April 1, 2020 - League of Wisconsin Municipalities - COVID-19 Update #15
COVID-19 Coronavirus Update
Share this tool!

Post a link to this CDC/Apple COVID-19 Screening Tool to your website.
Is someone forwarding these emails to you? You can subscribe here.
No matter if you are a city or village, big or small> please do this first!

The National League of Cities and United States Conference of Mayors have worked together to develop a short, easy-to-complete survey for all municipalities to demonstrate the direct fiscal impact of the pandemic on municipal governments of all sizes . This information will be used to make the case in Congress for direct funding to all municipalities, regardless of population size. The information will also be helpful here at home as we make our case on the state level. Responses are needed by the end of the day Friday, April 3. It is imperative that we have as much participation as possible in order to make the best possible case. Please note: individual responses to the survey will not be released and only one response per city can be included. You can access the survey by clicking here

If you are not the right person to fill it out, please forward to the person who is. It really is short - please take the survey!
FFCRA Employee Rights Poster > Please do this second!

Under the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” (FFCRA) all covered employers must provide the temporary benefits required by the Act and "post" the Department of Labor’s FFCRA Employee Rights Poster by April 1, 2020  

From the FAQ:
An employer may satisfy this requirement by emailing or direct mailing this notice to employees, or posting this notice on an employee information internal or external website.

For the full FAQ and more, see the League's Employee page here...
Today is National Census Day!

2020 Census Operational Adjustments Due to COVID-19
The Census is adapting or delaying some of their operations to protect the health and safety of their staff and the public and make sure we get the same population counted another way. Read more from the Census here...

Share, comment and like the "Community themed" reminder to fill out the Census from the League's Facebook page by clicking here .

Add a 2020 Census Frame to your Facebook profile picture here .

Reminder - Want to share with a sense of humor? Share this "Manitowoc Minute" video on filling out the Census form to your Facebook page from the League's page. (Note - includes instructions on how to make a Brandy Old Fashioned.)
League COVID-19 Virtual Roundtable Conference Calls
This call is for City/Village Officials,
including mgrs./adm. & Staff Only

Next call is Friday, April 3, 2020 9:00 - 10:00 a.m.
N ote - there will be new call in information . Check the newsletter and our website .

If you aren't able to connect or have a question after participating, please contact Jerry Deschane at email .

We will schedule additional calls as needed. Notice and call-in information will be provided on the League's website and in these Special Edition newsletters, which will also be sent as needed.
PLEASE NOTE - Upcoming League Conferences and Workshops
Our priority is your safety and well-being. Decisions on whether to hold, cancel or postpone League events will be made with that priority as our number-one concern. 
 
Municipal Building Inspectors - April 15-17 - postponed.
League's Local Gov 101 Workshops - three programs were scheduled for May. We are working to provide these as webinars. Please stay tuned.
 
Decisions about the June programs, which include the Clerks, Treasurers & Finance Officers Institute, the Municipal Attorneys Institute and an additional Local Gov 101 Workshop will also be made with health and safety in mind. We will provide notice in our newsletters and on our website regarding those and future workshops. Details on cancellation policies and more... 

Reminder - COVID-19 RESPONSE GRANT PROGRAM
A new funding opportunity from the Wisconsin Partnership Program at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health will help UW-Madison researchers and community organizations, including local governments, respond to the immediate challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 Response Grant Program is a strategic, flexible, rapid-response mechanism designed to support innovative, responsive, high-impact projects that aim to improve the health of the people of Wisconsin by lessening the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic through scientific, medical, or public health approaches and/or by supporting those most at risk or experiencing the greatest disparities in care. Learn more...
POLICY ISSUES
Elections
From WisPolitics.com ...
-- Gov. Tony Evers is recommending a federal judge order Wisconsin to conduct the April 7 ballot largely by mail while moving back deadlines for voters to request absentee ballots, as well as for clerks to receive and process them.
The state DOJ, representing Evers, offered the proposal as a "middle ground" in several federal suits seeking changes to next week's spring election. Assistant Attorney General Hannah Jurss argued the recommendations were meant to "save lives" amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jurss wrote in an amicus brief late yesterday Evers isn't siding with either party in the combined suits. But instead, he's offering suggestions "were this Court to order short-term changes to the election process under these extraordinary circumstances."
The brief comes after Evers last week called on lawmakers to change state statutes to allow for every registered voter to be mailed an absentee ballot in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Republican legislative leaders rejected that proposal, which Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald knocked as "complete fantasy" and "logistically impossible."
The state's top election official later said local clerks would not be able to get the materials necessary to follow through on the guv's proposal.
The Elections Commission also said yesterday nearly 60 percent of Wisconsin municipalities are short poll workers. And 111 jurisdictions say they don't have enough staff for even one polling place.
In the brief, Jurss urged easing restrictions on returning absentee ballots and taking steps to make it easier to count the anticipated influx of ballots by mail. As of yesterday morning, local clerks had already received 972,232 requests for absentee ballots, according to the Elections Commission. That exceeds the 819,316 absentee ballots that were cast in the November 2016 presidential election.
The brief asks U.S. Judge Willam Conley to consider:
*Extending the April 2 deadline for registered voters to request an absentee ballot. A new deadline wasn't offered in the brief.
*Issuing an order that would "relax" enforcement of the requirement for a witness signature on absentee ballots to make it easier to return them quickly and without person-to-person contact. State law requires another adult U.S. citizen to sign a mail-in absentee ballot attesting they witnessed the voter sign the ballot. But with state and federal guidelines calling for social distancing practices, Jurss argued it would be "problematic" to force voters into in-person interactions.
*A "short" extension to the deadline of 8 p.m. on Election Day for clerks to receive absentee ballots. The brief uses a one-week delay as an example to help facilitate an election primarily conducted via mail.
Members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission Elections yesterday rejected by a 4-2 margin a motion that would have asked Conley for a similar extension despite a majority of the panel backing the idea. The commission's three Dems opposed a piece of the motion affirming the election should be held on April 7, while GOP Chair Knudson highlighted "ripple effects" that could interfere with the local and state canvass process.
*Ordering municipalities to set up "return drop boxes" to help avoid in-person contact, recommending the use of book return slots at local libraries, which are currently closed due to the pandemic. In a memo to clerks yesterday, the Elections Commission recommended such a move.
*Allowing clerks to open absentee ballots before 7 a.m. on Election Day and push back the deadline to count ballots to account for a potential extension for clerks to receive ballots by mail.
The brief urges in-person voting should still be allowed Tuesday -- "or as soon as possible thereafter if the Court deems April 7 to be impossible" -- for the few who were unable to vote absentee. That group of voters would include, for example, those who require assistive technology or are unable to read and write in English without help.
NOTE - The hearing is at 1:00 today, April 1. We will be closely monitoring the news and will provide a SPECIAL EDITION newsletter if a decision is issued today or tomorrow morning.
Gov. Tony Evers to use National Guard members to work the polls amid massive shortage of workers
 Gov. Tony Evers has agreed to use members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard to work at the polls during the April 7 election amid a massive shortage of poll workers that is leaving some communities without anyone to give voters ballots on Election Day. 

More than 100 communities in Wisconsin don't have any poll workers for the spring election in six days and a record number of voters are overwhelming clerks with absentee ballots — leading to warnings that thousands of votes may not be counted. Read the story...
Reminder - Elections Commission Issues Multiple Guidance Memos on Conducting the Spring Election During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Over the weekend, Wisconsin Election Commission staff issued several memos to municipal clerks on how to best conduct the spring election in the midst of a pandemic. The   public health guidance packet  for elections is posted on  WEC's website  and includes the following:

  • Checklist. This checklist was developed with the advice of a public health official to outline processes for conducting Election Day voting safely for voters and poll workers. Please review the checklist and incorporate these practices into your Election Day planning.

  • Poll Worker Health Screener. The public health official advising the WEC has suggested that on Election Day poll workers be screened to ensure that they can safely work. Attached you will find the screening questions to ask to poll workers. You may either choose to have each poll worker fill out the screener or post the screener and ask poll workers to read the questions and answer them.

  • Polling Place Signage. As is discussed in the attached checklist, it is advised that you place signs on the entrance and in relevant spots in the polling place to advise voters of procedures and enforce social distancing standards. Again, these signs were developed with the advice of a public health official. We will also be distributing printed signs to each county to be distributed to municipalities along with other supplies.  

  • Hospitalized Electors. At its March 27 meeting, the Commission voted to expand the definition of hospitalized elector to include voters in quarantine. We also worked with a public health official to discuss the recommended process to conduct the hospitalized elector process with quarantined voters. This memo to clerks outlines the recommended process and explains the expanded definition.

  • Curbside/ Drive-Through Procedures. Clerks have asked for guidance on how to conduct curbside voting in accordance with health guidance for those who are not able to enter the polling place. There have also been jurisdictions who have asked for advisement on how to conduct outdoor or “drive-through” voting. This memo to clerks outlines the recommended process and provides public heath procedures.

  • Absentee Witness Requirement. Clerks and voters have also asked for guidance on how absentee voters can have their ballot witnessed in accordance with public health guidance. This memo to clerks outlines the recommended process and provide suggested options for voters who are having difficulty meeting the witness requirement.
Election Worker Training Resources
The Local Government Center (LGC) at UW-Extension has created a ninety-minute election training that clerks can use to train new election workers. This training is free to any clerk that wishes to use it. Melissa Kono, County Extension Educator in Clark and Trempealeau Counties, created the training presentation and materials. Victoria Solomon, Green County Extension Educator, assisted with the training presentation and developed the Recruiting materials.

The resources are available  on the LGC website  so that a clerk can download it to use as required. These materials follow the Wisconsin Election Commission training guidelines. An individual can watch on their home computer or a computer at the local government office. The training is a recorded ZOOM webinar, accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation.

Election Worker Recruitment:
The Local Government Center has also developed resources that include a  sample recruitment pitch  (PDF) for clerks to use to recruit new election workers. 
Steps municipalities are taking to keep voters, poll workers and staff safe during the Spring Election.
Thanks to everyone who provided their great ideas. The responses from the survey of municipal clerks conducted by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities the week of March 23-27 is here .
Creative steps municipalities are taking to recruit enough poll workers for the Spring Election
The list is a compilation of responses the League of Wisconsin Municipalities received from a survey of municipal clerks the week of March 23-27. It can be found here .

The League's Coronavirus Elections page is here .
Gov. Evers #SaferAtHome Shelter in Place Emergency Order


Emergency Order #12 Impact on Municipalities  (PDF) by Steve Zach, Boardman & Clark LLP 

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC)
Frequently Asked Questions
Public Utility Payments

Q: How should a utility respond to a customer that informs the utility they’ve decided to defer the payment of their bills? How should a utility handle non-payment by a large customer (industrial)?

A: The Order associated with Docket 5-UI-120 is not a directive for customers to stop paying their bills. Customers who are able to pay their bills should continue paying them during the public health emergency. Customers who do not pay their bills may be subject to disconnection and late payment charges when the public health emergency is lifted. In addition, the Order provides for a utility to submit a request to the Commission to disconnect a customer during the public health emergency.

Also, The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was signed into law Friday, March 27, 2020 includes a Paycheck Protection Program that may provide some assistance – in the form of a forgivable loan -- to certain businesses to pay utility bills and other eligible expenses incurred during a portion of this emergency period. This program is described more below. If you have a commercial or industrial customer that may have difficulty paying their utility bill, you may want to discuss this program with them. It may be beneficial for them to pay their utility bill now with funds obtained through a forgivable loan than to defer payment of their bills to a later date. 

More information, including the PSC FAQ, on the League's COVID-19 Utilities page here .
Frequently Asked Questions
From the League's past COVID-19 Newsletters


March 30, 2020

Who is an “emergency responder” under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)? by the Federal Dept. of Labor
See the League's website here under Federal.

Are employees of a local health department or agency considered “health care providers” that may be excluded from paid leave under the FFCRA? by the Federal Dept. of Labor
See the League's website here under Federal.


March 27, 2020




March 26, 2020

Emergency Order #12 Impact on Municipalities  (PDF) by Steve Zach, Boardman & Clark LLP 

Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
Sample Employee Policy and Guidance
See the League's website here under Federal.

Governor's Emergency Powers
The scope of Governor’s emergency powers does not include suspending statutes. Read more about the Governor’s emergency powers in this recent Legislative Council Information Memorandum on: AUTHORITY OF PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIALS DURING A PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY


March 25, 2020

Impact on property assessment and taxation by DOR
See the League's website here.


March 20, 2020

Summary of the recently enacted Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act

HR 6201 Families First Coronavirus Response  SUMMARY  

HR 6201 Families First Coronavirus Response  Paid Sick Leave  


March 19, 2020

Wisconsin Elections Commission’s Latest Actions Regarding Spring Election Preparedness
Answer: See the League's website here .

Effect of DHS’ Order #5 on Municipalities
(Prohibitions on gatherings of 10 or more people)
Answer: See the League's website here.

Can Restaurants Providing Meals for Carry-out and Delivery Sell Alcohol?
Answer: See the League's website here .



Municipal Emergency Powers During COVID-19
Answer: See the League's website here .



Complying with the open meetings law during the COVID-19 health emergency.  
Answer: See the League's website here . Includes Wis. Dept. of Justice guidance we received March 16, 2020.

Spending to address COVID-19 and the Expenditure Restraint Program .
Answer: See the League's website here. Includes guidance we received from the Wis. Dept. of Revenue on March 13, 2020.
Continuing to conduct meetings  

Remote Public Meetings Toolkit  (PDF) By Dane County - March 26, 2020

The  Office of Open Government  in the Wisconsin Department of Justice has issued two advisories indicating that governmental bodies may meet remotely during the COVID-19 public health emergency and still comply with the open meetings law.  March 16 Advisory & March 20 Advisory

Local Government Options for Conducting Meetings Remotely (PDF) by Curt Witynski, Deputy Executive Director, League of Wisconsin Municipalities explains the options and the Advisories. It has been shared with the other local government associations, including the Clerks Association.

Federal
Massive Federal Stimulus Package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Signed into Law

Last Friday, March 27, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the  CARES Act . Provisions in the Act helpful to municipalities are summarized by the National League of Cities  here .
Reminder - Coordinating with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Updated additional guidance from FEMA here .
Includes "What Local Governments Should Do."

Note: FEMA recommends that local governments follow the guidelines for Procurement Under Grants Conducted Under Exigent or Emergency Circumstances .”

The National League of Cities CitiesSpeak blog on seeking FEMA assistance .
If you don't find what you need or if you have resources to contribute,
please email Jerry Deschane.
Communications
10 Ways You Can Do Your Part: Going the Distance Together  (PDF) By the UW-Madison Communication Collaborative for COVID19 Coronavirus Response Team (This project was initiated by the League.) 
REQUEST - Please send us your photos typifying your experience from this last week for publication in the League's May magazine

Photos will be placed in chronological order. Our goal is to provide a look back at what was happening with you and with your municipalities during these few weeks. It doesn't matter what kind of work you do in service to your community, please share a photo or two!

Photos can be from your work with the City or Village or from your personal experience.

Send your photos straight from your Smartphone in the highest resolution possible to Sandy at league@lwm-info.org

Subject line should be easy for Sandy to flag: Photo for League magazine

In the body of your email, please include:

  • Municipality Name
  • Submitted by or Photo Taken by (so we can give you credit)
  • Date photo was take 
  • Short Caption - just a sentence or two explaining the photo.

We will include as many photos as we can. We will be accepting photos until April 10. You can submit more than once.
In the News

Hobby Lobby quietly reopened stores in at least 2 states, defying coronavirus-related shutdowns and prompting police intervention
On Monday, the company resumed business in several states where it had been forced to temporarily close. A March 28 memo obtained by Business Insider equipped managers with talking points for "how to respond and communicate if visited by a local authority that asks why we are open."  Read the story...

The Four Possible Timelines for Life Returning to Normal
The new coronavirus has brought American life to a near standstill, closing businesses, canceling large gatherings, and keeping people at home. All of those people must surely be wondering: When will things return to normal?

The answer is simple, if not exactly satisfying: when enough of the population—possibly 60 or 80 percent of people—is resistant to COVID-19 to stifle the disease’s spread from person to person. That is the end goal, although no one knows exactly how long it will take to get there. Read the story...

SURVEY: MANY STILL FIND IT HARD TO STAY HOME DURING PANDEMIC, WORRY ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH DURING ISOLATION
“We want physical distancing, not social distancing,” Brossard says. “We want people to stay connected to their social group, to talk over the phone and over Skype and through the window as much as they can. Their responses reflect the importance of keeping up those connections.”

Dozens of UW–Madison faculty, staff and students took up the survey project on March 17, which benefitted from the leadership of Jordan Schwakopf, a research specialist in Brauer’s lab. The survey went online March 18, and is still open  here .

Brossard was struck by the size and speed of the initial survey response, gathered over the course of just a few days.

The research is a partnership between the League of Wisconsin Municipalities and UW–Madison departments and centers, including UniverCity Alliance, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Wisconsin School of Business, Global Health Institute, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Mayors Innovation Project, Morgridge Center for Public Service, the schools of Nursing and Human Ecology and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Read the article here...
We go to work for you. Please stay home for us!

We know that you have been working hard to keep your community safe and services available. Thank you!

You can download this hot off the press "We go to work for you" graphic as a PDF here .

This work is the result of the League's partnership on messaging with UW Madison that we initiated March 16. Stay tuned for more.
Please consider sharing Facebook posts from the Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services Facebook page to your own Facebook page. Scroll down their page to see what they've posted.

Copy and paste this explanation of #SaferAtHome into your posts:

To slow the spread, limit close interaction to the same 5 people TOTAL, NOT different small groups."  #SaferAtHome
Webinars and Training
Join the Facebook Politics & Government Outreach Team to learn about tips and tools that State & Local Government partners can leverage on Facebook during this unprecedented time, and have your questions answered in real time.
Wednesday, Apr 1, 2020 1:00 – 2:00 PM CST
 
Friday, Apr 3, 2020 11:00 – 12:00 PM CST
Please share with any State and Local government agencies, elected officials, or their staff across the nation who may be interested.   

***

Disrupted economic development: A webinar for public sector leaders
Thursday, April 2
By Baker Tilly

***

Preparing for the New Day: Calming the chaos, focusing on the finances, readying for resilience
Friday, April 03 - Noon CT
A 60-minute webinar for leaders of local government finance and innovation.
Open to all, designed for local government finance, budget, and innovation staffs.
By Alliance for Innovation with Mark Funkhouser - Nick Kittle - Rebecca Ryan
General Resources
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SERVICES
COVID-19 is a virus that has not previously infected humans and information about its rate of spread and its effects is still largely unknown, which makes it incredibly important to be highly cautious in dealing with the current situation. 

LATEST UPDATES
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services will continue to provide the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19. You are encouraged to monitor the site for updated guidance as the situation continues to evolve.


Want to share relevant and credible information to your Social Media?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Facebook & on Twitter (Scroll down to see more recent posts.)

The Wisconsin Dept of Health Services (DHS) on Facebook & on Twitter.

And the League's social media: