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Answers to COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Can my local health authority impose requirements that are more restrictive?

Yes. Local health authorities may enforce more restrictive public health requirements for businesses or individuals than the state.  The only exception is the Order from the Director of the Department of Health and Senior Services dated March 24, 2020, removing the authority of a local health authority from closing or restricting the operations of a business which is a part of the food supply, whether that be agricultural production, manufacturing, distribution, or sale of food. This limited waiver does not limit the authority of a local health authority from closing or restricting the operations of a retail food establishment.

What if my city wants to allow local businesses to open but our county plans to extend it’s Stay at Home order?  Can the county impose stricter limits than what the city wants to allow? 

Counties may enact stricter regulations than the state, and cities could enact stricter regulations than the county. A city government is not required to use city staff or resources to enforce the county orders on behalf of the county. However, a city does not have the authority to prohibit or prevent county health officials from enforcing the county’s health regulations within city limits due to overlapping jurisdiction. (Attorney Joseph Lauber was consulted on this answer)

Lauber Municipal Law has prepared a circular detailing the policy implications for relaxing local social distancing in accordance with Governor Parson’s plan.  That circular is linked here courtesy of Lauber Municipal Law.

What are the implications of the Governor's Stay At Home Order?

  • Individuals currently residing within the state of Missouri shall avoid leaving their homes or places of residence. 
  • All individuals in the state of Missouri shall avoid social gatherings of more than ten (10) people. 
  • All public and charter schools must remain closed for the duration of the Order.
  • Any entity that does not employ individuals to perform essential worker functions, as set forth in guidance provided by the federal government, shall adhere to the limitations on social gatherings and social distancing.
  • Any entity that employs individuals to perform essential worker functions, and that is engaged in retail sales to the public, shall limit the number of individuals in any particular retail location as follows:
  • Twenty-five (25) percent or less of the entity’s authorized fire or building code occupancy, as set by local authorities, for a retail location with square footage of less than ten thousand square feet (10,000 ft²);
  • Ten (10) percent or less of the entity’s authorized fire or building code occupancy, as set by local authorities, for a retail location with square footage of ten thousand square feet (10,000 ft²) or more.

Lauber Municipal Law Circular #5 - Practical and important guidelines for Missouri cities when dealing with Governor Parson's Stay At Home Order and Social Distancing Requirements Related to Covid 19 - Provided Courtesy of Lauber Municipal Law

"Stay Home Missouri" Order - Guidance and Frequently Asked Questions - Governor's Office

 

What is an essential employee?

Identifying Critical Infrastructure During COVID-19

Interim Guidance on Protecting Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams, in conjunction with Gov. Parson and the Department of Agriculture, have issued a directive that appears to waive local authority to close agriculture related businesses during the Covid 19 crisis. View DHSS statement.

 

Can public meetings be conducted amidst restrictions on in-person gatherings?

Yes, virtual meetings are an option, but the Sunshine Law requirements still apply. See documents below from Lauber Municipal Law and the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.

MML Webinar on City Operations During Pandemic, Presented by Nathan Nickolaus, Lauber Municipal Law, LLC

MML Webinar PowerPoint Only

Virtual meetings, sick employees, quarantine, emergency declarations - Provided courtesy of Lauber Municipal Law

Sunshine Law Guidance for Public Governmental Bodies During a Public Health Crisis or State of Emergency - Missouri Attorney General's Office 

What are some options for platforms to conduct a virtual meeting?

While not endorsing any one platform, here are a few that have been used.
Facebook LiveFreeConferenceCallGoToMeetingStreamyardZoom

 

Is paid leave required during the Pandemic?  How do we comply with the Federal law?

Factsheet - U.S. House of Representatives

Guidance from Lauber Municipal Law on complying with HR 6201

FFCRA Leave Request Form (city of Belton, MO, example)

Paid Sick Leave Webinar from National League of Cities (March 27, 2020)

U.S. Department of Labor FAQs (more than 50 questions; two of them highlighted below:)

For the purposes of paid leave, who is an emergency responder?

For the purposes of employees who may be excluded from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave by their employer under the FFCRA, an emergency responder is an employee who is necessary for the provision of transport, care, health care, comfort, and nutrition of such patients, or whose services are otherwise needed to limit the spread of COVID-19. This includes but is not limited to military or national guard, law enforcement officers, correctional institution personnel, fire fighters, emergency medical services personnel, physicians, nurses, public health personnel, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, emergency management personnel, 911 operators, public works personnel, and persons with skills or training in operating specialized equipment or other skills needed to provide aid in a declared emergency as well as individuals who work for such facilities employing these individuals and whose work is necessary to maintain the operation of the facility. This also includes any individual that the highest official of a state or territory, including the District of Columbia, determines is an emergency responder necessary for that state’s or territory’s or the District of Columbia’s response to COVID-19.

To minimize the spread of the virus associated with COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Labor encourages employers to be judicious when using this definition to exempt emergency responders from the provisions of the FFCRA.

Who is a “health care provider” who may be excluded by their employer from paid sick leave and/or expanded family and medical leave?

For the purposes of employees who may be exempted from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave by their employer under the FFCRA, a health care provider is anyone employed at any doctor’s office, hospital, health care center, clinic, post-secondary educational institution offering health care instruction, medical school, local health department or agency, nursing facility, retirement facility, nursing home, home health care provider, any facility that performs laboratory or medical testing, pharmacy, or any similar institution, employer, or entity. This includes any permanent or temporary institution, facility, location, or site where medical services are provided that are similar to such institutions. 

This definition includes any individual employed by an entity that contracts with any of the above institutions, employers, or entities institutions to provide services or to maintain the operation of the facility. This also includes anyone employed by any entity that provides medical services, produces medical products, or is otherwise involved in the making of COVID-19 related medical equipment, tests, drugs, vaccines, diagnostic vehicles, or treatments. This also includes any individual that the highest official of a state or territory, including the District of Columbia, determines is a health care provider necessary for that state’s or territory’s or the District of Columbia’s response to COVID-19.

To minimize the spread of the virus associated with COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Labor encourages employers to be judicious when using this definition to exempt health care providers from the provisions of the FFCRA.

 

What steps are Missouri Cities taking to reduce the Covid 19 exposure risk for their administrative staff?

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the way city halls operate. Many League members have implemented staggered work schedules to reduce the number employees working together. Most cities are allowing staff members that can work from home to do so. Some employees are able to do most of their job from home but may come in one or two days a week to take care of activities that absolutely require them to be at city hall. Recent discussion on the Missouri Government Finance Officer listserv indicated that only a few city halls are still having their entire staff come into the office.  Some other measures cities are taking to reduce exposure include not opening mail for three days; using drop boxes for payments; offering incentives to encourage ACH (Automatic Clearing House) payments that come direct from the customer's bank or online credit card payments; and using teleconference or video conference options for staff and other meetings. Municipalities are also providing staff with gloves and hand sanitizer to check mail and do things around the office 

 

Are cities closing their playgrounds and parks in response to the Covid-19 pandemic?

Yes, most cities are reporting that they have closed their playgrounds and other recreational facilities, especially those where use results in close congregation. Trails, and in some cases, golf courses, have remained open. For golf course use, many have moved to pre-payment and are not allowing cart rental. Mowing and maintenance crews may still be out and can assist with reporting non-compliance on social distancing. 


Is city trash still being picked up and is it being handled differently?

Yes it is considered an essential service. Based on the current information from OSHA, residential solid waste with potential or known COVID-19 should be managed like any other non-contaminated municipal solid waste.  However, haulers are seeking residents help to reduce risk for the safety of their drivers, by implementing the following measures: bag all trash and place in carts or cans, if available, for collection. All recyclables should be placed in the recycling bin or cart.  At this time, haulers are not accepting bulky materials, (i.e. furniture, mattresses, and white goods).  

U.S. Department of Labor – Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 (OSHA)

Has the state issued a prohibition on utility/water/sewer shut offs by municipalities?

There has not been an official pronouncement prohibiting municipalities from doing utility shut offs during the pandemic.  However, recognizing that clean water, flushing toilets and electricity are vital to resident’s health most municipalities have voluntarily decided not to do shut offs during this time period. MML would encourage cities to not do shut offs during the crisis unless there are extenuating circumstances.  

 

What are municipalities doing to facilitate utility/sewer/water payments during the crisis?

Most municipalities have closed their lobbies and allowing use of the drop boxes.  Other municipalities are encouraging online payments, and some are temporarily forgoing any convenience charge for card payments. 

 

Will the Federal government reimburse cities for disaster related expense? How do we receive this funding?

FEMA is authorized to reimburse local governments for costs associated with “emergency protective measures” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Municipal finance staff are encouraged to consider whether expenses related to the pandemic are being properly tracked.   Taking steps such as setting up a disaster expense code in the city's financial system as well as being sure to keep copies of receipts and timecards will make the process easier should reimbursement become available. See the following resources:

More resources on the Disaster Funds page of MML's COVID-19 site.

 

How can I assist small businesses in my community?

Multiple resources are available for small businesses at this time, including:

 

Will Cities Have to Cover the costs of the recent $600 in additional unemployment insurance benefits?

No.  The U.S. Department of Labor published a new Unemployment Insurance Program Letter (UIPL) in response to COVID-19.  On page 2 of the UIPL, the Employment & Training Administration of the DOL explains that the program is 100% federally funded:

Program administration funding for FPUC program. The cost of these additional $600 payments to eligible individuals each week is 100% federally funded. States may not charge employers for any FPUC benefits paid.

The FPUC program is administered through a voluntary agreement between a state and the Department. This program is available in the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, provided the state/territory signs an agreement with the Department. Implementation costs and ongoing administrative costs for this program are also 100% federally funded.


I heard the Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control suspended the requirement that alcoholic drinks be sold in original packaging. Does our city need to amend its local code or can our mayor just suspend enforcement?

 

On April 14, 2020, the Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, with approval from Gov. Parson issued an emergency waiver of “original package”in 11 CSR 70-2.010(5) that requires utilizing the manufacturer’s original container” or packaging.  While restaurants had previously been allowed to offer alcoholic beverages for carry-out, those items had to be in the original packaging. The new rule allows individual containers of alcohol to be sold in sealed leak-proof containers or sealed using tape.  The change does not allow liquor licensees to sell mixed drinks in ‘to-go’plastic or Styrofoam cups with straws or loose covers.  Mayors that have been granted emergency authority may be able to suspend enforcement of existing ordinances that limit the sales to just package liquor. Other cities may have to amend their ordinance. Lauber Municipal Law has produced an informative circular detailing this issue.

Alcoholic Drink Packaging For Carry Out Circular, (Lauber Municipal Law)

 

How are cities approaching enforcement of business license renewals during the Covid pandemic?

Several cities have reported allowing waivers or extension for business and liquor renewals during the COVID-19 crisis.  The state has already granted a two-month extension on liquor licenses renewals.The city of Riverside recently adopted an ordinance granting the mayor and/or city administrator the authority to waive, modify or extend existing business license requirements. Click here for a copy of that ordinance. View other resources on MML's COVID-19 Small Business page.

 

Are cities going to be able to open their pools this summer?

League staff was invited to participate in a recent Missouri Park and Recreation Association (MPRA) zoom meeting with more than 70 parks and recreation professionals from across the state.  Only three cities on the call indicated that they had officially decided to not open city pools this year. One of those (St. Joseph) is taking the opportunity to perform much-needed maintenance. The rest are taking a wait and see approach. The CDC has stated that there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the water in swimming pools; however it was recognized that limits on social gatherings and social distance will have to be addressed. The Missouri Park and Recreation Association will be working on a list of best practices for aquatic facilities to limit the chance for COVID-19 transmission (some suggestions include removing “touch points” such as lounge chairs and tables, implementing strict capacity limits, and further limiting pool time to short intervals to allow for more opportunity for all to use the pool.)  Lastly, MPRA noted that cities may need to be cautious about extending life guard job opportunities without knowing if the pool will be open since a later decision to close the pools may create unemployment liability.

 

Our municipal golf course is open, but we are not allowing cart rentals due to the pandemic.  Now we have a patron who claims their disability requires the use of a golf cart.  Can we require them to show proof of disability prior to the rental?
 
Many municipal golf courses have remained open throughout the pandemic, with patrons being asked to practice social distancing on the course.  Due to concerns about COVID-19 transmission, most courses suspended cart rental; however, recognizing that some golfers may need to use a golf cart due to a disability, some courses are now offering a golf cart flagged with red or blue “medical” or “disability” flags.  Only one rider is allowed to use the carts and they must be sanitized after each use.  Using an honor system for cart rental is probably best.  Not everyone with a disability drives, so just requiring a disability hang tag/placard to rent a cart may not be sufficient  If there are concerns that the honor system is being abused, be sure to avoid questions such as “what is your disability?” Instead, ask about the need for an modification to course practice and policy.   

Missouri Municipal League

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