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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