) We will pass them along to the governor’s office on a daily basis, and will also post the questions to our Coronavirus webpage. While we cannot say how quickly the administration will respond or provide guidance, your questions will help to guide which issues are most critical to township government and its operations during this time.
  • Our Coronavirus webpage is being updated daily, including a “Township Considerations for COVID-19 Planning” document, which offers guidance into situations with which townships are dealing—including Open Meetings Act compliance, bill paying, and the budget public hearing—as they currently stand.  The page also has updates on Gov. Whitmer’s executive orders, including a temporary prohibition on any events or gatherings over 50 people (this has been expanded from the order last week prohibiting gatherings of 250 or more); temporarily closing public spaces including libraries, museums, indoor and outdoor performance spaces, and indoor fitness facilities (among many others) as well as limiting restaurants and bars to take-out service only; and temporarily expanding unemployment benefit eligibility, including to first responders in the public health community who become ill or are quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19. We’ve also added resources and information at the federal government level that we are receiving from the National Association of Towns and Townships (NATaT).
  • We have received numerous inquiries from members on federal funding for state and local governments. We are working through our partners at NATaT, as well as with the Whitmer Administration, to receive additional information and will post on our webpage and provide to members when more details are available.
  • Effective Monday, March 16, MTA has implemented a fully remote workplace, until further notice. We do not take this measure lightly, but fully believe that it is necessary to help mitigate the spread of the virus, keep our staff and their families safe, and continue to serve our members with minimal disruption. While today’s circumstances and our physical locations require adaptation, one thing that remains constant is our commitment to providing exemplary, quality service, information and resources to you, our members. We will continue to operate during normal business hours, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You may continue to reach staff via the office phone number at (517) 321-6467 or via staff email. MTA publications will be mailed on a more limited basis. Pre-orders of our Authorities & Responsibilities of Michigan Townships have been mailed, with the exception of orders of five or more, which necessitate additional postal requirements. We will provide an update as soon as possible to those townships whose orders have not yet been mailed. As we announced last Friday, out of an overabundance of care for our members and our valued partners, as well as Michigan communities, we have made the unprecedented decision to cancel our upcoming 2020 Annual Conference & Expo. Details on refunds and future educational opportunities will be forthcoming in the next few weeks.

We are monitoring the ever-evolving COVID-19 situation closely, including recommendations from the state and federal government. As we navigate this uncertain time, we will share updates and changes with you as they develop. Thank you for your continued support, and please do not hesitate to reach out to MTA with any questions or concerns you may have.

Neil Sheridan,

MTA Executive Director