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COVID-19 Resources

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NC DHHS COVID-19 Webpage​  |  NC DHHS COVID-19 Hotline: (866) 462-3821 ​​

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As efforts build to combat the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in U.S. communities, the N.C. League of Municipalities has assembled the following list of resources to aid or complement local governments’ response, along with helpful articles from the League's communications department. Please also monitor ​your local and national news outlets for updates.

​Email us with additional questions: covid19@nclm.org

COVID-19 Related Events/Webinars

Frequently Asked Questions​​

Resources for NC Local Governments

​​​​​Information from the Governor's Office

Additional Resources​

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'Phase 2.5' Opens Gyms; Bars Still Closed

By NCLM Communications, Sept. 1, 2020

Playgrounds can open, mass gathering limits are increased, and museums and gyms may open at limited occupancy as part of the new "Phase 2.5" of statewide pandemic-related policy unveiled by Gov. Roy Cooper. Bars remain closed under this phase, laid out in Executive Order 163, effective at 5 p.m. Sept. 4. The mask mandate remains in place. "Safer at Home Phase 2.5 continues our state's dimmer-switch approach to easing some restrictions," the governor explained. "We can do this safely only if we keep doing what we know works -- wearing masks and social distancing. In fact, a new phase is exactly when we need to take this virus even more seriously." 

A press release about the order provides contextual detail and data the governor's team used to formulate the new phase. They also released slides with numbers and trends presented to the public at a press conference Sept. 1. A Frequently Asked Questions document was also released in anticipation of inquiries. 

The specific changes going into effect Sept. 4 at 5 p.m.: 

• Mass gathering limits will be increased to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. 

• Playgrounds will be allowed to open. 

• Museums and aquariums can open at 50 percent capacity. 

• Fitness and competitive physical activity facilities can open at 30 percent​ capacity. 

• All employers in North Carolina are strongly encouraged to provide face coverings to their employees. ​

Statewide Restriction on Alcohol Sales Ahead; Bars Remain Closed 

By NCLM Communications, July 28​, 2020 

The following from the governor's office:

"With actions to slow the spread of COVID-19 beginning to hav​e impact, Governor Roy Cooper is doubling down on prevention measures with Executive Order 153 stopping the sale of alcoholic drinks in restaurants, breweries, wineries, and distilleries at 11 pm. North Carolina bars that are currently closed will remain closed. This order will take effect Friday, July 31."

A news release from Governor Cooper made clear that the order won't apply to grocery stores, convenience stores "or other entities permitted to sell for off-premises consumption. Local governments that have implemented orders that end alcohol sales before 11 pm or that apply to other entities remain in effect."

Read the news release for full context and this FAQ guide from the governor's office.

EDA Funding Opportunities Explained​ 

By NCLM Communications, July 10​, 2020 ​

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act gave the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA) $1.5 billion to assist communities for best positioning with the coronavirus. Recently, EDA published answers to anticipated questions about how it actually applies. Here's an example: 

 
Congress appropriated EDA $1.5 billion via the CARES Act. What role will EDA play in strengthening and assisting communities recovering from the coronavirus crisis?

EDA’s mission is to lead the federal economic development agenda. EDA works directly with communities to catalyze locally developed strategies to build capacity for economic development based on local business conditions and needs.

 
CARES Act funds were appropriated under the Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) Program (PDF), which is EDA’s most flexible program. EDA will accept applications for grants to support a wide variety of assistance including:

 
-Planning and Technical Assistance
-Capitalization and Recapitalization of Revolving Loan Funds (RLFs), which provide access to capital for businesses
-Construction of infrastructure and other economic development projects
-Innovation grants.

 
Here's another: 

 
Is every community in the country eligible for EDA CARES Act funding?

Yes. EDA has determined that economic injury from the coronavirus pandemic constitutes a “Special Need” under the EAA program and eligibility may be established on that basis without reference to other economic distress criteria. Nonetheless, applicants for EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance are still required to explain clearly in their application how their project would “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus” or respond to “economic injury as a result of coronavirus.”

 
What specific programs will EDA implement immediately to assist communities?

 
EDA’s CARES Act Recovery Assistance will advance economic development in communities negatively impacted by COVID-19 in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to:

 
-COVID-19 Economic Recovery Planning and Technical Assistance Grants: Provide economic recovery grants to each of EDA’s Economic Development Districts (EDDs), Tribal Grantees, and University Centers, and others.
-Grants to state and regional organizations to develop CARES Act recovery and resilience strategies, including industry supply chain, cluster analyses, econometric analyses, diversification efforts, and travel and tourism-related marketing campaigns.
-Capitalizing or Recapitalizing RLFs (PDF) across the nation targeting businesses in particularly economically distressed areas that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
-Innovation grants similar to Build to Scale, formerly known as Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS)-like awards focused on technology innovation activities that will help communities prevent, prepare, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

EDA expects to receive many more quality applications than it can fund using CARES Act funds. To be competitive, applicants should propose specific, well-defined projects to prevent, prepare for, or respond to the coronavirus pandemic, including economic injuries caused by the pandemic. Proposals that are limited to providing general support for an organization and its mission are unlikely to be successful.


'Safer at Home' Order Extended, Masks Now Required

By NCLM Communications, June 24, 2020 ​

Face coverings are now a requirement in public places, statewide, in an effort from the governor’s team to decrease the spread of respiratory droplets and risk of COVID-19. Gov. Roy Cooper this week announced a new executive order, EO 147, extending the current Safer at Home phase of public restrictions through 5 p.m. July 17, with his team pointing to data showing that the coronavirus numbers are far too worrying to relax policy. The new executive order, issued on Wednesday, “strongly recommends” two years of age as the starting point for mask-wearing.  

In the same general conversation, the governor last week vetoed a bill from the General Assembly to reopen gyms and bars. The General Assembly subsequently held a vote to override the veto this week, but it failed. Legislators followed up with additional reopening bills. 

A press release from Governor Cooper’s team on the new executive order details the public health data points they’ve worked with in their decision making. It also quotes individuals from the healthcare field. “As the leader of the state’s largest health system, I am pro-health and also 100 percent pro-business. In fact, the two are inextricably connected and I’m very proud of the way business leaders and health experts are working together to keep our economy strong,” the release quotes of Eugene A. Woods, president and CEO of Atrium Health. “Medical science says to reduce the spread of COVID-19 masking works, and my sincere hope is that all the people of North Carolina can join forces to make wearing a mask not something we feel we have to do – but something that we want to do to keep each other, our neighbors, our children and our loved ones healthy and safe.”  

The state has released a FAQ document to help with the fine points of EO 147. ​

DHHS Launches New Awareness Tools

By NCLM Communications, June 22, 2020 

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services has launched new tools and resources to help North Carolinians through the pandemic. They include Check My Symptoms (www.ncdhhs.gov/symptoms) and Find My Testing Place (www.ncdhhs.gov/TestingPlace).

To get the word out, DHHS has created the Prevent and Protect Media Toolkit available in English and Spanish. The toolkit includes sample social media posts with images, flyers directing people toward the Check My Symptoms tool, an infographic explaining the testing and contact tracing process, and customizable flyers for testing sites and events in your community. The agency says it will add new tools to the kit over the coming weeks.

More information about testing is at covid19.ncdhhs.gov/testing. Information about contract tracing is at covid19.ncdhhs.gov/contacttracing.  

Governor Announces 'Phase 2' of Restrictions-Easing

By NCLM Communications, May 20, 2020

Gov. Roy Cooper has announced a second phase of restrictions-easing. On May 20, he issued Executive Order 141, which lifts the stay-home order and allows for more business activity, like on-premises dining at restaurants, effective 5 p.m. on May 22. "It is important to stay home if you are sick," notes a Frequently Asked Questions document released along with the order. It outlines all of the practical changes. Governor Coopers office also released related guidance on bars.

While the coronavirus remains a public health crisis, the easing of restrictions is based on science, the governor's office said. “North Carolina is using the data to guide our decisions about when to lift COVID-19 restrictions, and overall our key indicators remain stable,” said Governor Cooper in a news release. “Safer At Home Phase 2 is another careful step forward, and we have to continue taking this virus seriously to prevent a dangerous spike in infections.”​

Governor Announces Modified Stay-Home Order, Phase 1 Easing

By NCLM Communications, May 5, 2020

The following update comes verbatim​ from the office of Gov. Roy Cooper:

Governor Roy Cooper today signed Executive Order No. 138​ to modify North Carolina’s Stay At Home order and transition to Phase 1 of slowly easing certain COVID-19 restrictions effective Friday, May 8 at 5 pm. Certain businesses remain closed as the state continues battling COVID-19.
“COVID-19 is still a serious threat to our state, and Phase 1 is designed to be a limited easing of restrictions that can boost parts of our economy while keeping important safety rules in place,” said Governor Cooper. “This is a careful and deliberate first step, guided by the data, and North Carolinians still must use caution while this virus is circulating.” 

“We must continue to protect our families and neighbors as we take this cautious step forward. When you leave your home, follow the three W’s: Wear a face covering, wash your hands, and wait six feet apart,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the NC Department of Health and Human Services. 
Today’s Order removes the distinction between essential and non-essential businesses. Retail businesses are allowed to open at 50% capacity and will be required to direct customers to stand 6 feet apart, perform frequent cleanings, provide hand sanitizer when available, screen workers for symptoms and more. The Order allows people to leave their homes for commercial activity at any business that is open. 

Certain businesses remain closed, including bars, personal care businesses, entertainment venues, and gyms. Restaurants may only continue to serve customers for drive-through, take out and delivery. 

All workers at retail and other businesses are recommended to wear cloth face coverings. Teleworking is still encouraged for businesses that can practice it.
Though small outdoor gatherings will be allowed in Phase 1, gatherings of more than 10 people generally are still prohibited. The Order encourages cloth face coverings to be worn when outside the home and in contact with others. Everyone who uses a face covering should adhere to this guidance without fear of profiling or bias.

During Phase 1, childcare facilities will be open to serve families of parents who are working or looking for work. These centers will be required to follow strict cleaning protocols. Summer day camps can operate in compliance with NC DHHS guidelines.

NCEM Grant Announcement; May 13 Deadline

By NCLM Communications, May 5, 2020

The following comes from N.C. Emergency Management:
 
EMPG COVID-19 Supplemental Grant (EMPG-S):  The days are ticking down for application submission! North Carolina has applied for and been awarded Emergency Management Preparedness Grant COVID-19 Supplemental Grant (EMPG-S) funds totaling $2,646,523.  These federal grant funds are to be used to support emergency management activities related to the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency. The period of performance for this grant will be 24 months, starting 1/27/2020 and closing on 1/26/2022.
 
North Carolina’s EMPG-S grant program will be implemented at the state level, with 51% of programmatic funding available to Counties and the Eastern Band. Each subrecipient will be eligible for an equal award to cover expenditures with a direct nexus to COVID-19. There is a 50/50 match requirement for EMPG-S. Allowable expenditures can fall in either the planning, organization, equipment, or training categories. EMPG-S funds cannot be used for exercises. Per federal guidelines, funding will be issued to subrecipients on a reimbursement basis.  This is consistent with other grant management requirements such as SHGP and HMEP.  Required reporting from subrecipients will be completed in WebEOC.
 
Sub recipients seeking funding under EMPG-S will need to submit an abbreviated application, including selection of two of six allowable activities.
 
a. 2020.21  Vulnerable Population Registry
b. 2020.27  Public Information Plan
c. 2020.31  Recovery Plan
d. 2020.50  County Original Project
e. 2020.59  Jurisdictional Medical Countermeasure (MCM) Dispensing Plan
f. 2020.61  Healthcare Preparedness Region Activities
 
The NCEM Grants Management team is currently compiling EMPG-S work plans for submittal to DHS. Subrecipient applications will be due back to NCEM Grants Management (NCEMGrants1@ncdps.gov​) no later than 23:59 hours on Wednesday, May 13th 2020. 

Insurance Question: Gov't Buildings Repurposed in COVID-19 Battle? 

By NCLM Communications, April 28​​, 2020​

Frequent question - Our town government has considered repurposing one our buildings to help combat COVID-19. What should we consider regarding insurance?

(The following answer comes from WillisTowersWatson) - Many have inquired as it relates to their property and general liability insurance policies whether re-purposing can be characterized as an Increase of Hazard for which coverage might be suspended. The increase of hazard provision applies when the nature of the insured hazard (occupancy) is changed, post policy inception, and the changed occupancy increases the hazard from that which was originally accepted by the underwriter. As a result, this leads us to conclude that regardless of historical interpretation, it may be advisable to inform the underwriter of any change in the use and occupancy at an insured location to ensure that the insurer is aware of such circumstance.  ​

Latest FEMA Bulletin Updates on Grants

By NCLM Communications, April 27​​, 2020​

The following is from the Federal Emergency Management Agency:

As we transition into the second month of the COVID-19 response, this week’s FEMA Bulletin highlights a Best Practices webpage with centralized information for medical practitioners, emergency managers and other critical stakeholders. The​ experiences and successful interventions of other communities that have already faced certain COVID-19 challenges can help communities during their own response.

The Bulletin also includes some important program application reminders.

-FEMA Region IV External Affairs​

Governor Extends Stay-Home Order, Related Measures

By NCLM Communications, April 23​​, 2020​

North Carolina's stay-at-home order has been extended through May 8 under a new executive order from Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday. It also extends for the same period the closure of restaurants for dine-in purposes along with bars and the closure of other businesses that involve close person-to-person contact. But easing the COVID-19 restrictions is on the table. "The health and safety of people in North Carolina must be our top priority,” Governor Cooper said while unveiling EO 135. “This plan provides a roadmap for us to begin easing restrictions in stages to push our economy forward." 
 
The governor's office lays it out this way:
 
Last week, Governor Cooper laid out the path forward centered on three things: testing, tracing and trends. Today, Governor Cooper and Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of NC Department of Health and Human Services, shared more specifics on those key metrics. The Stay At Home and other orders are extended today because North Carolina has not yet seen a downward trajectory of those metrics needed to begin gradually lifting restrictions. 
 
“North Carolina cannot stay at home indefinitely,” added Governor Cooper. “We have to get more people back to work. Right now, the decision to stay at home is based on the public health data and White House guidance. North Carolina needs more time to slow the spread of this virus before we can safely begin lifting restrictions. I know that this pandemic has made life difficult for many people in our state and I am focused on keeping our communities safe while planning to slowly lift restrictions to help cushion the blow to our economy.”
 
“Data has driven our decisions, starting with the aggressive measures Governor Cooper took early on to slow the spread of COVID-19. Those actions combined with North Carolinians’ resolve to stay home to protect their loved ones have put our state on the right path. If we stick to these efforts right now we will continue to see a slowing of virus spread and we can slowly begin easing restrictions,” said Secretary Cohen.
 
A detailed look at where North Carolina stands on testing, tracing and trends. The metrics that North Carolina is considering aligns with the White House guidance for Opening Up American Again. 
 
In order to begin lifting restrictions, North Carolina needs to see progress in these key metrics:
 
-Sustained Leveling or Decreased Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days
-Currently, North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is decreasing over the last 14 days. 
 
-Sustained Leveling or Decreased Trajectory of Lab-Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days
-Currently, North Carolina’s trajectory of lab-confirmed cases over the last 14 days cases is still increasing, although at a slower rate.
 
-Sustained Leveling or Decreased Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days
-Currently, North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive over the last 14 days is increasing at a slow rate. 
 
-Sustained Leveling or Decreased Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days
-Currently, North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations over the last 14 days is largely level with a slight trend upward. 
 
In addition to these metrics, the state will continue building capacity to be able to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread. These include:
 
-Increase in Laboratory Testing 
-Currently, North Carolina is testing approximately 2,500 to 3,000 people per day and is working to increase to at least 5,000 to 7,000 per day.
 
-Increase in Tracing Capability
-Currently, North Carolina has approximately 250 people doing contact tracing across its local health departments and is working to double this workforce to 500.  
-Availability of Personal Protective Equipment
-The state is working to ensure there are adequate supplies to fulfill requests for critical PPE for at least 30 days. This includes face shields, gloves, gowns, N95 masks, and surgical and procedural masks. Currently the state has less than 30 days supply of gowns and N95 masks. Availability of PPE is calculated based on the average number of requests for the last 14 days compared to the supply that the state has on hand.
 
Governor Cooper also shared information about how North Carolina can gradually re-open over three phases to prevent hot spots of viral spread while also beginning to bring our economy back. These phases are based on the best information available now, but could be altered as new information emerges. 
 
In Phase 1:
-Modify the Stay At Home order allow travel not currently defined as essential allowing people to leave home for commercial activity at any business that is allowed to be open, such as clothing stores, sporting goods stores, book shops, houseware stores and other retailers.
-Ensure that any open stores implement appropriate employee and consumer social distancing, enhanced hygiene and cleaning protocols, symptom screening of employees, accommodations for vulnerable workers, and provide education to employees and workers to combat misinformation
-Continue to limit gatherings to no more than 10 people
-Reopen parks that have been closed subject to the same gathering limitation. Outdoor exercise will continue to be encouraged.
-Continue to recommend face coverings in public spaces when 6 feet of distancing isn’t possible
-Encourage employers to continue teleworking policies
-Continue rigorous restrictions on nursing homes and other congregant care settings
-Local emergency orders with more restrictive measures may remain in place. 
 
Phase 2
At least 2-3 weeks after Phase 1
-Lift Stay At Home order with strong encouragement for vulnerable populations to continue staying at home to stay safe
-Allow limited opening of restaurants, bars, fitness centers, personal care services, and other businesses that can follow safety protocols including the potential need to reduce capacity
-Allow gathering at places such as houses of worship and entertainment venues at reduced capacity
-Increase in number of people allowed at gatherings
-Open public playgrounds
-Continue rigorous restrictions on nursing homes and other congregant care settings 
 
Phase 3
At least 4-6 weeks after Phase 2
-Lessen restrictions for vulnerable populations with encouragement to continue practicing physical distancing and minimizing exposure to settings where distancing isn’t possible
-Allow increased capacity at restaurants, bars, other businesses, houses of worships, and entertainment venues
-Further increase the number of people allowed at gatherings
-Continue rigorous restrictions on nursing homes and other congregant care settings 

Governor Cooper and Dr. Cohen both underscored the need for the testing, tracing and trends to move in the right direction for each of these phases to move forward. If there is a spike in infections, tightening of restrictions may be needed temporarily.

Information about K-12 public schools will follow later this week.  ​ 

N​LC, Partners Call for 'Robust' Aid to Local Gov'ts 

By NCLM Communications, April 21​​, 2020​

The National League of Cities and other national groups representing state and local governments are calling on Congress to roll out immediate aid to help state, territorial and local governments. "State, territorial and local governments are fighting this pandemic as partners to provide unique and non-duplicative services to protect public health and economic stability, despite significant losses of revenue as a result public of health measures requiring a pause on most economic activity," a press release said Tuesday. The CARES Act didn't contain such funding or relief for local governments representing populations of less than 500,000. ​
 

Retails Merchants Association Shares Policy Ideas Re: EO131

By NCLM Communications, April 20​​, 2020​

The N.C. Retail Merchants Association has asked that the following be posted for local governments' consideration with regard to the provisions of Executive Order 131, which the governor issued April 9, adding new restrictions on retail to safeguard against COVID-19 transmission.

"Dear Local Leader,  

"On behalf of retailers across the State, the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA) sincerely appreciates your tireless efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic in your communities.  

"NCRMA is working with our members to communicate the provisions of Executive Order 131. As you know, the order requires retailers to implement new maximum occupancy standards, marking of 6-foot distances in high-traffic areas and cleaning of high-touch areas. Having these provisions consistent statewide is of great importance allowing retailers to keep their primary focus on the health and safety of customers and employees while serving communities. 

"In addition, there were items included as recommendations in the Executive Order rather than requirements. This distinction came about after much discussion and policy considerations which are highlighted below. We understand that many of you may look to other jurisdictions or practices already implemented by specific retailers and consider whether these types of measures should be required for all retailers in your communities. Below are some of the policy considerations and real-world experiences from retail store operations illustrating why these measures should continue to be strongly encouraged throughout all of North Carolina but not required. Should you have questions or wish to discuss any of these issues or ideas we welcome the opportunity to do so with you."

View the full document of policy considerations from the Retail Merchants Association.


 

Directory Links Suppliers, Essential Providers In Need of Supplies

By NCLM Communications, April 20​​, 2020

SupplyConnector.org is a certified way to connect essential providers in need of supply materials or finished goods with those who have them available. “Manufacturers and material suppliers are pivoting to meet the needs of essential providers during the COVID-19 crisis. Be a part of the effort,” the site reads. Presented as a directory, users can click portals like “Can Help,” “Need Help,” “Find Supplies,” “Find Needs,” and so on. North Carolina Emergency Management has endorsed the site, which is working with NCEM to provide connections.​


FEMA Briefing Updates on Federal Efforts, Discussions
By NCLM Communications, April 20​​, 2020

A briefing from the Federal Emergency Management Agency released this past Friday provides a bulleted overview of what’s happening improve circumstances as COVID-19 continues its impact. The briefing discusses “reopening” ideas and says FEMA “continues to expedite movement of commercially pre-sourced and commercial procured critical supplies from the global market to medical distributors in various locations across the U.S. through Project Airbridge.” It also has a “By the Numbers” section breaking out stats from the crisis. At the time of publication, 42 states, four territories and more than 37 tribes had issued stay-at-home orders and all 50 states had be​en approved for major disaster declarations.

New Executive Order Further Limits Contact at Retail

By NCLM Communications, April 9​​, 2020

Retails establishments that are permitted to operate under previous COVID-19 measures from state government now must take additional steps to cap the risk of community transmission of the coronavirus and make sure people adhere to social distancing, per a new executive order the governor issued Thursday. Executive Order 131 also seeks to expedite the processing of unemployment insurance claims. For retail establishments, the order “limits retail establishments to no more than 20 percent of the business’s stated fire capacity or five customers for every one thousand square feet of the retail location’s total square footage. Retail locations may choose which of the two calculations on which they base their maximum occupancy. For the square footage calculation, it includes the full footprint of the interior building, and all retail- and non-retail space.” That’s according to an anticipated-questions-and-answers document the governor’s team issued along with the order, which spells out a social distancing requirement as well, along with a number of recommendations for retail spaces. “The Governor expects retail establishments will comply with the Order to ensure the safety of their employees and customers and believes that most of them will,” the document notes. “If necessary, the Order will be enforced by local law enforcement.” Read the full document​ for more, with particulars on how it may affect local orders.​

Recommendations for Law Enforcement Operational Response

By NCLM Communications, April 9​​, 2020​

Public safety is always a priority for law enforcement, and agency staffing levels are strained now more than ever as officers are potentially exposed with Covid-19, requiring monitoring periods that impact their availability for duty. Maintaining proper staffing levels during this time of crisis requires innovation, creativity, and options not considered under normal conditions. Check out this list of recommendations intended to serve as considerations to protect our officers to the extent possible, with the understanding that there are no perfect solutions, or a one-size-fits-all response. ​

N&O Cites League Perspective in COVID-19 Budget Impacts

By NCLM Communications, April 8​​, 2020​

The Raleigh News & Observer included the League's perspective this week in taking a comprehensive look at how COVID-19 has economically impacted local governments. "When people stay home and businesses close, it helps keep the coronavirus in check, but it also leaves local governments with less money to pay for policing, fighting fires, collecting trash and other services," the piece begins, going on to look at the hardhit sources of revenue that support it all. Further, the article notes, "Local government officials say they haven’t been able to focus on the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic because they’ve been responding to the immediate crisis: making sure residents can get food, housing, information and access to online education. The League's Scott Mooneyham is sourced in laying out the context and financial considerations for local governments big and small. Read and share the full article​.

First Week of EO 124 Reporting Requirements Waived

By NCLM Communications, April 7​​, 2020​

Executive Order 124 prohibits utilities (including all municipal utilities) from turning off services to residential users for nonpayment and prohibits utilities from billing or collecting fees, penalties or interest for late or untimely payment for 60 days or the duration of the EO 124. EO 124 includes reporting requirements by all utilities to the N.C. Utilities Commission (NCUC), even though local government utilities are not regulated by the NCUC. EO 124 also allows the attorney general to waive certain provisions in the EO, including the reporting requirement.

After local government utility interests spoke to the attorney general’s office on Monday, that office announced today it is waiving the first week of EO 124 reporting requirements – which would have been due this week -- for utility service providers not regulated by NCUC. The office also noted it is working on a way to clarify the reporting requirements and will update its progress later this week. For more information, the UNC School of Government has issued a very detailed blog post about the requirements under the EO 124.​​

COVID-19 Cleaning Grants Available

By NCLM Communications, April 7​​, 2020​

The League has made grants available to defray some of the costs related to professional cleaning/sanitizing of municipal office environments when a positive exposure of COVID-19 has occurred. Members of the Workers' Compensation and Property & Casualty Trusts are eligible to apply for up to $2,500. Grants will be provided to eligible applicants on a first-come, first-serve basis. Cleaning products and PPE are not covered; read the full 2020 Grant Guidelines​. 

 

Sign Up for FEMA Reimbursement and Prerequisite Webinar

By NCLM Communications, April 6​​, 2020​

Local governments may begin applying to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Public Assistance Program for reimbursement of COVID-19-related expenses. Those interested must take part in an applicant webinar, which N.C. Emergency Management is conducting this week. See the schedule and a ​summary of the program.

Governor Clarifies Enforcement, Testing for Law Enforcement Officers

By NCLM Communications, April 3​​, 2020​

Gov. Roy Cooper has issued a letter of guidance for law enforcement officers in enforcing COVID-19-related executive orders, putting arrests as a "final option" as the weight of pandemic should be enough for people to take the situation seriously. The letter also clarifies testing guidance, "and it prioritizes law enforcement members who may have been exposed to the virus," the governor said. The full letter details how first responders of various kinds are at the same level as health care workers on the priority list. Hospitalized patients remain at the top of the priority list. 
 
"We continue to push for more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline workers, though unfortunately those items are in short supply across the nation and the world," the governor's letter continues. "Please know that we are working every day to get North Carolina more supplies." ​
 
 

NCLM Briefs Town and City Managers on Federal and State Policy, Revenue Projects and HR Updates

By NCLM Communications, April 3​​, 2020​

Speaking to hundreds of local officials Friday morning, League staff detailed the financial fallout of the pandemic, listed immediate responses and actions that municipalities should take, and detailed the League’s present advocacy efforts as it relates to federal and state COVID-19 policy.
 
At the federal level, the CARES Act​, a $2.2 trillion relief package signed into law last week, will appropriate $4 billion to North Carolina through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, with direct appropriations to local governments with populations greater than 500,000. NCLM Executive Director Paul Meyer noted that these funds, however, can only be allocated to expenditures related to COVID-19, and cannot be used to offset lost revenues. Further guidance from the U.S. Treasury is not yet available, but this limitation is clear.
 
The League’s chief advocacy goal is to get those replacement funds through additional legislation, Meyer explained. NCLM staff is in close communication with federal contacts and with advocacy partners at the National League of Cities. All updates regarding these efforts, as well as further clarification on the already-passed CARES Act, will be promptly communicated to members and listed on the League’s coronavirus webpage.
 
Regarding local finances, NCLM Director of Research and Strategic Initiatives Chris Nida walked through the League's annual Revenue Projects Memo, which was published last week. Unlike previous iterations of the report that provided a focused projection, Nida noted that this year’s memo projected a range of estimates, taking into account both the available information and the unprecedented economic uncertainty. Economic data from March will not be available until June. Thus, the League will be providing frequent updates to the memo as data becomes available.

 

 
The events of the past weeks have changed circumstances dramatically and in ways that the available data does not yet reflect. We have surveyed the available information and done our best to synthesize that in a way that we think reflects the current reality for North Carolina’s municipalities, but if there is one common thread that runs among recent analyses, it is that this period of economic activity is unlike any seen in recent decades.
 
What is unfortunately clear, Nida explained, is that cities and towns are facing substantial declines in revenue, due primarily to the drop in sales tax revenue, occupancy tax revenue, and utilities payments. Nida, responding to questions, confirmed that despite the lack of necessary data, the statutory deadlines for passing a budget have not been addressed by the N.C. legislature, and thus balanced budgets must still be ratified by July 1.
 
Additionally, NCLM Human Resources Consultant Heather James highlighted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act​, which was signed into law on March 18, and specifically the Paid Family and Medical Leave and Paid Sick Leave within that act, which must be implemented by all municipalities on April 1. To further address questions surrounding the complexities within that legislation, NCLM will be conducting a free webinar for all members on Thursday, April 10. Further details can be found on the NCLM event calendar.   

League Submits List of Requests to N.C. House

By NCLM Communications, April 3, 2020

Following NCLM's presentation to the N.C. House Select Committe on COVID-19 Tuesday, lawmakers asked for the League to present a detailed list of requests for municipalities. 
 
NCLM Associate Executive Director of Public & Government Affairs Rose Williams submitted that letter to the House committee today, outlining the following requests of the General Assembly:
  • Appropriate $60 million each month to municipalities for April, May, and June, as a way to offset anticipated lost sales tax revenues as a result of mandatory business closings and social distancing measures.
  • Make available $50 million in interest-free loans to municipalities to aid with cash flow challenges created by the deferment of sales tax payments, with loans repayable later this calendar year as deferred sales tax revenues are received.
  • Make available $100 million in new grant funds to help local government water and wastewater utilities meet cash flow needs due to the mandates of Executive Order 124, reduced commercial usage, and other potential losses of revenue due to the ongoing pandemic.
  • As vehicle registrations are deferred and delayed, continue to allow property taxes on those vehicles to be collected on schedule.
  • Clarify the state Public Meetings Law so that councils can meet remotely, protecting the health of the public and meeting requirements of stay-at-home orders.
  • Approve and incorporate the NC FIBER Act into any relief package to assist residents working from home and school children doing work from home with better broadband availability.
 

​Resources Available to Small Businesses

By NCLM Communications, April 1​​, 2020​

The Wake Forest Business and Industry Partnership (WFBIP) has assembled a great explainer of resources for small businesses as COVID-19 ripples through to bottom lines. 
 
"At present, there are two primary business funding opportunities that may be valuable resources as we all endure this pandemic and its economic effects: the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)," WFBIP President Jason Cannon writes on the organization's website. He adds: "The details of these programs continue to evolve, particularly implementation of the PPP on Friday of this week, so I encourage you to remain vigilant as you determine the benefits available to your businesses under these programs." 
 
Read the full post on what's available to small businesses. A comparative graphic there​ shows the differences between EIDL and PPP. 

 

NCLM Presents to N.C. Legislature on Municipal Needs Amid Pandemic

By NCLM Communications, April 1​​, 2020

Presenting to the N.C. House Select Committee on COVID-19​ Tuesday, NCLM Chief Legislative Counsel Erin Wynia spoke clearly on the situation municipalities face as they navigate this health crisis. 

“We've spent the past few weeks working with local officials as they've gone through horrible decisions that no local official wants to make," Wynia said. 

Nearly every sector of life has been affected by the pandemic and subsequent social distancing, Wynia explained. Cities and towns have felt this acutely, as small business have shuttered their doors and local economies have grinded to a halt, resulting in severely diminished tax revenue from several different sources. These include sales tax, occupancy tax, and utilities payments. The services themselves, however, continue to be provided, making for fiscal shortfalls in nearly every municipality statewide. 

As laid out by Wynia to lawmakers, North Carolina cities and towns face urgent needs in three areas. They are listed below.

Financial

Sales tax revenue account for approximately $1.3 billion annually, or 28 percent of the general operating budget for the median city in North Carolina. Occupancy taxes, which result primarily from the tourism industry, account for another $300 million. Local water systems serve 89 percent of the state's population. 

All three areas will be severely impacted by this crisis—sales and occupancy tax revenue due to significantly diminished commercial activity, and utility revenue through non-payment and commercial/industrial customer loss. 

Maintaining cash flows will be crucial. Without support, cities and towns will be forced to make budgetary cuts to public safety and transportation. The federal CARES Act directly appropriated funds to municipalities only with populations over 500,000, so for every city outside of Charlotte, these shortfalls will have to be addressed by additional legislation.

Budget Development and Procedural Clarification 

This category represents perhaps the most pressing need. 

First, municipalities, by law, must pass a budget by July 1. However, budgets are developed by balancing expenses with the upcoming year's projected revenue. The present crisis has made it nearly impossible to project revenue, making the process immensely complicated. 

Second, the state needs to provide clarity on the authority to meet remotely. City affairs must proceed, but it is not clear how to maintain social distancing while also conducting full council meetings, board meetings, and public hearings.

Broadband 

“The need for reliable internet could not be more obvious right now," said Wynia. Yet, many parts of the state are disconnected. Passing the FIBER NC Act, which would allow for public-private partnerships to address the problem, must become a priority of the General Assembly.  

Slides from the League's presentation can be viewed ​here. ​​

Governor Issues Executive Order Prohibiting Utility Shutoffs, Late Fees

By NCLM Communications, March 31​​, 2020

Gov. Roy Cooper has issued a new executive order, this one focused on utility shutoffs, evictions, and financial flexibility for customers of telecommunications services and banks. The governor's office also issued an answers document​ in anticipation of questions that may come in. 
 
Executive Order 124 prohibits utilities from turning off services including water, electricity and natural gas for nonpayment. It also prohibits utilities from billing or collecting fees, penalties or interest for late or untimely payment. It also directs utilities to give residential customers at least six months to pay outstanding bills without owing interest. Utilities additionally are required to inform residential customers of the important pieces of the executive order. 
 
"This Order covers utilities that provide electricity, natural gas, water, or wastewater services, as well as those that provide a combination of these services to residential customers," the FAQ document states. 
 
Read the entire order​ and the FAQ.

Filing for Unemployment

By NCLM Communications, March 31​​, 2020

The unemployment rate is soaring upward nationwide as COVID-19 prompts measures that impact workplaces. Affected individuals in North Carolina can apply for unemployment benefits through the Division of Employment Security, with information at https://des.nc.gov/apply-unemployment.

Additionally, the agency has published a Frequently Asked Quest​ions page specific to unemployment and the coronavirus. It covers the fastest way to file a claim, materials you will need for filing, benefits info, and more. 

COVID-19 Public Assistance Applicant Briefings

By NCLM Communications, March 30​​, 2020

Please read the following message from the state treasurer's office: 

"The Emergency Management Division of the NC Department of Public Safety has released its COVID-19 Public Assistance Applicant Briefing Schedule. You can access the full schedule here. Emergency Management is offering these by region to manage attendance. Two duplicate rounds of briefings will be offered live via WebEx beginning the weeks of March 30 and April 6, with an on-demand version made available after. It is extremely important that someone from each unit attend one of these sessions, even if you are experienced with FEMA processes. 

 
"For this and other COVID-19 information and resources for local governments, please visit our Local Government COVID-19 Resources page."   

​State Answers More Questions About Response, Procedures

By NCLM Communications, March 30​​, 2020

​Last week, Gov. Roy Cooper and fellow state officials held a call with the League and more than 2,000 local government officials to brief everyone at once on the latest with the COVID-19 response. During the call, a chat window allowed the local officials to submit questions. The following i​s a roundup of questions asked with answers from the state. 

Q: Can you speak to the number of hospital beds we have, how we might increase that number and do we have an approximate timeframe we expect to exceed our bed capacity?
"We have worked with our hospital and health care partners to stand up a statewide reporting system to track resources. We hope to be able to validate the system and provide public facing data soon. We will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 closely using a variety of tools normally used to track influenza that have been adapted for this response. This includes testing of samples from a network of clinical sites around the state and tracking of emergency department visits and other healthcare data. More information can be found here: https://www.ncdhhs.gov/covid-19-case-count-nc."

Q: How many deaths has NC had due to the coronavirus?  If any how many had other health issues?
"Up to date information on patient deaths can be found here: https://www.ncdhhs.gov/covid-19-case-count-nc."
 
Q: Are we looking at providing additional small business support with the sharp drop in their sales?
"We've worked closely with our congressional delegation on the package that has now passed the U.S. Senate, and that has a great deal of support for Small Businesses, including $10,000 grants and access to forgivable loans. As we continue to understand the impact of those programs on small businesses, we'll also work with our state legislature to address additional need."

Q: How do you know 20% (of infected individuals) will need hospitalization? 
"The 20% figure requiring hospitalization comes from a World Health Organization (WHO) report, which is based on international data on lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19. According to the report “Most people infected with COVID-19 virus have mild disease and recover. Approximately 80% of laboratory confirmed patients have had mild to moderate disease, which includes non-pneumonia and pneumonia cases, 13.8% have severe disease (dyspnea, respiratory frequency ≥30/minute, blood oxygen saturation ≤93%, PaO2/FiO2 ratio <300, and/or lung infiltrates >50% of the lung field within 24-48 hours) and 6.1% are critical (respiratory failure, septic shock, and/or multiple organ dysfunction/failure).”

Q: What guidance do you have for holding Town Council meetings electronically?
"Public bodies are permitted to meet electronically under 143-318.13. For these purposes, we believe that a "location" is satisfied by the electronic means for public participation. If municipal attorneys have question, we'd encourage them to work with NCLM to help find solutions. The UNC School of Government also has some resources that can be helpful, including this blog."  
 
Q: What is the limiting factor in scaling up our health care system? Is it beds? Ventilators, respirators? Physical space? People?
"We have worked with our hospital and health care partners to stand up a statewide reporting system to track resources. We hope to be able to validate the system and provide public facing data soon. We will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 closely using a variety of tools normally used to track influenza that have been adapted for this response. This includes testing of samples from a network of clinical sites around the state and tracking of emergency department visits and other healthcare data. Supplies have been challenging to obtain because of limits in supply chains nationally and internationally.
Additional information can be found here: https://www.ncdhhs.gov/covid-19-case-count-nc."

Q: Any plans to institute mandatory shelter in place?
"Governor Cooper issued a statewide stay at home Executive Order on March 27th that can be found here."

Q: At the state level, is there any guidance on short term rentals and hotels as many communities are taking independent action?
"Governor Cooper issued a statewide stay at home Executive Order on March 27th that can be found here. Hotels and motels are considered essential businesses under this order."

Q: With the President in talks with wanting to “loosen” the standards for people to possibly go back to work by April, how will this work for us in North Carolina with our cases growing?
"For North Carolina, Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 120 set tighter limits on gatherings and extended school closures statewide to May 15, 2020. The order also closed some businesses that require close social interaction and limited visitors to long-term care centers through April 24th. Additional guidance on the order can be found here."

Q: Do you anticipate the deadline for local governments to approve budget to be extended beyond June 30, 2020 this year?
"We will be working with the General Assembly on policy and budget measures that might be needed to help North Carolina recover from this crisis."​ 

Governor Issues Stay-At-Home Order

Gov. Roy Cooper has issued a statewide stay-at-home order, effective 5 p.m. on Monday, March 30, for 30 days. The following is complete information from the governor's office:

Governor Roy Cooper ordered people in the state of North Carolina to stay at home for thirty days, until April 29, 2020, in another step to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Governor Cooper's Executive Order No. 121 takes effect on Monday, March 30 at 5:00 PM and reduces the size of gatherings to 10 people. The Order provides for essential businesses to continue to operate while prioritizing social distancing measures. The Order has the force of law and will be enforced in all 100 counties statewide.

“To continue our aggressive battle against COVID-19, I have signed a Stay at Home Order for the entire state of North Carolina. Though it is difficult we must do this to slow the disease spread," said Governor Cooper. “We need our medical system to be able to care for the friends and family we know will become seriously ill from the virus."​

The Governor noted today that three North Carolinians have died due to COVID-19 and the state has 763 confirmed cases of the virus in 60 counties. He called on all North Carolinians to protect themselves by staying home and following social distancing guidelines. North Carolina is now considered to have widespread transmission of the virus, which means people who have tested positive cannot trace where they were exposed to the virus.

The Order directs people to stay at home except to visit essential businesses, to exercise outdoors or to help a family member. Specifically, the order bans gatherings of more than 10 people and directs everyone to physically stay at least six feet apart from others.

“I know this order may lead to even more hardship and heartache. Although we are physically apart, we must take this step together in spirit," Governor Cooper said. 

The Governor's full order is available HERE [click.icptrack.com].

Unless noted in the order, previous closures and orders stand as written as do local government orders in cities and counties. Frequently Asked Questions about the Order can be found HERE [click.icptrack.com].

If you do not think your business is included in the essential services list, and you think it should be, you may apply online at the NC Department of Revenue to be designated essential HERE [click.icptrack.com]. Until your exemption is reviewed, you may operate as long as your business can accommodate social distancing in your workplace.

For more information about health recommendations and who is designated at high risk for becoming seriously ill, please visit the CDC's website at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus [click.icptrack.com] and NCDHHS' website at www.ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus [click.icptrack.com].

NLC, Expert Provide Crisis Communication Guidance

By NCLM Communications, March 27​​, 2020

In guiding your community through this pandemic, the external factor of public opinion will have a sizeable impact on your ability to lead. It’s critical to make this factor an asset. Speaking on a National League of Cities webinar Friday morning, Hud Englehart, a crisis communication expert with more than 40 years of experience in public relations and public affairs strategy development, provided clear guidance on how to proceed in crafting and delivering a message to reach that end. 

 
“Your job is not to inform. It’s to stimulate action,” Englehart said. “In this particular global crisis, that notion of action is critical. We need people to do things, not just hear them and understand them.”
 
The following is a summary of Englehart’s presentation, which breaks down into three key points:

 
The Message
At the outset, the question all leaders must answer is: “What are you going to protect?” The answer—the health and well-being of the community—is obvious, yet history has unfortunately revealed that competing interests can outweigh this clear objective, both in the private sector (e.g. Boeing) and the public sector (Flint, Mich.). Do not waver from this priority. 
 
Next, compile your information sources and, with the intention of prompting community action, put together your story. Rely on scientific and expert sources to cut through the noise, and work to then place data in context. “Having data is not the same as having information,” said Englehart. 
 
The Transparency
It is critical to remember that your public is closely tuned in to these events. Body language, delivery, story—to pass public scrutiny, everything will need to be honest and well sourced. 
 
To this end, it is recommended that you share your decision-making process with the community. What sources did you rely on? Who was a part of the process? With this background information in the open, the already-engaged community will better understand the orders and announcements, and will be more forgiving if any mistakes are made, as long as those errors are quickly corrected. 
 
Additionally, the amount of myths and falsehoods surrounding the crisis have been, and will continue to be, immense. They must be dismissed in a way that is compelling. With a transparent process, local leaders can prove themselves to be a source of authority.

The Delivery
The typically tenuous relationship between government and certain external parties has largely been set aside, observed Englehart. Acts of partisanship during this time have been criticized by both ends of the spectrum. Rather, the public has proven itself desiring of honest information and sensible actions. Deliver this with full transparency, and you will likely be able to mobilize your community. 
 
This also applies to harsh rhetoric. It is not desired in this present moment. Tone and demeanor are important. There have been many examples of calm, impactful speeches devolving into hysteria and hyperbole, ruining the message.  

For additional help and guidance, please see NLC’s coronavirus response resources for local leaders. ​
 

State Attorney General Gives Open-Meetings Guidance

By NCLM Communications, March 26​​, 2020

With open-meetings law, even in bad weather, North Carolina cities and towns know what they're doing. But given the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 impact on operations head-to-toe, new questions are coming to mind. With that, State Attorney General Josh has produced a new guidance document on what law allows under these special circumstances. Here's an excerpt: 

"Can local governments carry out their necessary meetings via electronic means during these exigent circumstances? 

"Yes, because electronic meetings are allowed under N.C.G.S. §143.318.13, and the requirements of notice, access and minutes can be met through electronic means.  Due to the unprecedented circumstances we are all faced with, and the fact that local governing bodies conducting meetings remotely is not expressly prohibited by statute, I conclude that local governments can carry out necessary meetings electronically and remain in compliance with Open Meetings Laws." 

Read the full document.

​Updates - FAQs, Preventive Measures, REAL ID Deadline Delayed

By NCLM Communications, March 26​​, 2020

Anti-coronavirus efforts continue across North Carolina and the globe, producing new, often granular questions from local governments regarding emergency actions, restrictions on local business or residential activity, and allowances of law. The League has received a wealth of good questions over the past several days via covid19@nclm.org​ and has answered many of them in direct responses to the parties who wrote in. The most popular questions have been added with generalized answers to our FAQ section at the top of https://www.nclm.org/coronavirus. We continue to update that section and answer questions directly as possible.

Headlines over the past couple of days have highlighted local actions like stay-home or shelter-in-place orders rendered by municipal or county governments to enforce limitations on in-person interaction. As of this writing, state government has not issued a North Carolina-wide order of this kind. As local governments work to identify or define "essential workers" for ordinance purposes, the National League of Cities has authored some general but community-level information based on federal guidelines. For instance, NLC points out, the federal Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, published a memo​ with points to help state and local officials "protect their communities while ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security." Says NLC, "CISA’s is a guidance list and a place to start for local communities. As response efforts to the COVID-19 pandemic are locally executed, state-managed, and federally supported, this list is advisory in nature. It is not a federal directive or standard in and of itself. " NLC does pull out many of the specifics, however, with pointers like considering essential workers that travel through your community, "such as delivery vehicles for food, medical and emergency response supplies." Read the full post

 
Too many measures to mention in a single blogpost are approved or in some stage of development across the nation. One important federal development announced on Thursday: the REAL ID enforcement deadline is being pushed back a full year. Said Acting Secretary Chad Wolf in a statement from the Department of Homeland Security: "Due to circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the national emergency declaration, the Department of Homeland Security, as directed by President Donald J. Trump, is extending the REAL ID enforcement deadline beyond the current October 1, 2020 deadline. I have determined that states require a twelve-month delay and that the new deadline for REAL ID enforcement is October 1, 2021. DHS will publish a notice of the new deadline in the Federal Register in the coming days."

Please continue following this space for updates.
 

Governor Updates Municipal Officials on League Group Call,​ Discusses Federal Funding Request to Help Local Gov'ts

By NCLM Communications, March 24​​, 2020

Updating municipal officials across the state in a group call Tuesday, state officials including Gov. Roy Cooper underlined the growing severity of COVID-19 as they discussed actions underway to slow spread, improve the chain of essential supplies, and secure aid for local government budgets. "I'm not sure that we've ever seen anything like what we are experiencing right now," Governor Cooper told mayors, city council members, managers and more. "It affects every part of our state." 

Governor Cooper acknowledged the looming budgetary and operational problems local governments are already thinking about as the virus eats resources and prompts unprecedented realignments. He said he's "pushing for the strongest package possible" to keep the state and its local governments as whole and ready as possible. He highlighted a $200 billion special funding request the state has made to the federal government. 

At the time of the call -- 2:30 p.m. on March 24 -- the state had documented just shy of 400 positive COVID-19 cases in 49 counties. Officials anticipated cases in every county by the weekend. "This virus is a killer," the governor emphasized. While, in what may be perceived as a bright spot, 80 percent of the people who contract the coronavirus are expected to recover in their homes without hospitalization, a full 20 percent of the infected ​population will need hospital access, and 5 percent of that group will require critical care, public health experts on the call said. The high-risk group includes seniors, people with compromised immune systems and with other pre-existing conditions like lung disease, among others. That said, it's vital that people are conscious of the stress falling on hospitals and make choices to prevent overwhelming caseloads. State Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said partners are "ramping up medical capacity to meet the demand," but that it's vital that communities take social-distancing and smart business measures seriously to prevent an overload of otherwise preventable cases. Some cities are already implementing shelter-in-place orders. 

Current supply-chain issues are amounting to shortages of medical gear, like masks and ventilators. The governor's cabinet has been working with the private sector and federal government to address the issue, which is global at this point. State health officials are also analyzing all global efforts and techniques around the world that seem effective in slowing the COVID-19 spread. Presently, in North Carolina, executive orders have closed businesses that have congregational or human-contact elements, from movie theaters to nail salons. Congregations of 50 people or more are banned. Church services are included, the governor pointed out, adding he had a call with 800 faith leaders from around the state to bring them all to the same page and remind them that they're still serving their communities regardless. "We know that this virus is prevalent in that it can be transmitted so easily, so we are taking the appropriate steps to try and suppress the virus," Governor Cooper said. Stay home as much as possible, he said repeatedly. 

Said Dr. Cohen, "Most people can call their doctor, get monitored from home and recover." 

Local governments may have rafts of questions about procedure, ethics and law in dealing with or combatting the spread. Please send these questions to covid19@nclm.org​.
 

Governor Orders Add'l Businesses Closed, Limits Gatherings to 50

By NCLM Communications, March 23​​, 2020

New statewide restrictions have come down in efforts to further de-escalate the COVID-19 spread. The measures Gov. Roy Cooper announced Monday immediately reduce the crowd limit of gatherings to 50 persons (from the previous 100 limit). They also give more types of businesses a 5 p.m. Wednesday deadline to close. They are bingo establishments, bowling alleys, skating rinks, indoor exercise facilities such as gyms and yoga studios, health clubs, indoor pools, live venues, movie theaters, roller skating rinks, spas, sweepstakes parlors, arcades and personal care businesses like barber shops, hair or beauty salons, businesses that treat or style nails, and tattoo shops. "We want you to close as soon as possible," Gov. Roy Cooper said at a press conference​. While grocery stores may remain open, the governor urged the public "not to overbuy." ​

"The governor also imposed a ban on visitors – other than health care personnel and those providing end-of-life care – to long-term care facilities, nursing homes, mental health group homes and other facilities for those with intellectual disabilities," WRAL reports​

State Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry advised the public to accept information only from reputable sources, as untrue rumors are rampant on social media with regard to COVID-19 and regulations. "Make sure you choose reliable news sources and consider the source of the information you receive," he said. Over the weekend, Sprayberry noted, the state requested the Federal Emergency Management Agency grant a major disaster declaration for North Carolina. "If granted, it would authorize many of the same programs activated after a hurricane," including public assistance for local governments, he explained. Officials expect a response in the coming days. 

Sprayberry marked Monday as the 14th day of an active Emergency Operations Center at the state level. 
 

Cyber Attacks on Rise; How To Protect Your Systems

By NCLM Communications, March 23​​, 2020

Cyber attacks are on the rise and municipalities need to be extra vigilant in protecting municipal assets from cyber attacks during the Covid-19 pandemic, when cyber criminals will be working harder to infiltrate computer systems. If a member of the League’s property and liability insurance pool experiences a cyber intrusion or incident, time is of the essence in mitigating the extent of the event. Members should contact our cyber insurance provider, Beazley, to report the claim and to mobilize resources.

To report a claim and to receive support services, please visit Beazley Breach Response Claims.

Employees are the front lines of defense against cyber attacks and must be extra vigilant in conducting computer activities.

It is anticipated that cyber criminals will use the Covid-19 crisis to infiltrate systems by hosting phony websites for items such as PPE, sanitizers, and other mitigation measures. Please be aware of unsolicited emails promoting products or services. 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation Cyber Crime w​ebsite provides the following tips for preventing ransomware (primarily aimed at organizations and their employees, but some are also applicable to individual users):

• Make sure employees are aware of ransomware and of their critical roles in protecting the organization’s data. (suspicious emails and links should not be accessed)
• Be Careful What You Download: Carelessly downloading e-mail attachments can circumvent even the most vigilant anti-virus software. Never open an e-mail attachment from someone you don’t know, and be wary of forwarded attachments from people you do know. They may have unwittingly advanced malicious code.
• Patch operating system, software, and firmware on digital devices (which may be made easier through a centralized patch management system).
• Ensure anti-virus and anti-malware solutions are set to automatically update and conduct regular scans.
• Manage the use of privileged accounts—no users should be assigned administrative access unless absolutely needed and only use administrator accounts when necessary.
• Configure access controls, including file, directory, and network share permissions appropriately. If users only need read-specific information, they don’t need write-access to those files or directories.
• Disable macro scripts from office files transmitted over e-mail.
• Implement software restriction policies or other controls to prevent programs from executing from common ransomware locations (e.g., temporary folders supporting popular Internet browsers, compression/decompression programs).
• Back up data regularly and verify the integrity of those backups.
• Secure your backups. Make sure they are not connected to the computers and networks they are backing up. 

Source: FBI.GOV

For More information. Please visit: FBI CYBER CRIME RESOURCES

Retail Sector Advises Local Governments on Restrictions

By NCLM Communications, March 20​​, 2020

Highlighting the stress so many sectors are feeling under COVID-19, the Retail Merchants Association has shared concerns it would like to extend to local governments. Chiefly, the association wants to encourage cities and towns to align with the governor's statewide rules on restrictions and to not apply stricter regulations. The association explains that in past instances, such as after hurricanes, when cities have implemented certain restrictions additional to those from the governor, supply chains have been impacted. Supplies may be cut off if trucks need special local access permits and aren't able to access destinations to unload supplies, such as to grocery stores. To protect the supply chain, they advise that local restrictions be consistent with the state's. 

 

DHHS Provides Update on Community Spread Case

By NCLM Communications, March 20, 2020

Michael Leighs, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, provides us the following update on how the state is responding to community spread of COVID-19 and what we might expect:

Yesterday, we shared our first documented case of COVID-19 community spread, meaning this person didn't have contact with someone who had tested positive or traveled to highly impacted area. Confirmed community spread is a signal that we need to further accelerate the next phase of the work. 

North Carolina has already been taking actions as if we alre​ady had community spread to get ahead of the virus. Governor Roy Cooper has taken aggressive actions to limit large gathers, close restaurants and bars with the goal of flattening the curve – the idea is to lessen the number of people who get sick at the same time and avoid overwhelming our hospitals and health care system.   

And as we move into this next phase, we need to continue to reduce the chances for further spread and exposure and protect our health care system, so it is there when you need it. 

Protecting our health care workforce and making sure they have the protective equipment they need is paramount. We are asking hospitals to stop elective surgeries. Testing for people with mild illness will also become less important as we transition to this next phase. We want to reduce the chances that people will be exposed to the virus or expose others. We will begin to deploy other surveillance methods to understand the spread of the virus and drive our decision-making.   

We know this a challenging time. But it is important to remember that the vast majority of people who get COVID-19 will have mild illness and will recover at home. 

There are several resources to help you navigate these challenging times.  

-NC 2-1-1 by United Way of North Carolina is now available for people to call for assistance related to the COVID-19 coronavirus

-COVID-19 text information and updates are available. To sign up, text COVIDNC to 898211.

-Our website, ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus publishes regular updates, including new guidance that is developed, information about Executive Orders and other important information. 

Thank you for all that you are doing in your communities.

Best,

Mike

​SECU Branches Going to Drive-Thru-Only Services

By NCLM Communications, March 19, 2020

The following message comes from the State Employees Credit Union: 

Effective Thursday, March 19th, State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) branches statewide will temporarily transition to drive-thru only for the majority of its services to reduce the possibilities of transmission of the coronavirus to members, their families and SECU employees. Members who need to access safe deposit boxes, drop off tax return information, or inquire about a loan should call the branch to schedule an appointment. While SECU is closing branch lobby access for branches with a drive-thru to help protect the community, SECU remains open for business to make loans, take deposits and provide other financial services to its members during this time of uncertainty.

Read the full statement for all details.


 

Employers: Try These Sample Telework Agreements 
By NCLM Communications, March 19, 2020
Teleworking is a hot topic as health experts continue to encourage distance between or isolation among employees who don't have an immediately practical need to work in their usual group setting. To that end, consider the sample documents below in helping you create telework agreements with your employees. Please note that it is important that you have your attorney(s) review any agreements or policies before implementation. 


Updates - New FAQs; Small Business Aid Approved; LEO Resources

By NCLM Communications, March 19, 2020
Remember to bookmark this page and revisit our FAQ section above, which we're adding to as knowledge and circumstances develop regarding COVID-19 and response strategies. Currently, we have sections answering questions on legalities and executive orders (i.e. What do we do about gatherings in parks?); workers' compensation and employment or human resources matters​, federal reimbursement and more. Lots of questions are coming to mind for municipal officials and this is our attempt to provide clarity where possible. Please continue sending questions to covid19@nclm.org so we can work on answering them for you and others seeking the same info.
--------------------
Small businesses feeling economic hurt due to the coronavirus can apply for help. The governor's office announced Thursday that the U.S. Small Business Administration had granted Gov. Roy Cooper's request -- supported by a bipartisan group of congressional delegates here -- for a disaster declaration. “Many small businesses are desperate right now and this SBA approval will help,” said Governor Cooper in a press statement withdetails. “Even more is needed and we will continue to push for additional assistance while we work to protect the health of North Carolinians.” Small businesses can apply using the Electronic Loan Application on SBA's website, DisasterLoan.sba.gov​.
--------------------
Questions abound on protocol and protections for first responders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered a pair of documents geared toward emergency response personnel and law enforcement officers during the COVID-19 risk period. You can find both of those documents together on a CDC page titled, "Resour​ces for First Responders and Law Enforcement​." Printable one-sheets are available there. 

 

Updates - Take Action for Emergency Aid; Tax Filing Extension; Small Business Needs

By NCLM Communications, March 18, 2020

The National League of Cities (NLC) is asking for action on a federal funding request for local governments and urges you to get your members of Congress on board. NLC "sent a letter of request to Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer and Leader McCarthy on March 17, 2020 to consider proposals to quickly and efficiently allocate funding to local governments, which are well-situated to deliver support to areas and communities in greatest need," the organization said. The full letter is viewable online. ​
 
"Local governments and their elected officials are coordinating with one another across jurisdictional lines, enacting difficult and fiscally challenging emergency measures to slow the coronavirus epidemic, passing ordinances to limit the worst economic outcomes for residents and small businesses on the margins, and spending such sums as necessary to protect public health and the economy in this extraordinary time," NLC explained. "And they are doing so despite funding uncertainty and lack of clear direction from the federal government. It is past time for Congress to bolster efforts at the local level with funding certainty and the stability of unified, non-partisan leadership." 



 
UPDATE to article below: North Carolina has received the disaster declaration from the Small Business Administration. Businesses in the state can now apply for Economic Injury disaster loans at www.sba.gov/disaster​. The below article provides background.

 
Among parties feeling the pain of COVID-19: small businesses. On Tuesday, a bipartisan band from the state's congressional delegation sent a letter to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) supporting Gov. Roy Cooper's request for an SBA disaster declaration for economic injury. Read the full letter from U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis and Reps. David Price and Richard Hudson.

“Small businesses across the state are currently sustaining severe economic impacts from this pandemic,” they said. “Our offices have already received many correspondences from small businesses that are eager to access financial assistance through SBA’s relief programs. The State is also experiencing the economic fallout from COVID-19. Immediate action is critical to stem the economic loss from COVID-19.”
***
The U.S. Department of the Treasury has announced extended time to pay tax owings per hardships with COVID-19. Individuals and businesses will be allowed to defer payments for up to 90 days beyond the April 15 deadline, but must file for an extension to do so. Otherwise, the April 15 deadline still counts. News outlets, quoting Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, report that filers can defer up to $1 million in owings, meant to be enough of a ceiling to help pass-throughs and small businesses. Meanwhile, corporate tax payers could defer up to $10 million. Taxpayers in that time would be free from interest and penalties.


 

Gov. Cooper Announces Third Executive Order of Month, Closes Bars and Restaurants

By NCLM Communications, March 17, 2020

UPDATE: March 19, 2020 | FAQ Clarifying Executive Order 118 Re: Restaurants, Outdoor Dining Areas and More​

Governor Roy Cooper announced an executive order Tuesday that mandates the closing of dining-in services for restaurants and bars. Establishments will still be allowed to provide delivery or takeout service.
 
This order, which goes into effect at 5 pm on March 17, can be criminally enforced, though Gov. Cooper said that he does not expect that measure to be necessary. 
 
“As of this morning, North Carolina has 40 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, COVID-19. We know that there will be many more to come,” Governor Cooper said. “Therefore, reasonable but strong actions are needed now to suppress the spread of this virus and to save lives.”
 
The executive order also expands unemployment benefits to workers affected by COVID-19 by waiving waiting periods and lessening application requirements.
 
Concerning other businesses and local establishments, such as retail stores and barbershops, Governor Cooper said that his administration will continue to “take steps as we see necessary.” Grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open. 
 
The governor acknowledged the hardships that these executive orders will cause, and stated that he has been in regular contact with the state’s members of Congress and expects a substantial relief package from the federal government.  
 
This announcement is the third executive order issued by Governor Cooper this month. On March 10, through Executive Order 116​, Governor Cooper declared a state of emergency, and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services offered recommendations as it related to public gatherings. ​
 
Four days later, that guidance turned to orders, as Executive Order 117 prohibited gatherings of more than 100 people and closed all public schools in North Carolina. 

 
 

How COVID-19 Has Affected Municipal Operations in NC

By NCLM Communications, March 16, 2020

By now it's a safe bet that, whatever it is, it might be canceled. COVID-19 has impacted virtually every human sector, leaving governments in the tough position of having to lead and provide services while also keeping their own people safe and setting the right examples. For any cities or towns seeking guidance or ideas, this article will roundup how peers are handling the situation. 

The City of High Point, for one, has closed its public library, rec centers, museum and theater until further notice to minimize contact and potential spread. "Golf courses, marinas, permitting, transit and other core services like public safety and trash collection will continue as resources allow," a press release said. "Additionally, the Library’s digital services will continue to be available." 

The Town of Cary has closed all parks, recreation and cultural resources facilities. That includes the cancelation of classes, events and camps until further notice. The town is refunding reservations on rentals and ticketed events. 

In part, those calls were made easier by Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order prohibiting mass gatherings -- those bringing together more than 100 people in the same space at the same time, including meeting halls. 

The City of Wilmington has a council meeting on Tuesday, March 17, and while it's still open to the public, the city planned to limit attendance and encouraged interested parties to watch the meeting on its public access TV channel or online stream. A public hearing is on the agenda, for which the city asked that comments be submitted electronically. 

The Town of Black Mountain put out word last week that all town advisory board and commission meetings were canceled. "In order protect the most vulnerable members of our community from the COVID-19 virus, and slow its spread, Mayor (Don) Collins has directed staff to cancel all Advisory Boards and Commissions meetings for the next thirty days," a statement read. The town had planned to close town operated facilities by Monday afternoon. A local state of emergency declaration is in effect there. 

Local states of emergency are considered a good idea right now in positioning a city or town for access to resources and logistical support, similar to how things play out in a bad hurricane. (See separate article below.) The Town of Chapel Hill proclaimed a state of emergency on Friday. "A state of emergency allows emergency processes and funding to be put in place to allow immediate response to emergency situations," the town told residents. 

A press release from the town advised residents to stay home if sick, use best hygiene practices, call a health practitioner before going to the hospital with coronavirus symptoms, and avoiding mass gatherings (again, now banned). Mayor Pam Hemminger advised neighbors to keep checking in on one another in the meantime. "Social distancing may mean staying farther apart from each other, but you can still use this time to build deeper connections with each other," she said. 

In Ayden, the town's social media channels have encouraged residents to pay utility bills online, or use a drop box in the Town Hall parking lot, or call town offices to pay by phone during business hours. Generally, if it can be done without in-person contact, do it that way, the town advised. It suspended its parks and rec programs through at least April 6. 

Context varies locality to locality, but local governments for the most part are putting caution first and refraining from any non-essential in-person interaction. Plans may relax or grow more strict in the days or weeks ahead. Please reach out to us with any questions or ideas you have for us to share.

 
Local State-of-Emergency Declarations May Help With Resources

By NCLM Communications, March 13

On Friday, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency regarding the coronavirus pandemic. A few days prior, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper had declared a state of emergency over the same. Are local-level state-of-emergency declarations called for? According to the state's director of emergency management, Mike Sprayberry, they're welcomed and may help municipalities' positioning with access to resources and logistical support.

"It can give you the powers for expedited procurement, make sure there's funding coming down that may require a state-of-emergency (declaration) and gives you extra authorities and powers and take more stringent actions than ones you get from the state," Sprayberry explained to local government officials on a conference call Thursday co-organized by the League, the Metropolitan Mayors Coalition and the N.C. Association of County Commissioners.

Local emergency managers will know the procedure to request resources, "like any other disaster," Sprayberry said, noting also that the state's "Web EOC" (online Emergency Operations Center portal) has set COVID-19 as its default topic.​

 

Governor to Public Officials: Break the Handshake

By NCLM Communications, March 12

The smallest changes of habit could go far among officials accustomed to shaking hands with fellow leaders and constituents. During a conference call with local governments around the state on Thursday, Gov. Roy Cooper said he's "not shaking any more hands." COVID-19 can spread through physical contact -- hence the constant advice from health officials to wash or sanitize hands throughout the day -- leaving the governor to greet those around him with a substitute move. "I'm giving an elbow-bump to everybody," he said. Public officials will engage plenty with fellow leaders and members of their communities as the virus remains headline news, and these officials are uniquely important for good, local outcomes. 
 
The governor noted that it would complicate matters if these officials fell sick when they're needed most. While the handshake is nearly instinctive, it's important to avoid it. "And I think it's important that we lead to way in doing that," Governor Cooper said. "I know it's a simple thing, but it can matter a lot." ​
 
T​he Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published simple measures​ to avoid contracting the coronavirus.  


League Meets With VP Pence on COVID-19

By NCLM Communications, March 11

League Executive Director Paul Meyer attended a briefing in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to align the White House with local-level leaders as COVID-19 cases continue spotting the United States and as preparation mounts to prevent community-level spread. Vice President Mike Pence addressed a gathering of National League of Cities (NLC) board members and a subset of state leagues, including the N.C. League, with emphasis on local leaders' frontline role and the vitality of intergovernmental and intersector communication. "Community efforts are the first line against the spread of this virus, which is why the League is taking this so seriously," Meyer said. "We're in constant contact with all levels of government, from your town hall to the White House, to make sure we're all on the same page in positioning our communities for the best outcomes." 

While the quality of information is evolving by the hour, the League has assembled a resource page that may be helpful to cities and towns at www.nclm.org/coronavirus. The White House has advised that local communities cite its Framework for Mitigation​ sheet on non-pharmaceutical ways to slow the chances of infection.

​NLC President Joe Buscalno, president pro tem of the Los Angeles City Council, said the after the meeting that the group was "grateful for the opportunity to put federal-local partnership in action...." He added: "There are a number of issues we can work on together to serve America's cities, towns and villages, and I look forward to productive communication and partnership in the coming weeks." 

NLC has also compiled a resource list, available at nlc.org/coronavirus​.​

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