CCAP PRESIDENT HIGHLIGHTS IMPORTANCE OF MENTAL HEALTH
21, Clinton County commissioner and CCAP President Jeff Snyder released an editorial
on the importance of increased and sustainable funding in the FY 2020-2021
state budget to support counties and the mental health services they provide
to their residents, especially as mental health concerns continue to grow
amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
had selected increased funding for mental health services as their top
priority for 2020, recognizing that increasing needs for services in
communities statewide are outpacing years of stagnant funding. As such,
counties were advocating for a sustainable and impactful investment in mental
health community base funds to help protect the social services safety net
and ensure community programs could continue and be expanded into areas of
need. Now, though, that safety net has been further stressed by the COVID-19
pandemic, which has triggered job loss, social isolation and other difficult
experiences, and so counties continue to urge lawmakers to increase mental
continue to work on the front lines of the pandemic, navigating the provision
of critical services in a world of stay-at-home orders and social distancing.
As Pennsylvania adjusts to a new normal, counties are, as always, partners
with the state in maintaining healthy, safe and resilient communities.
budget negotiations are underway in Harrisburg, counties ask the General
Assembly and the Wolf administration to show their support for Pennsylvania's
residents by investing in the mental health community base that will continue
to provide critical supports to individuals dealing with the effects of the
coronavirus trauma in the coming year and reinforce mental health
service provision for years to come.
state House and Senate considered several bills of interest to counties while
in session in recent weeks:
360 (Rep. Jesse Topper, R-Bedford) - Extends the deadline
for child abuse history clearance recertifications required under the Child
Protective Services Law and Pennsylvania School Code. Specifically, those
whose clearances would expire during the COVID-19 disaster emergency will
until Dec. 31, 2020 to renew clearances. The governor signed the bill into
law as Act 18 on May 8.
2502 (Rep. Natalie Mihalek, R-Allegheny) - Requires the
Department of State (DOS) to work with counties to issue a report on the 2020
primary election, including mail-in and absentee ballot data. The
bill was amended on the House floor to clarify the timelines in which the
report would be expected, allowing counties 45 days to compile data and DOS
60 days post-primary to issue the report. The House approved the bill on May
19 and it now moves to the Senate for consideration.
327 (Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill) - Adds new
provisions for COVID-19 emergency statutory and regulatory suspensions and waivers
reporting requirements and establishes the COVID-19 Cost and Recovery Task
Force. The bill was amended in the Senate to re-add language that chamber had
previously inserted that would give counties the
authority to develop a countywide business mitigation plan.
Although the House approved the addition of this language, on May 19, Gov.
Wolf vetoed the legislation (Veto 7) on the grounds that it would undermine
the current COVID-19 mitigation methods and prohibits commonwealth agencies
from performing essential operations.
959 (Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Washington) - Establishes
dedicated Medicaid funding for county and nonpublic nursing facilities for
ventilator or tracheostomy patients. The Senate unanimously approved the
legislation on May 11 and it is now before the House for further
1110 (Sen. Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland) - Directs
the Secretary of Health or local health authority to release data related to
confirmed COVID-19 cases to county 911 centers and other first responders
during a proclamation of disaster emergency. Counties have been requesting
this information to assist responders and help to efficiently allocate
personal protective equipment (PPE) resources, but current state privacy laws
have complicated the ability of state agencies to share the data. The bill
passed the Senate in late April and was recently amended in the House
Health committee to clarify certain access provisions. The legislation now
moves to the full House for consideration.
FEDERAL COVID-19 RELIEF: HEROES VS. SMART ACTS
legislators continue to debate a fifth round of coronavirus relief with
different plans emerging in the House and Senate. On May 15, the U.S. House
approved the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions
(HEROES) Act (H.R.
6800), introduced by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
(D-CA), by a 208-199 vote. The HEROES Act contains $3 trillion in relief,
including $187.5 billion in direct relief to counties of all sizes, which
would address both lost revenue and increased expenditures as a result of
COVID-19. County governments would receive approximately $125
billion within 30 days of the bill's enactment and $62.5 billion in year two.
Reports indicate that the HEROES Act is unlikely to advance in the U.S.
Senate, and does not have the support of President Trump.
U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have introduced a
separate proposal in that chamber, the State and Municipal Assistance for
Recovery and Transition (SMART) Act (S.
3752), to provide $500 billion in flexible emergency
funding to state, county and tribal governments that could be used to
backfill lost revenues and provide fiscal relief during the pandemic.
Counties would receive around $80 billion of these funds, which would be
distributed to the states to then allocate to counties by formula, with
one-third based on population, one-third based on infection rates and
one-third based on lost revenue.
continue to advocate for flexible, direct federal aid address the enormous economic and public
health challenge that COVID-19 has presented. More information and analysis
is available at www.naco.org.
PA SUPREME COURT REJECTS MAIL-IN BALLOT DEADLINE DELAY
15, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit brought by several
advocacy groups asking the court to allow absentee and mail-in ballots to be
counted if they were postmarked by election day and received within a week
after the election. The current statutory deadline to accept these ballots
remains 8 p.m. on election night, regardless of the postmark date.
ruling comes as counties finalize preparations for the primary election,
which had been postponed from April 28 to June 2. It is also the first
election in Pennsylvania allowing mail-in voting under Act
77 of 2019, in addition to absentee ballots. While mail-in
ballots were expected to be popular, with the ongoing pandemic Pennsylvania
voters have submitted around 1.6 million applications for mail-in and
absentee ballots, with the application deadline still to come on May 26.
OOR OFFERS UPDATED RIGHT-TO-KNOW GUIDANCE
The state Office of Open Records (OOR) recently issued
an updated advisory related to the Right-to-Know Law (RTKL), to assist
agencies and requesters with navigating issues related to the ongoing
coronavirus emergency. The most recent advisory clarifies that
agencies now in the yellow phase should process RTKL requests and participate
in RTKL appeals as they would normally. Due to the current pandemic,
exceptions may be necessary, and the OOR will continue to address those on a
For more information and to access the Sunshine Act and
RTKL guidance advisories visit, www.openrecordspennsylvania.com.
CHESAPEAKE BAY WATERSHED STATES RECEIVE EPA
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) announced this week that it will award a total of $6 million to states
in the Chesapeake Bay watershed area, including Pennsylvania, to reduce
excess agricultural runoff. Pennsylvania will receive almost $3.7 million, by
far the most of any of the six states slated to receive an award, as it the
commonwealth has 61.6% of the commitments to reduce nitrogen from
agricultural sources in its Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan.
At the same time, a coalition of state
attorneys general from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia and
has filed notice of intent to sue the EPA for not meeting its responsibility
to ensure states meet their 2025 pollution reductions goals. The attorneys
general allege that the EPA has failed to hold individual states, namely
Pennsylvania and New York, accountable for attaining goals in their
Chesapeake Bay pollution reduction plans.
CCAP RESOLUTIONS PROCESS
Throughout the month of June, CCAP policy committees
will be holding their annual conference call meetings to begin consideration
of resolutions amending the PA County Platform.
County officials are encouraged to begin reviewing the Platform now and to
send any proposed resolutions to CCAP Government Relations staff at PACountiesGR@pacounties.org,
or to discuss them with CCAP policy