OML UPDATE AT-A-GLANCE
Here are the top four things you need to know from this past week:
- HB 481, which contains the distribution of $350 million of federal CARES Act aid to local governments, has been signed by the Governor. The state will begin distributions to counties next week. Municipalities must pass a resolution in order to receive their distribution. Attached HERE is the revised resolution with updated state and federal references. Municipalities must also register their DUNS number with the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) at grants.ohio.gov.
- In our efforts to provide our members with the most recent information on the progress of the state distribution of federal CARES Act aid, the League will be hosting a Zoom call for our membership with Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Kim Murnieks on Thursday, June 25 at 3 p.m. This call will provide a municipal-only perspective on the distribution of funds and how the funds can be used. In order to participate in this important Zoom meeting, members must register in advance HERE.
- The Office of Budget and Management (OBM) has released a guidance document on the Coronavirus Relief Fund Local Government Assistance Program, which you can read in full HERE. The document contains general information on how funds can be used, along with a list of frequently asked questions. Additionally, OBM will be hosting a webinar on June 24 from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. to discuss the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) Local Assistance program as a result of HB 481. Details and registration are available at https://bit.ly/3112R2O.
- National League of Cities (NLC) Board of Directors have unanimously approved a Resolution on the Use of Force by Municipal Law Enforcement Officers directing NLC to start developing recommendations on how municipal leaders can ensure their law enforcement agencies "use of force policies" are appropriate. You can read the resolution in full HERE.
AUDITORS OFFICE COMPILES RESOURCES FOR MUNICIPALITIES
In response to COVID-19, the Auditor of State's Office (AOS) has compiled resources to help clients navigate the requirements and availability of fiscal assistance and guidance. The information has been added to the AOS website providing clients and partners with many of the necessary resources to help maintain continuity and manage the accounting implications of respective coronavirus responses, while continuing to stay safe and healthy. These resources include, but are not limited to:
- a list of Federal programs for which new or increased federal financial assistance, flexibilities, and waivers are available to state agencies or local governments in Ohio (see the CARES Act and Federal Assistance Spreadsheet link);
- deadline extensions across Federal, State, and other organizations (see Deadline Extension link);
- AOS answers to frequently asked questions;
- financial reporting considerations for state and local government management;
- free virtual learning opportunities for state and local governments;
- AOS advisory and policy updates, including recorded group teleconferences with Auditor Faber;
- assistance for local governments experiencing fiscal distress.
GOVERNOR DEWINE AND ATTORNEY GENERAL YOST HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE ON POLICE REFORM RECOMMENDATIONS
This week, Governor DeWine was joined by Attorney General Yost at a press conference during which the Governor outlined his proposals for police reform.
Gov. DeWine announced immediate funding for six hours of training on de-escalation, use-of-force and implicit bias in 2020 for any law enforcement officer in Ohio who has not received that training this year. The Governor has also directed the State Highway Patrol place body cameras on all state troopers and to allow the Bureau of Criminal Investigation to investigate all fatal shootings and in-custody deaths involving law enforcement.
The rest of the proposals outlined by the Governor would require action by the legislature. DeWine called upon the General Assembly to:
- create permanent funding for law enforcement training as smaller departments sometimes cannot afford additional training;
- create a standard definition of use of force and require reporting when those incidents occur;
- ban chokeholds unless it is determined that the incident was a life or death situation;
- mandate that potential officers have a high-school diploma and pass a psychological exam before beginning training;
- mandate that body cameras be placed on every officer in the state;
- mandate that law enforcement officers be professionally licensed;
- designate an independent entity with the investigation and prosecution of all officer-involved shootings and deaths that happen in custody;
- create a law enforcement accountability board charged with determining professional standards and discipline.
The Governor asked that the legislature begin holding hearings on these proposals immediately. We will keep our members apprised of all police reform legislation that may be introduced.
STATE UPDATES RELATED TO COVID-19
- As of Thursday afternoon, Ohio is reporting 43,122 cases of coronavirus, 2,633 deaths, 7,104 hospitalizations and 1,807 ICU admissions.
Testing and PPE Updates:
- Gov. DeWine released the latest basic reproduction number or R0 for eight regions of Ohio. The R0 represents the number of people, on average, that a person will spread a disease to. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that COVID-19's R0, without interventions, to be 2.5. With Ohio's interventions, the R0 for the state measured at 0.87 on June 7. Ohio is beginning to see the R0 plateau in Region 7 and 8.
- Additional temporary pop-up testing locations will be in Elyria, Portsmouth, Xenia, and other locations. More information on pop-up sites can be found at coronavirus.ohio.gov.
- Gov. DeWine reminded houses of worship to continue utilizing the best practices when resuming in-person services. While these are not requirements, they are best practices that include having families sit socially-distant from other families; encouraging members to wear face coverings; and eliminating the touching of common surfaces, such as the collection basket and hymnals, as much as possible. This guidance can be found at coronavirus.ohio.gov.
- Although Ohio is seeing an overall declining number of COVID-19 cases, there is currently an uptick in cases in Southwest Ohio. Increases are being seen in Montgomery County, Greene County, Clark County, Warren County, and Hamilton County. Case counts in these counties by zip code can be found on coronavirus.ohio.gov.
- In response to this increase in cases pop-up testing sites will surge into the zip codes with the highest number of cases. Testing at pop-up sites is free, and citizens are not required to live in the community where the pop-up site is located to receive a test. A list of sites currently scheduled in Ohio is available on coronavirus.ohio.govon the COVID-19 Minority Health Testing page.
- There has been an increase in the percentage of children testing positive for COVID-19 at Rainbow Babies, while hospital admissions for COVID-19 in children at Rainbow Babies have also increased. Symptoms of COVID-19 in kids are similar to symptoms in adults. The DeWine administration recommended that children who seem to be having trouble breathing or not eating or drinking get tested.
- Gov. DeWine has announced the creation of a new Hospital PPE Readiness Stockpile, which will be compiled and stored by Ohio hospitals throughout the state. Items in the PPE stockpile will be distributed to residents and staff at long-term care facilities should there be an increase in COVID-19 cases. Hospitals have begun to build a 30-day reserve of PPE based on several calculations, including the state's surge models, the number of residents and staff at Ohio nursing homes, as well as recent FEMA PPE allocations to each Ohio nursing home. Each hospital will have a different amount of stockpile that is calculated specifically for the region. The stockpile is a collaborative effort between the Ohio Hospital Association, hospitals throughout the state, and several state agencies, including the departments of Health, Medicaid, and Public Safety.
Assistance Programs Update:
- $1 million in grant funding has been awarded to Ohio's local Family and Children First Councils (FCFC). Local FCFC's serve some for Ohio's must vulnerable children and often need services from many different agencies. These grant dollars will help local FCFC's ensure that children can continue to connect with their loved ones and access essential medical services.
- More than 65,000 children a day are expected to take part in Ohio's Summer Food Service Program this summer. With more than 1,500 sites across the state, many of the programs have set up new guidelines for distributing food to kids. Additional information can be found at education.ohio.gov/kidseator by calling 866-3-HUNGRY.
- The Office of Budget and Management (OBM) and InnovateOhio have identified $950,027 in savings to state taxpayers through data analytics applied to state agency spending ledgers. These are actual taxpayer dollars recovered, not just potential savings identified. The total dollar amount of duplicate payments identified totals $1,008,876, leaving $58,849 still in the process of being recovered.
- The total number of confirmed duplicate payments identified by InnovateOhio from January 2019 to May 2020 is 107 across 27 different agencies, boards, and commissions. The duplicate payments tool was initially announced in November 2019. The initial release is available on the InnovateOhio website.
- Gov. DeWine signed an executive order that expands the definition of good cause throughout the COVID-19 State of Emergency. Good Cause now includes the following situations:
- a medical professional recommends that an individual not return to work because that person falls into a category that is considered high-risk for catching COVID-19 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and their employee cannot offer teleworking options;
- the employee is 65 years of age or older;
- there is tangible evidence of a health and safety violation by the employer that does not allow the employee to practice social distancing, hygiene, and wearing personal protective equipment;
- the individual has been potentially exposed to COVID-19 and subject to a quarantine period as prescribed by a medical or health professional;
- the individual must stay home to care for a family member who is suffering from COVID-19 or subject to a prescribed quarantine period by a medical or health professional.
- You can read the order HERE.
- Because most of Ohio's economy is now open, the coronavirus.ohio.gov/JobSearch website will transition back to Ohio's regular job-search website, OhioMeansJobs.com. That sitecurrently has over 120,000 job postings, with almost half paying over $50,000. Approximately 76,000 jobs require less than a bachelor's degree, while 36,000 require either a bachelor's degree or associate's degree. Approximately 77 percent of the job openings are considered in-demand.
- Phase II of the Responsible RestartOhio plan for sports activities will allow contact practice for all sports to resume on Monday, June 22. You can read the training guidance HERE.
- The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reports to the U.S. Department of Labor show that for the seventh straight week, continued weekly claims for unemployment benefits have declined. Those who remain jobless filed 287,499 fewer continued claims last week compared to the peak in April.
- Over the last 13 weeks, ODJFS has distributed more than $4.1 billion in unemployment compensation payments to more than 700,000 claimants. Of the more than 1 million applications the agency has received, more than 94% have been processed, with less than 6% pending.
- Lt. Gov. Husted reminded Ohioans to be on alert for individuals that may want to take advantage of them with potential fraudulent cures, work-from-home offers, and messages asking for personal information. He also warned Ohioans of fraudulent unemployment claims. Resources on how to protect your personal information and protect yourself from fraud are available at coronavirus.ohio.gov, the Ohio Department of Commerce or the Ohio Department of Insurance websites. Those who think they have been a victim of fraud are encouraged to contact the Ohio Attorney General office.
FEDERAL UPDATES ON LAW ENFORCEMENT, INFRASTRUCTURE AND "CITIES ARE ESSENTIAL" OUTREACH
Cities and villages across the country are struggling with the revenue impacts of COVID-19. NLC is leading the way on Capitol Hill to bring more federal aid to not only Ohio cities and villages, but all municipalities across the country. Their efforts include the "Cities are Essential" campaign, highlighting need for more federal partnership and finical assistance. It is important that our federal leaders hear from our municipal officials. Attached HERE is an easy and efficient letter template you can send to remind Congress how essential cities really are. Please take a moment to use the template and contact Senators Portman and Brown and your members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Law Enforcement Reform Legislation:
On Tuesday, President Trump signed the Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities to address police brutality. The order would direct federal dollars to those police departments that meet certain credentialing standards on the use of force. The executive action also makes it harder for those officers with a troubled history from getting hired by other departments.
Next week, the House Democrats and Senate Republicans are looking to pass competing proposals to reform policing in America. The bills share some common ground:
- both call for increased data collection among police agencies, encouragement for de-escalation training and encourage the use of body cameras by law enforcement;
- both would make lynching a federal crime.
Municipal concerns with both bills center around their focus to penalize local governments that do not comply with the requirements in the legislation. Specifically, the bills will withhold anywhere from 20% to 100% of the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) that are directly awarded to local law enforcement agencies that do not:
- adhere to the use of force reporting requirements;
- comply with no-knock warrant reporting (in the Republican bill) or ban no-knock warrant (in the Democrat bill);
- ban chokeholds;
- have policies on the use of body warn cameras;
- maintain disciplinary records on law enforcement officers;
- ban racial profiling.
The Senate Republican bill would do the following:
- increase the funding from $22 million to $100 million for the body-worn camera grant program;
- establish a new $150 million grant program within Byrne JAG that local law enforcement can use for training in de-escalation, duty to intervene, alternatives to use of force and responses to mental health crises programs;
- reauthorizes the Byrne JAG program at $800 million and the COPS Hiring program at $400 million.
The House Democrat bill includes the following provisions:
- does not include new or additional funding for de-escalation training, body worn cameras and duty-to-intervene training;
- lowers the bar for the prosecution of police officers for misconduct. While prosecutors currently need to prove that an officer "willfully" violated an individual's constitutional rights, the bill would lower that standard to actions taken "knowingly or with reckless disregard" for a person's rights;
- eliminate qualified immunity for federal, state and local law enforcement officers.
The Senate Republican bill does not include language on qualified immunity. In nearly all cases where qualified immunity is a factor, it would be the local government that ultimately pays for any awarding of damages, not the officer or the law enforcement agency.
The NLC has stated that is opposes legislation to limit or eliminate qualified immunity for municipal law enforcement officers.
Federal Infrastructure Bill with Transportation Amendment:
The U.S. House of Representatives is advancing their "Moving Forward" infrastructure bill. The House Transportation $494 billion reauthorization proposal, "Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America" (INVEST) Act, is serving as the base bill with over 200 potential amendments being considered by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Two of these amendments impact cities and are supported by NLC. The first was an amendment that would increase the local share of the Surface Transportation Block Grant up to 60% of the total program by the end of the five-year bill. The second is a key bipartisan amendment that will support state of good repair, maintenance, create a clear cost-benefit-analysis on projects and encourage fiscal responsibility.
We will continue to keep our members apprised of federal legislation that would impact municipalities.
OPWC RELEASES UPDATE ON STATUS OF FUNDS
The following is a message from the Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC) to members:
"Our legislative leaders have been working to fund Ohio Public Works projects in a timely manner. The reappropriations bill is currently awaiting Governor DeWine's signature. This legislation contains what we call "old money" - previously released/active State Capital Improvement Program (SCIP) and Revolving Loan Program (RLP) funded projects (Rounds 33 and prior) and all active Clean Ohio projects (Rounds 14 and prior). Late last week, the House amended a bill, SB 4, to include one year's worth of funding for SCIP, RLP and Clean Ohio. This "new money" would fund the previously selected Round 34 SCIP and RLP projects and provide funding for Clean Ohio Round 15 (projects to be selected). This legislation still needs Senate concurrence. The Senate will be reconvening next week. The final step would, of course, be the Governor's signature.
The effect of a signed reappropriations bill will permit us to continue to pay bills on existing projects after July 1. Please recall that we are about to experience the annual fiscal year-end shutdown that closes out the current fiscal year and resets fiscal operations for the new fiscal year. Typically, this allows us to reopen our payment procedures about July 1 or within a few days thereafter. SB 4 will enable us to release the infrastructure SCIP and RLP project agreements on or about July 1. We will have them ready to go for release with the funded Local Transportation Improvement Program (LTIP) projects. Unlike previous years, considering we continue to telework and the short timeframe, we intend to make all project agreements with project official letters available on our website.
An enacted SB 4 will also permit us to proceed with the Small Government process. The intention is to allow applicants one week to review their individual composite scores, as we have provided historically, soon followed by the Small Government Commission's review and approval for a quick release of those project agreements as well. An enacted bill will also provide $3.5 million in funding for the Emergency Program. Lastly, the bill will fund a new Clean Ohio round.
Once we are assured of signed legislation - both the reappropriations bill and SB 4 - we will provide another communication with additional information."
NEW BILL OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST
Here is a bill introduced this week that would impact municipalities:
- HB 704 - COMMUNITY REDEVELOPMENT AREAS. Sponsored by Rep. Cross (R - Kenton) and Rep. Fraizer (R - Newark), would modify the law governing Community Redevelopment Areas and the terms under which property may be exempted in such areas.