With the state legislature in summer recess, we will be sending out our legislative bulletins every other week and will not be sending a bulletin out next week. We want to wish all our members and their families a happy Fourth of July!
OML UPDATE AT-A-GLANCE
Here are the top four things you need to know from this past week:
- The U.S. Treasury Department has released an updated FAQ on how local governments can spend the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) dollars they will receive through recently-passed HB 481. You can access the updated FAQ HERE. Included in the additions, which are highlighted, is the update that, "payments from the Fund may be used to meet the non-federal matching requirements for Stafford Act (FEMA) assistance to the extent such matching requirements entail COVID-19-related costs that otherwise satisfy the Fund's eligibility criteria and the Stafford Act." Read more in the article below.
- This week, the Ohio Senate concurred on Am. SB 4, the bill that contains one year's worth of appropriation authority for Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC) programs, including Round 34 infrastructure and Round 15 Clean Ohio. The bill has been sent to Gov. DeWine for his signature. Once the bill is enacted, OPWC will release the State Capital Improvement Program project agreements, proceed with the Small Government Program and accept emergency requests. You can access the bill analysis HERE.
- The Office of Budget and Management (OBM) processed payments from the Coronavirus Relief Fund last Friday, shortly after Gov. DeWine signed HB 481. County Treasurers should have seen the funds deposited into accounts on Tuesday, June 23. In order to receive the funds, local governments must pass a resolution regarding how the funds will be spent and send a copy of that resolution to email@example.com. You can find a template resolution HERE. Local government must also register their DUNS with OBM at grants.ohio.gov.
- The Ohio EPA's Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance will be holding a second installment of a new series of webinars focused on environmental issues that have an impact at the local level. These webinars will occur throughout the year and cover a wide range of topics on different ways communities can promote environmental stewardship and improve the environment in their local area. You can read more in the article below.
- We want to thank Attorney General Yost for joining the Ohio Mayors Association conference call to discuss state initiatives related to local policing reforms. We also want to thank Office of Budget and Management Dir. Murnieks for joining our special general membership call to answer questions on how the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) dollars can be spent by local governments. Recordings of both calls are available in the members-only section of the League's website.
NEW U.S. TREASURY GUIDELINES ALLOW USE OF FEDERAL FUNDS FOR FEMA MATCHES, AMONG OTHER CHANGES
The U.S. Treasury Department has released an updated FAQ on how local governments can spend the distribution they receive of the $350 million in
Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) through the CARES Act as allocated by HB 481. You can read the updated FAQ HERE with highlights showing the new additions.
The first addition states that CRF funds can be used to offset the 25% matching requirement for FEMA's Public Assistance Grants. According to the Treasury's updated guidance, "payments from the Fund may be used to meet the non-federal matching requirements for Stafford Act assistance to the extent such matching requirements entail COVID-19-related costs that otherwise satisfy the Fund's eligibility criteria and the Stafford Act. Regardless of the use of Fund payments for such purposes, FEMA funding is still dependent on FEMA's determination of eligibility under the Stafford Act."
While municipalities with populations over 500,000 that received direct CRF allocation from the Treasury are currently able to use the money for the match, municipalities with populations under 500,000 are being directed to work with their state's Emergency Management Administrators to get state specific guidance on reimbursement. Ohio local governments can contact Ohio's Emergency Management Agency HERE to determine how to use the funds for the match.
The second change in the guidance is increased flexibility for the use of funds related to public safety, public health, healthcare, human services and similar employees whose services are substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
According to the Treasury Department, an employer is not required to track time of the employees responding to COVID-19 public health emergency. The updated guidance states: "As a matter of administrative convenience, the entire payroll cost of an employee whose time is substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency is eligible, provided that such payroll costs are incurred by December 30, 2020. An employer may also track time spent by employees related to COVID-19 and apply Fund payments on that basis but would need to do so consistently within the relevant agency or department."
We will continue to keep our members apprised of any updates to the CRF guidelines that may be issued by the U.S. Treasury Department.
NLC RELEASES LOCAL IMPACT SURVEY DEMONSTRATING NEED FOR MORE FEDERAL AID
The National League of Cities (NLC) has released new survey data from over 1,100 municipalities across the country that shows our national economic recovery is at even greater risk of stalling if Congress fails to provide direct federal aid to America's cities and villages. You can find the survey results one-pager (
) and infographic (
CONTINUING UPDATES ON OHIO CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE
COVID-19 Updates and Resources:
- As of Thursday afternoon, Ohio is reporting 47,651 cases of coronavirus, 2,772 deaths, 7,502 hospitalizations and 1,897 ICU admissions.
- The effective reproductive ratio, also known as R naught, measures how many people will be infected by a sick individual. The R naught had reached 2.4 in that region in April. In recent weeks, the R naught had declined to below one. However, in the last 10 days, the R naught has doubled over the last 10 days in the Cincinnati region.
- The Ohio Department of Health will continue funding for the valuable 2-1-1 service as Ohio enters into the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. 2-1-1 is a phone service that connects thousands of Ohioans to local non-profit and government services for healthcare, food and meals, housing, transportation, mental health, and legal services.
- At the beginning of the year, the service was available in 51 of Ohio's 88 counties. When the pandemic began, Ohio EMA asked Ohio AIRS, the non-profit that governs Ohio 2-1-1, to provide service to the remaining 37 counties in Ohio, which happened in March. Ohioans can also dial 877-721-8476 to get connected to 2-1-1.
Public Awareness Campaigns:
- Gov. DeWine announced two public awareness campaigns aimed at spreading awareness of COVID-19 prevention measures that impact the well-being of Ohioans and the Ohio economy. The first campaign is called "I Believe" and focuses on real Ohioans and the prevention measures they take to prevent the spread of COVID-19. You can view the "I Believe - Face Masks" ad HERE and the "I Believe - Social Distancing" ad HERE.
- The second campaign, called "Up to All of Us", discusses the importance of Ohioans taking proper preventative precautions, like maintaining social distance and washing hands, in order to get Ohioans back to work, and our economy working again. You can view the "Up to All of Us" ad HERE.
Local Fireworks Updates:
- Lt. Gov. Husted announced that Independence Day fireworks shows can proceed, but large gatherings are still prohibited at this time. He encouraged any community that plans on holding a fireworks event to do so safely. Spectators are encouraged to find ways to celebrate the Fourth of July in small groups such as by watching displays from their porches, backyards, or cars.
Criminal Justice Updates:
- The first round of funding is being distributed to local criminal justice entities as part of the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Grant. Approximately $2.1 million will be awarded to a total of 65 local criminal justice agencies including law enforcement, probation/parole offices, corrections agencies, courts, and victim service providers. The funding can be used toward COVID-19 expenses such as cleaning supplies, PPE, and medical supplies like thermometers. The funding will also be used to pay for technology upgrades that are needed for teleworking or other virtual services. A complete list of today's grant recipients can be found at coronavirus.ohio.gov.
- A total of nearly $16 million was awarded to Ohio's Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) for this program as part of the CARES Act. OCJS continues to process other grant applications they've already received and are still accepting new applications from agencies that have not yet requested funding. More information on how to apply can be found at www.ocjs.ohio.gov
FEDERAL UPDATE ON PHASE FOUR CORONAVIRUS FUNDING, NEW TRANSPORTATION BILL
Phase Four Federal Aid Funding:
The U.S. Senate Finance Committee has announced that they will develop the next package for Senate consideration on state and local funding. The National League of Cities (NLC) expects for the Senate Finance Committee to have a bill ready when the Senate comes back from recess.
Recess break for Congress, from July 3 to July 19, will be critical in urging Senators to take action on state and local funding when they return to Washington on July 20. Ohio's Congressional delegation needs to hear from their local leaders while they are home.
We urge our members use the time that Ohio's members of Congress are back home to:
- Stress what your financial reality is in terms of your budget shortfall including funding or lack thereof that you have received from your state's distribution of the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds.
- Please stress that emergency relief is not a bailout. Articulate what you would use the funds for and how they would contribute to the maintenance of critical services, planned capital expenditures and keeping your workforce employed.
- They should know that we are willing to consider guardrails in the legislation to ensure that funds cannot be used for unfunded liabilities.
- Your city or village is essential to the economic recovery. Without emergency relief from Congress, cities and villages will be ill-equipped to bounce back quickly from this deep recession.
"Moving Forward" Act:
House of Representatives unveiled the text of and a section-by-section of H.R. 2, also known as the "Moving Forward" Act, which was introduced by Democrats and impacts municipalities in a number of different ways:
The base bill for the "Moving Forward" Act is the House Transportation Committee's $494 billion surface and rail transportation reauthorization proposal, which is also known as the "Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America" (INVEST) Act. It provides the following:
- $319 billion for the Federal-aid highway program under the Federal Highway Administration
- $105 billion for transit programs under the Federal Transit Administration
- $5.3 billion for highway safety programs under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- $4.6 billion for motor carrier safety programs under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
- $60 billion for rail programs.
The INVEST Act can be summarized in two parts: 1) increased COVID-19 support through an extension of current programs in 2021 but with up to 100% federal match and additional eligibility, and 2) an extensive five-year policy revision to bring greater options between modes and to ease the climate impact of transportation with a 46% increase in federal transportation investment.
The National League of Cities (NLC) advocated for several wins for municipalities, including:
- an increase the local share of the Surface Transportation Block Grant from 55% to 60% by the end of the five-year bill
- additional "fix-it-first" cost-benefit language, new discretionary programs for locals bringing almost $49 billion over five years in dedicated funding to address local transportation needs,
- additional reforms to strengthen the State-local relationship, enhance coordination, improve the flow of funds to communities of all sizes, and increase transparency.
The bill makes significant investments to support energy and environmental priorities. For water infrastructure, the bill would:
- provide $40 billion over five years for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund
- provide nearly $20 billion over five years for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund
- allocate $2 billion over five years for municipal sewer overflow and stormwater reuse grants and grants to address non-point source pollution and PFAS drinking water contamination
- invest in clean energy by:
- reauthorizing of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block grant
- promoting renewable energy development and deployment, and incentivizing EV and alternative fuel vehicles and related infrastructure
- help build community resilience to extreme weather events by:
- promoting green and natural infrastructure
- creating a new pre-disaster mitigation program to conduct vulnerability assessments
- requiring climate change impacts to be considered throughout the transportation planning process
- creating a resilience revolving fund for hazard mitigation projects.
For municipalities, the bill would help revitalize communities by:
- reauthorizing and increasing funding for the brownfields program
- establishing guaranteed funding to enhance access to greenspace and develop recreational infrastructure in park-poor urban areas and traditionally underserved communities through the Outdoor Recreation and Legacy Partnership program.
The Moving Forward Act proposes a package of major changes to federal broadband subsidies and programs that would:
- authorize $80 billion to build or upgrade broadband infrastructure not only in areas without any broadband, but also in areas with insufficient, asymmetrical, or high-latency service
- create a Broadband Infrastructure Financing Innovation Program (BIFIA), similar to the WIFIA program for water infrastructure, to provide financing for broadband projects
- overturn state preemption of municipal and public-private broadband ownership and operation
- provide a tax credit for public or public-private broadband provision through 2028
- establish an Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to coordinate all federal broadband funding and activity and provide education and technical assistance outreach to state and local broadband planners
- address broadband affordability and adoption rates through a $625 million digital equity grant program, expansion and reform for Universal Service Fund programs such as E-Rate and Lifeline, creation of a low-income household broadband subsidy, a federal broadband affordability study and a new broadband pricing reporting requirement for internet service providers
- create a $250 million grant program for rural development that incorporates broadband infrastructure and provisions to streamline broadband and telecommunications infrastructure on public lands
- authorize $12 billion for the rollout of Next Generation 9-1-1 technology in communities.
Bonds, Tax Credits and Financing:
In the financing space, the bill proposes to reinstate the advanced refunding of bonds. Prior to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), a municipality could refund a bond and the new bond would be tax-exempt. However, after TCJA, the tax-exemption on advance refunding bonds was eliminated. The bill reverses the provision of the TCJA, which will help communities better manage cash flow by allowing cities and villages to refinance outstanding debt at today's lower interest rates. The bill also:
- makes it easier for smaller issues of tax-exempt debt, defined as issuing $10 million or less in tax-exempt debt annually, to get financing for capital improvement projects by being able to sell debt to small, regional banks
- raises the threshold for small issues from $10 million to $30 million to help smaller issuers that face increased costs of issuing debt due to the lack of economics of scale
- makes permanent the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) and increase the credit from 20% to 30% temporally and then phases it back down to 20%
- provides a new direct-pay bond that will provide a direct subsidy from the government to the investor and will be plussed-up in the event they become subject to sequestration.
This legislation largely falls short in its investment in skills development to ensure there is a prepared and trained workforce in the sectors of infrastructure. Even before communities were on the forefront of response to COVID-19, there was a significant skills mismatch and workforce shortage in the sectors of infrastructure. According to the Departments of Labor and Education local governments needed to increase their infrastructure workforce by 4.6 million workers by 2022.
We will continue to keep our members updated on all federal legislation that would impact municipalities.
DEPT. OF TAXATION ISSUES REMINDER FOR
2020 TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT CAMERA REPORT DUE DATE
The following is a reminder form the Ohio Department of Taxation:
"As a reminder, any local authority (i.e. a municipal corporation, county, or township) that operated or contracted with another party to operate traffic enforcement cameras during the previous fiscal year must file a report with the Department of Taxation on or before July 31, 2020. See R.C. 5747.502(B). The 2020 Traffic Enforcement Camera report is available on the Department's website, here.
Based on the information in the report, the Department is required to reduce 12 local government fund (LGF) payments by 1/12 of the fines collected. If the fines exceed the LGF payments, the Department must also reduce 12 payments to the appropriate county undivided local government fund (CULGF) by 1/12 of the excess fines. See R.C. 5747.502(C). Please note: Based on the current language in R.C. 5747.502, a reduction to the CULGF may impact local authorities that do not operate traffic enforcement cameras.
Example: City A and City B are the only cities located in Grant County, Ohio. For FY 2020, both cities are supposed to receive an equal share of the $400,000 in LGF funds ($200,000 each) and an equal share of the $200,000 in CULGF funds ($100,000 each). However, City A operates traffic enforcement cameras and reports $400,000 in fines for FY 2020 on its annual report. City B does not operate traffic enforcement cameras and thus does not file an annual report.
City A's LGF distribution of $200,000 is reduced by its traffic enforcement camera fines to $0. Additionally, the Grant County CULGF is reduced by the remaining $200,000 in fines collected by City A, leaving the Grant County fund at $0. Thus, City A does not receive an LGF distribution, and neither City A nor City B receives a CULGF distribution for the next 12 months. City B still receives its LGF distribution of $200,000 as normal.
Additionally, the failure of a local authority that operated, or contracted to operate, traffic enforcement cameras to timely file the annual report will likewise affect its eligibility for local government funds. Specifically, the Department is required to cease LGF payments, if applicable, and reduce CULGF payments. See R.C. 5747.502(D).
If you operated, or contracted to operate, traffic enforcement cameras but believe you are not required to submit the annual report or are not subject to the LGF or CULGF distribution reductions, you should provide documentation (e.g., an injunction or decision and order from a court) by July 31, 2020.
For additional information, please visit tax.ohio.gov or contact the Department at (614) 466-7150."
EPA TO HOLD WEBINAR SERIES ON LOCAL ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
Ohio EPA's Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance will be holding its second installment of a new series of webinars focused on those environmental issues that have an impact at the local level. These webinars will occur throughout the year and cover a wide range of topics from how Ohio EPA regulates sources of air pollution, waste management, wastewater and storm water discharges to different ways your community can promote environmental stewardship and improve the environment in your local area. Below is a description of the next webinar in the series.
- Open Burning, Odors, Dust, and Asbestos in Demolition - Open burning in Your Community - June 30, 2020 (10 a.m. - 11 a.m.)
- Presenter: Jim Kavalec, Division of Air pollution Control (DAPC)
Odor and dust complaints are the most frequently received complaints Ohio EPA's Division of Air Pollution Control receives. Ohio EPA also receives numerous questions about the regulation and management of asbestos during demolition. There are state regulations dealing with open burning, dust and nuisance odors, but what should you do if you or your community is having issues with either of these? And how should your community deal with various asbestos issues that may arise when demolition occurs? This webinar will detail what requirements the state has for facilities in your community with dust or odor issues, or those undergoing demolition where asbestos may be present. We will discuss what to do if you get a complaint from your community regarding dust and odors and your local ordinances do not address the problem. Or when demolition activities occur, and asbestos is suspected or found. You will also learn when to ask your district office for help.
NEW BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST
Here are the new bills introduced this week that would impact municipalities:
- HB 705 - PUBLIC NUISANCE. Sponsored by Rep. Miller (D - Columbus), would amend the law regarding public nuisances and blight foreclosure actions and declare an emergency.
- HB 706 - POLICE TRAINING. Sponsored by Rep. Crawley (D - Columbus) and Rep. West (D - Canton), would require peace officers to complete training on de-escalation techniques, implicit bias, procedural justice, and mental health issues, to require information regarding mental health resources and available support be provided to peace officers annually, and make an appropriation.
- HB 707 - TEAR GAS. Sponsored by Miranda (D - Forest Park) and Rep. Boggs (D - Columbus), would prohibit the use of tear gas by peace officers.
- HB 709 - USE OF FORCE. Sponsored by Rep. Denson (D - Cincinnati) and Rep. Upchurch (D - Cleveland), would establish a database of records of use of force by law enforcement officers.
- HB 710 - POLICE PRACTICES. Sponsored by Rep. Denson (D - Cincinnati) and Rep. Upchurch (D - Cleveland), would prohibit police officers from engaging in biased policing and other status-based profiling and require the attorney general's office to establish rules regarding such police practices.
MUNICIPAL BILLS ON THE MOVE
Here is a bill passed by the Senate this week:
- SB 10 - THEFT IN OFFICE. Sponsored by Sen. Wilson (R - Maineville), would expand the penalties for theft in office based on the amount stolen and to include as restitution audit costs of the entity that suffered the loss. The bill was informally passed by the Senate. The League is supportive of this legislation.