June 5, 2020
Municipal Leader COVID-19 Update #7
Updates on the public health crisis for Boards of Health, Selectboards, Town Administrators, First Responders and Emergency Managers.
FRCOG’s latest COVID-19 municipal leader bulletin is being distributed three months after the first case of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. The sacrifices made by our region have resulted in a major slowdown of infection but enormous challenges continue to face our nation, state and region in managing the reopening process safely and recovering economically.

Helpful Links:
  • For the latest Franklin County MACC situation report click here
  • For the latest COVID Command Center situation reports click here
  • For the COG’s COVID Municipal Resources Page click here.
  • For the DOR Division of Local Services COVID site, click here

FRCOG has been polling town clerks and moderators about their town meeting and town election plans. Great work is being done around the region to balance the need to protect public health and to have a participatory democracy. Most communities are planning some kind of outdoor or socially distanced annual town meeting, with many articles put off until the fall, and a number of towns are waiting until later and exercising their option for operating with a 1/12 budget until then. See the Town Meeting section of the FRCOG’s COVID-19 website for some sample guidance. 

FRCOG’s Multi-Agency Coordination Center (MACC) issues weekly reports on Thursdays that provide a common operating picture to all responding to COVID-19 in Franklin County. To read past reports and view the COVID-19 Data Dashboard, click here . This week the MACC reported that the peak appears to be behind us, and Franklin County’s healthcare stakeholders are seeing a plateau of cases. Many communities are doing extensive risk communication work and working to increase access to masks and other PPE as we anticipate an eventual re-opening. 
Message from the MAPHCO Joint Information System

The Mohawk Area Public Health Coalition continues to build and disseminate messaging for the general public regarding risk reduction regarding COVID-19. The most recent messaging includes a piece presenting how local boards of health are collaborating with other municipal partners to ensure safety in government operations and daily life, and another that outlines the role the general public plays in keeping COVID-19 case numbers low in the region and moving the Reopening Massachusetts plan forward quickly. The most recent messaging can be found here ; all prior messaging is available on the FRCOG’s Local Board of Health COVID-19 Resources page.

Across the region, businesses and governments are busy responding to updated guidance on the State’s reopening website, which offers sector-specific guidance to everything from restaurants to white water rafting, manufacturing, and more. Of particular interest this week was the release of the summer camp, youth and adult sports , and child care guidelines. If you are just looking for an overview of the four-phase process, these slides are a helpful start. Here at the FRCOG, our health agents have been fielding numerous calls from libraries, restaurants, school graduation planners, houses of worship, and more to help interpret the Governor’s “Global Standards”  as well as the Sector Specific Standards .
How municipal governments can help their small businesses 
The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) created a document with ideas for “how municipal governments can help their small businesses to reopen, recover, and thrive.” It offers thoughtful insight and a variety of suggestions for municipalities and the State. While many of the suggestions are more appropriate for cities, some could be applicable to small communities or the region. For example, one suggestion is for municipalities to consider how to expand opportunities for businesses to sell goods and services, such as allowing outdoor vending that is consistent with state health and safety guidelines. This could take the form of allowing a retail store or restaurant to extend their space by permitting them to use part of the sidewalk (if sufficient space) or to use a parking space or parking area near their business to create an outdoor market or for outdoor dining. Check it out here .

PPE for Reopening Program 
The FRCOG has been working with the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce , Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) , and Franklin County Community Development Corporation (CDC) to coordinate bulk purchases of personal protective equipment for local businesses and municipalities to reopen their doors. The FRCOG and Chamber are fronting funds to make the bulk purchase and asking participants to repay us within 30 days. The first round of purchasing, limited to organizations that were deemed “essential” or eligible to open during Phase I of the Governor’s Reopening Plan , occurred last week and we are working to get another order ready for those eligible to open in Phase II next week. For more information, please visit our new COVID-19 Procurement webpage .

Access to small business guidance and resources
There are several organizations that have curated a list of guidance and resources to help small businesses and non-profits at this particular time. These links and more are periodically updated at https://frcog.org/publication/view/business-development-resource-guide/

The deadline for communities to submit applications for FY20 Coronavirus Relief Funds has been extended one week until Friday, June 12th.  Federal CARES Act funds can reimburse towns for expenses on COVID that had not been budgeted prior to March 27. Please click here to view Division of Local Services guidance and click here for a letter sent to each municipal chief executive officer. Please also see a webinar held in conjunction with the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA). Please note that applying for these funds does not require that your community is running in deficit, only that you did not budget the funds you expended in response to the pandemic. The State’s distribution process allows municipalities to apply online for estimated Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) needs. Municipalities will then have the opportunity to request funding for FY21 eligible COVID-19 costs at a later date.
Starting June 1, the FRCOG began welcoming staff back to the office, following the State’s guidance for offices that allows up to 25% of occupancy.

We have developed a comprehensive COVID safety plan, and made significant changes to our work environment to protect the staff and future visitors. For now, the Olver Transit Center remains closed to the public, except by appointment, and the majority of our staff continues to work from home. We continue to explore all available technologies and creative approaches to getting our work done on behalf of the towns of Franklin County and beyond. 
Municipal Officials Workshop Series Goes Virtual!
Save the Date: Selectboard 101 – Thursday, July 30 th at 6 pm; online. All recently-elected selectboard members are invited to join an in-depth discussion on the ins and outs of being a selectboard member. Two veteran Franklin County selectboard members will share their experiences and insights, and facilitate a discussion designed to provide support to newly elected selectboard members. Formal registration, with finalized timing, presenters, and Zoom link, will be sent out in late June. Stay tuned!   

This is a particularly difficult time for many people in our region, with the stressors of unemployment, school cancellation, and social distancing piling up. Some important resources you can share with residents include:

  • The Greenfield Safe Schools Safe Streets Coalition (4SC) and Gill-Montague Community School Partnership have shared resources for families, including a new weekly newsletter for parents.

To read the FRCOG’s previous Municipal Leader COVID-19 updates: