2020 SUMMER GRASSROOTS TOOLKIT FOR COUNTIES RELEASED
it is no question that pandemic-related response has dominated legislative
and policy conversations, it is critical to ensure the dialogue is focused on
longer-term impacts, including the FY 2020-2021 budget and critical election
reforms ahead of the November general election. As what is anticipated to be
a summer legislative recess begins, it is a perfect time to continue advocacy
conversations and stress the importance of focusing on those issues that
matter most not only to counties, but also to Pennsylvania residents.
help get the conversation started, CCAP has developed the 2020
Summer Grassroots Toolkit, which includes information and talking points
on the FY 2020-2021 budget, 2020 county priorities as well as critical
election reforms for the November general election. The toolkit also includes
a one-stop guide for additional advocacy materials and information, as well
as a customizable editorial stressing the important role of counties.
toolkit and other helpful advocacy resources can be found on the Legislative
Action Center page under the Government Relations tab at www.pacounties.org.
U.S. SENATE HEALS ACT INTRODUCED
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced a $1 trillion
proposal, the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protections and School
(HEALS) Act, to kick off the next steps of federal coronavirus relief
the urgent needs for counties to receive additional financial assistance, the
HEALS Act would not provide new funding to state and local governments beyond
what was already provided in the CARES Act's $150 billion Coronavirus Relief
Fund. It would, however, provide some additional flexibility, allowing CARES
Act dollars to be spent past the original Dec. 30, 2020, deadline and
including lost revenue as an allowable use, capping use toward revenue
shortfall at 25%.
are some important public health resources included in the proposal: $16
billion for testing, $25 billion more for the hospital/provider fund, and $15
billion for child care. The bill would also provide some funding for the 2020
Census and workforce training that counties could access within the overall
$302 billion supplemental appropriation requested under the plan.
May, the U.S. House approved Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency
Solutions (HEROES) Act, introduced by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
(D-CA). 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. Negotiations
continue to try to strike a compromise between the two chambers, with
Congress's summer recess looming on Aug. 7.
are advocating for additional flexible, direct federal aid to address
the enormous economic and public health challenge that COVID-19 has
presented. More on the county impact of federal legislation can be
found on the NACo website, www.naco.org.
SENATE STATE GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE HOLDS ELECTIONS
July 23, the Senate State Government Committee held a hearing regarding elections
reforms. Committee chair Sen. John DiSanto (R-Dauphin) set a main objective
of determining what changes may need to be considered in advance of the
November general election, based on Pennsylvania's experience in the June
primary, including pre-canvassing and mail-in ballot chain of custody.
of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar testified that the Department of State's
(DOS) top priority is to extend the pre-canvassing period, still subject to
the rules of regular canvassing, which would allow more time for the manual
labor process of preparing mail-in ballots for tabulation. Second, DOS is
interested in allowing more flexibility in appointing poll workers. When
questioned about the security of mail-in ballots, Boockvar and Deputy
Secretary for elections and commissions Jonathan Marks emphasized that secure
absentee voting has been in place for decades and that the same process has
been duplicated for mail-in ballots, including eligibility checks during the
hearing also included the perspectives of several county commissioners and
election directors who discussed what changes they believe are important to
make prior to the general election. Suggestions included extending Act 12
emergency provisions regarding polling places and poll workers to November in
light of the continuing public health emergency and the need for clarifying
language on acceptable and timely return of mail-in ballots.
submitted written testimony
primarily calling for extending the pre-canvassing period up to three weeks
prior to the election, adjusting the deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot
to 14 or 15 days before an election, clarification on if and how drop boxes
may be used and how to handle ballots that have marks on the secrecy envelope
or are lacking one altogether. CCAP emphasized that counties will need prompt
and clear action by the legislature in consultation with counties in
order to be able to effectively implement any changes in the diminishing
MENTAL HEALTH CONCERNS HEARD BY HOUSE HEALTH COMMITTEE
July 28, the House Human Services committee held an informational meeting on
mental health care during COVID-19. Testifiers included OMHSAS deputy
secretary Kristen Houser, Berks County mental health and developmental
disabilities administrator Dr. Edward Michalik and Beaver County Behavioral
Health administrator Gerard Mike, as well as several other medical
professionals. While comments among testifiers varied, all remarked on the
potential lasting impacts of COVID-19 on families and communities regarding
mental health and personal wellness. Michalik noted that counties will be
tasked with helping vulnerable residents put their lives back together. With
devastation hitting families not eligible for Medicaid, county programs do
not have the resources to properly assist the influx of people seeking
services. Mike echoed the comments, praising the work of county programs in
their pandemic response, including addressing social determinants of health.
from legislators were primarily aimed at the mental health of youth,
especially as they adapt to a new personal, social and learning environment.
Other questions included those trying to understand the longer lasting
impacts and needs of Pennsylvanians. While data is still being collected as
communities adjust to the pandemic lifestyle, there were not specific answers,
it is clear the pandemic will have lasting impacts on individuals and
communities that the commonwealth will need to prepare to address.
Even before COVID-19, counties recognized the
importance of increased funding for mental health services and designated it
as a 2020 county legislative priority. With services needed now more than
ever, adequate funding for counties to provide these services is critical.
Read more on the increased funding for mental health priority at www.pacounties.org.
NEW LAW FOCUSES ON MENTAL HEALTH NEEDS OF EMS WORKERS
Wolf recently signed HB
1459, introduced by Rep. Mike Schlossberg
(D-Lehigh), into law as Act 69 of 2020, which creates statewide mental
health resources for emergency responders, including county 911
dispatchers. Specifically, Act 69 calls for statewide mental wellness and
stress management guidelines, peer-to-peer support and a toll-free helpline
for emergency responders. This approach invests in a comprehensive approach
to address the mental health needs of our emergency responders, including
prevention and intervention services that can assist individuals in dealing
with the pressures of working in the emergency response field before they
become overwhelming. This effort is consistent with the recommendations in
the SR 6 report, as well as CCAP's EMS
WOLF ADMINISTRATION UNVEILS 'TRAUMA INFORMED PA' PLAN
On July 27, the state Office of
Advocacy and Reform (OAR) released its Trauma-Informed PA plan, an initiative
that compliments Gov. Wolf's anti-stigma effort, Reach Out PA, that is
focused on mental health.
The Trauma-Informed PA plan seeks to
guide the commonwealth and its service providers on what it means to be
trauma-informed and healing-centered. It puts forward 43 recommendations
under six key topical areas to heal and prevent trauma through such steps as
universal training, building and supporting community-based efforts and
ensuring that all state agencies' policies and practices are trauma-informed.
One key area focuses on recognizing and healing trauma caused by a major
crisis, such as COVID-19, while another seeks to prevent and heal from
racial, communal and historical traumas.
This work was accomplished through the
collaboration of 25 experts chosen to participate from a diverse spectrum of
specialty fields of work as well as urban, suburban and rural communities
throughout the commonwealth, including several county representatives. The
full report is available at the OAR's website.
NACO RELEASES MODEL TO AID COUNTY COVID-19 MITIGATION EFFORTS
The National Association of Counties
(NACo) recently released a customizable model that counties can use in
decision-making related to the COVID-19 impact on their communities.
The COVID Response Simulator is a
localized, customizable version of the public COVID Act Now (CAN) model,
which utilizes case data to predict the spread of diseases and can be modified to reflect local situations.
Additionally, the model can project the impact of specific Non-Pharmaceutical
Interventions (NPIs) for a county, including closing schools, restricting
business activities and limitations on large gatherings and events. With
specific local information, the model can generate data and graphs to
illustrate forecasts with and without NPIs, including estimated case numbers
as well as hospitalizations.
More information and access to the
model can be found on the NACo website, www.naco.org.
In early August, each CCAP member will be emailed a
voting matters packet with items to be considered at the Tuesday business
meeting of the upcoming CCAP
Virtual Annual Conference. The agenda packet will include proposed policy
resolutions, along with information on officer elections and site selection
for the 2025 Annual Conference. The resolutions will be deliberated during
the business meeting on Aug. 18, and then submitted by electronic ballot to
the full CCAP membership within 10 days of the conclusion of the business
meeting for final adoption.