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The federal government is making over 2 trillion dollars available through the CARES act. Of this, around $150 billion will be made available to states. You can see how much each state will receive here. We compiled a few resources to help you navigate the process of getting some of this money for your city.

If you’d like to interact with other city leaders, and ask questions directly to our members, we recommend joining our online community, UrbanLeague.

Let's talk about money and how cities can get it

  • Each state will receive a minimum of $1.25 billion, which will be prorated by population.
  • State governments and local governments serving a population of at least 500,000 can apply for funds directly from the Treasury.
  • Local governments with a population under 500,000 must receive funds through their state.
  • It is advised that local governments with a population below 500,000 begin communicating with their Municipal League and their City/County Management Association as soon as possible.

HUD

The federal allocated $4 billion allocated for homeless assistance through the Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG). Eligible uses include emergency shelter operations, street outreach, expanded staffing, and other services to protect homeless and at-risk populations from COVID-19. Please check out the Homelessness Programs Toolkit for further information. You can learn about applying for HUD grants here.

FEMA

Assistance from FEMA is available, if your city didn’t receive funding from the HHS/CDC or other federal agency. Under the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration, FEMA may provide funds for:

  • Management, control, and reduction of immediate threats to public health and safety
  • Emergency medical care
  • Medical sheltering
  • Purchase and distribution of food, water, ice, medicine, and other consumable supplies, to include personal protective equipment and hazardous material suits movement of supplies and persons.

You can check out this fact sheet about FEMA grants: Procurement Under Grants Conducted Under Exigent or Emergency Circumstances

CESF

Nearly $850 million has been allocated for the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) Program. The funding is intended to be used for overtime, equipment, hiring, medical supplies, training, travel expenses, and addressing the medical needs of inmates in jails and detention centers.

Reimbursement

The US Conference of mayors released this information on the City Fiscal Tracker and Federal Reimbursement Initiative, including a webinar, a municipal guide, and a FAQ sheet.

The municipal guide will be very useful to cities, as it provides an in-depth review of the application process, eligibility, and critical issues to consider. They even provide a checklist at the bottom of the document, some of which suggests:

  • Flatten the fraud, waste and theft curve. Estimates are that 10% of the total aid could be lost, instead of going toward things people in your city need.
  • Select and empower a senior multi-disciplinary team to be the central gatekeepers onyour city’s response; assembling data citywide, holding daily internal briefings.
  • Staff your citywide response team, and draw from your agencies, i.e., OMB, Emergency Management, Health, Procurement, Law, Intergovernmental, Administrative Services, Finance, Construction, IT.
  • Know the emergency declaration period; it is the time-frame that frames your eligibility for benefits and reimbursements.

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)

The CARES Act authorizes a $5 billion allocation to the CDBG program for provision of services for senior citizens, the homeless, and public health services to address COVID-19.

Available Funds

Candid.org put together a list of over 500 funds to help out during the coronavirus. You can check and see if your city is eligible for some financial aid there.

A Guide to Using Funds Effectively

This excellent guide from Mckinsey suggests steps city leaders can consider to ensure maximum impact from federal aid.

Assign leaders to spur accountability and improve transparency
  • Appoint a relief and recovery lead to coordinate across state and local agency officials. This appointee is often a deputy chief of staff or chief operating officer.
  • Establish a response lead in each agency to manage the response (including federal-agency interaction) for the department. This leader is often a deputy commissioner or secretary.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
  • Build a simple, one-stop web portal with clear, up-to-date links to state and federal resources (overseen by the relief and recovery lead mentioned above) for individuals, businesses, and community organizations seeking information.
  • Establish a hotline to support agencies in addressing questions related to relief funds.
  • Require agencies to submit citizen outreach strategies to reach relevant segments such as loan recipients eligible for relief.

Thank you for looking through our blog. We hope the resources provided were helpful. If you have resources you’d like to add, please email me and we’ll update our blog. If you’d like to join our community of city leaders, please consider joining UrbanLeague.

Last week, we wrote about how to run a remote council meeting. If you missed it, it’s definitely worth reading for context.

Due to the response we received, we figured we can expand on the topic and provide a checklist as you plan your remote council meetings.

We decided to do this work because so many of our members had questions about doing council meetings remotely. For city officials who wish to connect with other city leaders, we encourage you to join our free online community, UrbanLeague.

You can also download and print this checklist!

Checklist table of contents
Roles and responsibilities Registration Dry Run Technical and Logistics

Roles and responsibilities

[ ] Who are the presenting participants? (the people who will be speaking / leading the meeting?) [ ] Council members [ ] City Attorney [ ] Clerk [ ] Staff scheduled to speak for council items [ ] Other________________

Understand who is responsible for everything on the backend, before, during, and after the meeting?

This person should be responsible for: [ ] Recording the meeting and making that recording available after the meeting. [ ] Setting up the registration page. [ ] Managing the dry run. [ ] Teaching the presenting participants how to use the technology. [ ] Establishing the rules for the meeting. Anything else behind the scenes.

Registration

A registration page is not necessary to do a virtual meeting, but we recommend it for two reasons. 1. It helps keep trolls out. 2. It keeps track of everyone in the meeting so you can send follow up emails with the recording, and with info about the next meeting.

If you’re unable to have a registration page, an alternative to keep your meetings safe is to have a waiting room. This is a virtual space where citizens will wait until the moderator allows them entrance to the meeting. It gives the moderator time to check that the person isn’t a troll.

Presenting participants [ ] The presenting participants are made clear on the registration page. [ ] The agenda and topics for discussion are made clear on the registration page.

Citizens [ ] The registration page has accurate information and has been double checked. [ ] Citizens can view and sign up for the registration page. [ ] The email that citizens receive upon signing up at the registration page is informative, looks professional, and is typo-free. [ ] You have tested the registration / email function. [ ] Citizens receive an automated email reminder one week, one day, and one hour before the council meeting. [ ] Citizens receive an email after the council meeting, telling them where to find the recording, and providing other valuable information.

Dry run

We HIGHLY recommend doing a practice run before each meeting. Make sure you can do this without violating Sunshine Laws, such as California's Brown act.

Presenting participants [ ] All presenting participants have the necessary equipment (computer with functioning microphone and camera) as well as software that is downloaded and up to date. (You don’t want to start a meeting and find that you have to install something.) [ ] Presenting participants can log in from their devices. [ ] They can turn their mic on and off. [ ] They can turn their video on and off. [ ] Staff members can communicate 1:1 with the presenting participants. [ ] It’s made clear how presenting participants can “raise their hand” when they want to speak. [ ] Presenting participants understand how to screen share / show presentations.

Citizens [ ] Does public comment get read or simply added to the record? [ ] Citizens can log into the webinar / remote council meeting by phone AND computer. [ ] When citizens log in, their microphones and videos are automatically turned off, and can’t be turned on, unless the moderator allows it. [ ] Citizens cannot engage with each other via the chat function. -Many trolls have used this feature to harass and derail city meetings. [ ] Citizens can ask questions to the presenting participants. Many companies, such as Zoom, have a Q&A function where the questions are not visible to other guests, but only visible to the presenting participants / moderator.

Technical and Logistics

[ ] The meeting is being recorded. [ ] You have made it clear where the recording will be made available. (Youtube, Facebook, the city website?) [ ] You understand who receives the recording first for transcription. [ ] The rules for the council meeting are established, and someone is designated to explain these rules to the citizens at the start of the meeting. (These rules might be as simple as, “use the Q&A function if you have a question, the meeting is being recorded and will be made available, questions will be addressed in the last 30 minutes of the meeting, and the chat, video, and microphone features of the citizens have been disabled for the sake of keeping order in a remote meeting.) [ ] The residents are able to submit public comments in advance of the session. What is the mechanism for them to do that? [ ] The agenda has been communicated clearly before the meeting. [ ] How does the posted meeting agenda translate to the virtual council meeting? [ ] The meeting has been publicized and advertised.

You can also download and print this checklist

We hope this checklist was useful for you. Please let us know what you think, and if you’d like to join our online community of city leaders, please join UrbanLeague. Did we miss anything? Is there anything you’d like us to focus more on? Please let us know at Julian@urbanleap.io.

by Maksim Pecherskiy and Julian Benabides

The coronavirus has forced city council members out of their chambers and into their living roomsThe coronavirus has forced city council members out of their chambers and into their living rooms

With COVID-19 forcing people to work from home, city council members and staff are moving their council meetings online. This requires cities to integrate telecommuting technology into their meetings fast.

We thought we’d provide some helpful tips on how to make this happen without turning your council members into potatoes.

Boss turns her image into a potato during meeting and doesn't know how to turn it off. Does entire meeting as a potato Boss turns her image into a potato during meeting and doesn't know how to turn it off. Does entire meeting as a potato

Table of Contents

Know the Laws

Who Is Involved

Technology

Before the Meeting

During the Meeting

After the Meeting

Conclusion

If you have any questions that this blog doesn't answer, you can always join UrbanLeague to connect with other city officials on challenges surrounding the coronavirus.

Know the Laws

Public meetings are officially recorded in the municipality’s history and are a core process of forming legislation. Votes can be challenged in court later on if the meeting did not meet a physical quorum (if the policy requires it), or if the meeting is not noticed under Sunshine Laws like the Brown Act.

Before your city dives into remote public meetings, discuss your situation with the city Attorney.

Who is involved

Presenting Participants Council members, the city clerk, the city attorney, and staff that will be presenting items during the meeting. They have full control of the mic and screen share.

Active Participants These are members of the audience that will be making public comments or asking questions (if this is allowed in your meetings).

Viewing Participants These are members of the audience that will only be viewing a stream of the meeting without interacting with any other participants.

Technology

Remote public meetings can’t happen without the right technology. The centerpiece of this technology is videoconferencing or webinar software. Here are some key things you should look for when choosing a solution:

Set as few barriers to entry as possible Don’t choose a platform that the public must pay to use, and avoid making people install software to participate – they should be able to join via browser.

Dial-In Functionality Some people don’t have a tablet or a Computer. Let them dial-in over the phone, and tell them how to do so.

Registration Let people register to attend the meeting (this is a great way to receive public comment as well). Let them know that their name will be visible to other attendees.

Recording Record the meeting to be viewed later by the public. Recording the meeting is also helpful later for the person compiling notes or minutes, and it can be shared on social media.

Screen Sharing Let presenting participants share their screen – especially staff when they’re showing their slide-decks for agenda items.

Chat and private chat Some software, such as Zoom, allows meeting participants to send a message visible to all participants, or to send a private 1:1 message to another participant. Decide if you want to allow this feature or not in your meetings.

Resources

Before the Meeting

Always practice before running any kind of webinar or online meetingAlways practice before running any kind of webinar or online meeting

Do a Dry Run A practice run is critical to have an effective meeting. Test every aspect of the meeting, including the experience of the viewing participants, presenting participants, the active participants, and the registration process. You don’t want to be trying to figure out how to unmute a citizen in the middle of a meeting.

Remember, Sunshine Laws may prevent a dry run meeting by a quorum of council members that is not noticed by the public. Do a dry run with 1 or 2 council members at a time to prevent this. A dry run will also help you know who the presenting participants will be for the meeting.

Additionally, make sure to teach presenting participants how to avoid snafus like accidentally showing their emails while presenting on a shared screen, or showing personal notifications. Mac and Windows both have guides on how to stop notifications.

Set a Moderator This person is in charge of the meeting behind the scenes, making everything run smoothly. They will unmute participants, provide screen share, record the meeting, and perform many other behind-the-scenes duties.

Noticing / Announcing Tell people where the meeting is happening, when, and how to get to it. Some municipalities require an agenda to be posted outside of City Hall to fulfill the noticing requirements. Speak to your attorney about how you can fulfill this requirement during the shelter-in-place.

Teach the Technicals You trained your presenting participants. What about everyone else? Provide clear instructions to your audience before they join. Zoom has a great tutorial site for their software.

Protect your meeting

The FBI has issued an official warning about unauthorized users joining the classroom. Make sure that you have correctly assigned permissions to presenting participants and members of the public. Your moderator can assign passwords to people, or vet them while the users wait in a waiting room. This is a great thing to test during your dry run. You can also use the registration process to keep out people who have disrupted previous meetings.

Accepting Public Comment It's every resident's right to participate in public meetings, and going remote should not prevent that. The City of Saco has a great example of this process:

With the shift to remote meetings, we have modified how we receive public comments. At this time, the Saco City Council is accepting written public comment in place of in-person participation. Written public comments must be e-mailed to City Administrator Bryan Kaenrath or mailed to Public Comment 300 Main St. Saco, ME 04072.

Public Comment received by 5 PM on the date of the Council meeting will be provided to the City Council in advance of the meeting and will become a part of the permanent record of the meetings. If e-mailing, please note “Public Comment” and the meeting date in the Subject field.

Mute participants upon entry Automatically mute all participants when they join the meeting, and make sure to have this enabled before the meeting starts. The moderator can unmute people if they need to speak.

During the Meeting

Set and explain Ground Rules Start the meeting off with an explanation of the ground rules for participants. Explain how they can “raise their hand” to speak. It would be helpful to do a short demo for the audience.

Start with an Agenda From there on out, start with an agenda. But I won't say too much here, because your public meeting is your public meeting, and you run it the way you want. Here’s South San Francisco’s agenda for one of their online council meetings.

After the meeting

Share the Recording Make sure that the official meeting recorder is the first person to receive the recording. Then, post it to where you normally post council meetings. I'm a big fan of how Saco goes out of their way to publish their recorded meetings, Live-streaming them on FaceBook, broadcasting them on local television, and then posting them on Youtube the following day.

Protect your meetings from trollsSaco has an excellent method of pushing their meetings to the public

Display end-of-meeting experience feedback survey Display a thumbs up/down survey at the end of each meeting. If participants respond with thumbs down, they can provide additional information about what went wrong.

Conclusion

Public meetings have a few more rules than a typical webinar, but without too much work and a bit of prep, they can be successfully accomplished.

If you still have questions after reading this blog, we encourage you to join UrbanLeague to connect with other city officials on challenges surrounding the coronavirus.

Good luck!

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