MAC COVID-19 Update
White House aide: States and locals must make data case for more aid

Speaking during a special live edition of MAC’s Podcast 83 today, a presidential aide said state and local associations needed better data to justify additional federal rescue aid in the COVID-19 crisis.

Doug Hoeschler, director of intergovernmental affairs for the White House, told MAC, “The president has answered this question (on more aid); he hears that concern and would look at it. The challenge so far that I have seen is we have not received good data on real revenue losses and projections. This needs to be more than one month of revenue projections; not just a one-month issue.”

Hoeschler also noted that state and locals need to be maximizing the federal aid that is available for COVID-related expenses, such as from FEMA and through the CARES Act.

He did say that it was the president’s intent, and Congress’, for states to push CARES Act funds down to local governments on COVID. In recent comments, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her budget team, however, have indicated that the state is in no rush to share CARES Act dollars with the 79 counties that did not receive direct federal aid under the bill.

“We appreciate this clear statement of intent by the White House on CARES Act dollars,” said MAC Executive Director Stephan Currie. “Mr. Hoeschler emphasized today that states and locals need to be working in partnership on this effort and we could not agree more. Partners share the challenges – and the resources to meet them.”

Prior to Hoeschler joining the podcast, MAC’s governmental affairs team discussed the state budget situation and how MAC will prioritize its legislative strategy for the rest of 2020.
MAC executive director makes case for county aid on ‘Beckmann Show’

Michigan counties that are “literally on the front line” of the pandemic response need assistance to deal with the rising costs and falling revenues prompted by the COVID crisis, MAC Executive Director Stephan Currie said on WJR-AM’s “Frank Beckmann Show” this morning.

Currie, speaking from his home in East Lansing, noted that Michigan’s rising unemployment rate, which is devastating state budget projections, also could harm property tax payments this summer, adding that Wayne County already was projecting a 20 percent to 30 percent drop in property tax revenues.

Currie, however, expressed optimism about future federal assistance to counties as Michigan’s congressional delegation turned its attention to the next rescue package, specifically citing Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s and Rep. Dan Kildee’s former experience as county commissioners as key assets.

“We made progress with last package (which was enacted this week), with county funding in it up to the end (of negotiations),” Currie explained. “Now, discussions are starting up again on local governments and on infrastructure projects. … It will take a little more time to get across the finish line.”
U.S. Treasury issues guidance on use of CARES Act funds

In a four-page guidance document released this week, the U.S. Treasury Department emphasized that money for state, local and tribal governments under the CARES Act is to be used for reimbursing expenses directly related to the COVID-19 response.

While large cities and counties will receive direct payment from the federal government for reimbursements, other local governments are dependent on their states to decide if they will receive any reimbursements from the CARES package.

MAC has calculated that the state of Michigan will receive nearly $3 billion in CARES Act funds after the counties of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Kent and the city of Detroit receive their payments. This money could be shared with local units for COVID expenses, but the state is encouraging local governments to seek reimbursement from FEMA instead. (It’s important to remember that FEMA reimbursements are based on a 75/25 cost share, whereas there are no such cost share provisions in the CARES package.)

Unfortunately, the much-anticipated guidance did not direct states to release such funds to locals; instead, it leaves it up to the state to determine how to utilize those reimbursement funds.

MAC has advocated for a significant portion of that money be set aside for local cost reimbursements and was told by a White House official today that was certainly the administration’s intention when they backed the bill.
Report: Easing of ‘Stay at Home’ restrictions to be announced Friday

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to announce Friday, along with an emergency powers resolution extension, the ability for Michigan residents to golf and motorboat as long as proper social distancing measures are followed and other safety precautions are made, the MIRS News Service reported Thursday afternoon.