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MPUA COVID-19 Resources

MPUA & Municipal Utilities: COVID-19 Information

MPUA continues to monitor the status of COVID-19 and is actively working on plans related to outbreak prevention and alternative options to ensure normal business operations. MPUA is committed to the health and safety of our employees, members, and communities. Information will be provided on this page as updates occur.   

 

Table of Contents

MPUA Activities Update

MPUA Activities Update

 

Municipal Activities & Emergency Planning Resources

Municipal Utility COVID-19 Activities

Federal Disaster Assistance for Local Governments (March 31, 2020)

Tips for Reducing Staff Interactions to Avoid COVID-19 Exposure from OSHA

FEMA Announces Free Access to GIS Software (March 31, 2020)

Pandemic Mutual Assistance Checklist

Sunshine Law Requests During COVID-19 Closures

Notifying Customers of Reliability Efforts

Emergency Continuity Plans

Emergency Planning & FEMA Online Accounting Resources

Emergency Staffing and Mutual Aid Requests

 

MPUA Operations

Ensuring Continuity of MPUA Operations

Protections for MPUA Electric and Gas Supply Operations

 

Federal & State Legislation

Federal assistance available for Utility Customers (March 31, 2020)

Essential Utility Employees - Letter to Governor Parson (March 31, 2020)

Federal Legislative Response to COVID-19 (March 26, 2020)

Federal Lending for Municipalities (March 24, 2020)

 

Electric Utility Sector Information

Updated Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council's COVID Resource Guide (March 24, 2020)

American Public Power Association Resources

 

Water & Wastewater Utility Sector Information

DNR Operator Certification Information Regarding COVID-19 (March 31, 2020)

Webinar on Legal Aspects of COVID-19 - American Water Works Association (March 31, 2020)

Infographic to display at your water and wastewater treatment plants

AWWA Webinar for Sustaining Operations

DNR Water Protection Program Update

Water and Wastewater Online Training

Educate the Community on Drinking Water Treatment Practices

Protections for Water and Wastewater Operations

 

Utility Industry & COVID Health Resources

Utility Industry COVID-19 Resources

  

MPUA Activities Update: March 27, 2020

Due to COVID-19 precautions and travel bans, MPUA has taken the following actions for previously scheduled events:

  • Apprentice testing: At this time MPUA is going to send April apprentice tests to each city, who will need to find someone on their staff to oversee the students while they are taking the exam. More details will be sent to utilities participating in the program.

  • Cancelled: Infrastructure Disaster Management Certification class on April 14 and 15. The Missouri State Emergency Management Agency is considering offering these classes in December so MPUA will be working with them. Look for more details in the coming months. 

  • The Gas Commission and Legislative Committee meetings will not be meeting in person and will be held online.

  • The Southwest Regional Utility Roundtable meeting scheduled for April 30 in Monett has been postponed.

Municipal Utility Activities & Resources

Municipal Utility COVID-19 Activities

MPUA has heard from various municipal utilities across the state who are implementing health related emergency management plans for COVID-19. For essential employees, many are keeping them isolated from the general public and enhancing cleaning measures between shifts. Some cities are considering measures to avoid cross contamination among crews. In some cities, utility payment offices are being closed, with payments being collected only in drop boxes, on the phone, or online. To support their communities during the COVID-19 outbreak, some utilities are not shutting off customers for non-payment.

 

As of March 30, there is no directive from the State or Federal government regarding utility shutoffs during the national COVID-19 emergency. MPUA respects local decision-making but urges consideration of emergency policies limiting shutoffs and disconnection policies. Several utilities (water, gas, electric) – municipal, investor-owned, and cooperative utilities alike – have already voluntarily announced such practices.

 

Federal Disaster Assistance for Local Governments (March 31, 2020)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is urging local officials to take appropriate actions necessary to protect public health and safety pursuant to public health guidance, conditions and capabilities. FEMA is authorized to reimburse local governments for costs associated with “emergency protective measures” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. FEMA recommends that local governments follow the guidelines for “Procurement Under Grants Conducted Under Exigent” or “Emergency Circumstances.” See a summary of eligibility expenses from FEMA


Tips for Reducing Staff Interactions to Avoid COVID-19 Exposure from OSHA

Keeping critical staff members as isolated as possible while they perform essential duties is important. To reduce the chance of these workers spreading the COVID-19 to other crew members or cross crew contamination, consider the tips from OSHA in their COVID-19 resource guide

 

Some important considerations can be gleaned from the OSHA guide, including:

  • Job briefing and morning meet-up considerations

  • Equipment pickup considerations

  • Implement engineering controls if needed 

  • Implement administrative controls if needed

  • Need for Personal Protective Equipment

Even though the resource guide from the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council was created by those in the electric industry, the guide is a helpful resource for any utility. Keep in mind that if you need mutual aid through the MPUA program, having workers do their jobs while distancing from others will be crucial.

 

FEMA Announces Free Access to GIS Software (March 31, 2020)

The Department of Homeland Security has an Enterprise License Agreement with the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) that allows DHS/FEMA the ability to extend that agreement to our governmental partners during an “incident of national significance.” Therefore, state, local, tribal and territorial governmental entities can now obtain free access to ESRI software solutions for up to six months to help them respond to COVID-19.  ESRI provides geographic information system (GIS) software, web GIS and geodatabase management applications.

 

For those who would like to take advantage of this opportunity, choose “Request Assistance” in the red banner, and then select “COVID-19 Response Package” within “support options.” The package contains software, templates and suggested data schemas. For current Esri customers, you can also access free templates specific for the COVID-19 response.

 

Pandemic Mutual Assistance Checklist

This checklist, provided by the Electricity Subsector Security Council, was designed for host and responding investor-owned electric companies, public power utilities, and electric cooperatives guidance on how to conduct mutual assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although this resource is designed for the electric industry, it is a helpful planning document for all utilities. 

 

Sunshine Law Requests During COVID-19 Closures (March 24, 2020)

Last week, Missouri’s Attorney General issued guidance on how to handle sunshine requests during shutdowns.

 

Update Your Customers on Reliable Utility Service

People are anxious during this time. It is important to get ahead of the misinformation on social media and continue to report to the general public the safety of your drinking water and reliability of the essential functions, like electric service, to the community. Please see the media release provided by the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

 

Emergency Continuity Plans

An Emergency Continuity Plan’s end goal is maintaining solid operations  financially, managerially, and functionally, during and after any incident. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, a solid continuity plan will assist leaders and employees to prioritize daily functions that continue to provide essential services to customers. The example provided from Orange County Florida provides direction for an emergency with little or no warning. Additionally, it may be a good time to update standard operating procedures for your utilities. This will be very helpful if another operator must run an unfamiliar system for a period of time.

 

Emergency Planning & FEMA Accounting Resources

We urge you to review emergency plans especially when it comes to staffing and supplies to ensure reliable service during this COVID-19 event. Please coordinate readiness efforts with your local health department and emergency management office.

 

For those utilities who are experiencing additional expenses for COVID-19 preparations, think about ways you are tracking these expenses. In the event that federal dollars for emergency preparations become available, it is best to start tracking the money sooner rather than later. For those who need more training for staff on emergency planning and accounting, the American Public Power Association has recorded webinars available for a fee.

  

Emergency Staffing Requests for Mutual Aid (all utilities)

Missourians are known across the nation for their willingness to help other communities in their times of need. However, if there are widespread Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the region, there might not be staff available to help. MPUA will continue to collect Mutual Aid requests during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, due to the voluntary nature of the program, city utility operations should take preventative steps to keep their own staff protected. If a utility decides to respond to a Mutual Aid event, these voluntary workers will need to have accommodations for keeping their distance from others. For example, work order communications might need to be done via phone to protect staff from coming in contact with others.

 

While the MPUA Mutual Aid program is most often used for linework, the agreement does cover water and wastewater work. If your community needs a certified drinking water, distribution, or wastewater operator, please contact Lacey Hirschvogel with MPUA to begin the mutual aid process. Make sure to include with your request the type of operator and the necessary certification level needed to comply with regulatory requirements.

 

MPUA Operations

Ensuring Continuity of MPUA Operations

As many utilities are doing across the nation, MPUA has implemented measures in order to maintain the wellness of the critical 24/7 electric and natural gas operations staff. MPUA first limited access to the areas where essential staff work. To further reduce the risk of critical staff members becoming infected, MPUA is limiting the number of people in the office. Staff members are either working staggered schedules, working from home or at other off-premise sites. Business continuity plans are being reviewed and updated as needed. With the help of technology, our staff will still be able to be in touch with members through their office phones and email. Electric and natural gas operations staff will continue operating on a 24/7 basis and we are fully confident that MPUA services will be maintained on a reliable basis. You can still reach us through our main office number from 8:00 to 5:00, Monday through Friday.

 

Protections for MPUA Electric & Gas Supply Operations

As a routine practice, MPUA has built-in redundancy and resiliency plans as a part of our power supply operations. This includes a hardened workplace for scheduling and tagging operations, and sufficient shift staff for routine operations. We are following all recommendations and safeguards to ensure the health of staff and business operations, especially staff involved with critical electric and natural gas operations.

 

Currently, power supply operations are normal. Our regular daily plant calls indicate that power plant operators are taking the steps necessary to mitigate the impact of the current crisis on plant operations. Any scheduled maintenance for power generation is being reevaluated. Our regular communications and data submissions with Regional Transmission Organizations is unaffected.

 

Federal and State of Missouri Legislation

Federal assistance available for Utility Customers (March 31, 2020)

With the passage of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) on Friday, utility service payments are included uses for much of the federal stimulus response for individuals and businesses. The following are some options that your utility can use to work with local customers:

 

Federal Low-Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

A major concern in the pandemic is the effect unemployment and the economic downturn will have on at-risk utility customers, including low-income households and seniors. To help these customers, Division B of the CARES Act provides $900 million for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. This $900 million comes in addition to monies already appropriated for FY2020. The act also provides that the additional funds could be spent through fiscal year 2021, but estimates are that additional funds will be nowhere near enough to meet demands this fiscal year, let alone last into the next. These monies can be accessed by customers by applying here. Completed applications should be mailed to your local Community Action Agency found here

 

Small Business Administration programs

Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Loan Advance:

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, small business owners are eligible to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance of up to $10,000, and this loan advance will have to be repaid. Funds will be made available within three days of a successful application. To apply for a COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan, click here.

 

SBA Debt Relief:

The SBA Debt Relief program will provide and reprieve to small businesses as they overcome the challenges created by this health crisis. Under this program:

  • The SBA will also pay the principal and interest of new 7(a) loans issued prior to September 27, 2020.

  • The SBA will pay the principal and interest of current 7(a) loans for a period of six months.

SBA Express Bridge Loans:

Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program allows small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000. This is a streamlined process can be used to bridge the gap while applying for a direct SBA Economic Injury Disaster loan. This loan will be repaid in full or in part by proceeds from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan. For an Express Bridge Loan, contact: St. Louis Missouri District Office, 1222 Spruce St. suite 10.103,  St. Louis , MO 63103, 314-539-6600 or 500 East Walnut St. suite 103, Columbia, MO 65201, 573-382-1792

website: https://www.sba.gov/offices/district/mo/st-louis

email: stlouis@sba.gov

 

Paycheck Protection Program:

The Paycheck Protection Program was established for small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations described in the Small Business Act, as well as individuals who are self-employed or are independent contractors.

Under this program:

  • Eligible recipients may qualify for a loan up to $10 million determined by 8 weeks of prior average payroll plus an additional 25% of that amount.

  • Loan payments will be deferred for six months.

  • If you maintain your workforce, SBA will forgive the portion of the loan proceeds that are used to cover the first 8 weeks of payroll and certain other expenses following loan origination.

Essential Utility Employees - Letter to Governor Parson (March 31, 2020)

MPUA sent a letter to Governor Parson today requesting that the Governor specifically identify local government utility service workers and utility support businesses as essential employees in future state orders.  Utility workers are working hard to provide the essential human health protections that minimize the spread of COVID-19. Safe drinking water for handwashing and reliable electricity powering our homes and hospitals is essential to support the resiliency of our communities. MPUA’s letter references and supports EPA's Administrator Wheeler’s national letter distributed to the Governors of the United States last week.   

 

Federal Legislative Response to COVID-19 (March 26, 2020)

Stimulus Provide Support for Essential Services 

The U.S. Congress has passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which contains $339.855 billion in emergency supplemental appropriations to aid Americans during the coronavirus crisis. 

 

The wide-reaching bill includes a $1,200 one-time check for individuals who make up to $75,000. That amount would scale down until it reached an annual income threshold of $99,000, where it would phase out altogether. Families would receive $500 per child. These monies presumably should be spent on essentials, such as utilities. The White House is estimating that the checks could arrive as soon as 3 weeks from passage.

 

Several measures of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act that could impact municipal utilities.  $350 billion was authorized for loan forgiveness grants to small businesses and non-profits to help pay for expenses like utilities, rent, and mortgages that maintain the existing workforce. The stimulus bill also included $454 billion for loans, loan guarantees, and investments in support of the Federal Reserve’s lending facilities to eligible businesses, states, and municipalities. Emergency appropriations adding $900 million to the LIHEAP program were also included in the legislation. $45 billion was added to the FEMA disaster relief fund for reimbursable costs for personal protective equipment, coordination of logistics, safety measures, and community services nationwide.  $100 million for USDA Rural Utilities Service monies were included for rural broadband deployment in areas with less than 10mbps down and 1mbps up.

 

There were no directives on utility shutoffs for nonpayment included in the bill.

 

Federal Lending for Municipalities (March 24, 2020)

The Federal Reserve announced March 23 steps to ensure that local governments have access to lending. The Federal Reserve would facilitate credit to municipalities:

  • By expanding the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility (MMLF) to include a wider range of securities, including municipal variable rate demand notes (VRDNs) and bank certificates of deposit; and

  • By expanding the Commercial Paper Funding Facility (CPFF) to include high-quality, tax-exempt commercial paper as eligible securities. In addition, the pricing of the facility has been reduced.

Electric Sector Information

Updated Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council’s Resource Guide: Assessing and Mitigating the Novel Coronavirus (3.30.2020)

The novel coronavirus (or COVID-19) Resource Guide for the electric power industry was updated on March 30, 2020. This living document was developed under the direction of the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC), with participation from all segments of the industry and the natural gas sector. It provides information and options to consider when making localized decisions in response to the current global health emergency.

 

American Public Power Resources (March 24, 2019)

Water and Wastewater Information

DNR Operator Certification Information Regarding COVID-19 (March 31, 2020)

Missouri Department of Natural Resources has issued clarifying information related to operator certification issues that may occur during the COVID-19 pandemic. Information includes operator certification exams, renewal training, and maintaining staffing requirements.

 

Webinar on Legal Aspects of COVID-19 - American Water Works Association (March 31, 2020)

The American Water Works Association has scheduled a webinar on the legal aspects of COVID-19 for water utilities. Webinar registration is $50 for nonmembers and $20 for members. Learn from Randal Brown, Esq; General Counsel; Great Lakes Water Authority; Marcia Reuben; VP, Quality and Compliance; Inframark; and Andrew Stewart, Esq; Counsel; Sidley Austin LLP.

 

Infographic to display at your water and wastewater treatment plants

The Water Environment Federation created a nice and direct infographic to display at your water and wastewater treatment plants.

 

AWWA Offers Free Webinar on Sustaining Operations

The AWWA recorded webinar is designed to share practices that utilities throughout the nation have implemented to prepare and respond to COVID-19. The March 20 webinar details example contingency plans, alternative facility access, and supply chain conditions. Among the topics discussed are absenteeism, succession planning, facility access during containment/quarantine, supply chain – treatment chemicals, and building shutdowns/low flow -- guidance on post COVID-19 flushing and return to service for shutoffs. 


DNR's Water Protection Program's Response to COVID-19 (March 25, 2020)

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources issued a March 24 guidance statement on how the Department will deal with regulated entities that have compliance difficulties because of the COVID-19 crisis. The Department has set up a special email box to accept such requests for regulatory relief. For information what should be contained in a request, see the DNR’s guidance statement on their website.It is extremely important that a water and wastewater permittee stay in contact with your regional DNR office and document every occurrence during this time it a permit or compliance agreement cannot be met. For example, if a sampling activity requires two people to be in a boat to obtain an effluent sample, this activity may not be appropriate during this time we must practice social distancing. Contact your regional office, report the situation, and the Department is committed to working with you to determine the best path forward.

 

Plans for operator certification testing are still in the works at DNR. If you are in need of additional water, wastewater, or distribution certification credits, please see our online training resource that is listed on this webapge

 

Drinking Water & Wastewater Online Training

For employees who do not have opportunities to attend in-person training, MPUA has online courses for you to keep up with your training requirements.

  • Online re-certification courses approved by DNR for Operator Certification Renewal

  • Employees may earn up to 24 hours toward Drinking Water Certification, 24 hours for Water Distribution Certification, and 25.5 hours for Wastewater Certification; all are voucher eligible.

  • Each course cost $20 for members and $25 for non-members.

Update Your Customers on Reliable Utility Service

People are anxious during this time. It is important to get ahead of the misinformation on social media and continue to report to the general public the safety of your drinking water and reliability of the essential functions of the community. Please see the media release provided by the San Francisco Department of Public Health.


Educate the Community on Drinking Water Treatment Practices

According to the Center for Disease Control:  The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water. The CDC, U.S. EPA and AWWA have all published web materials to reinforce this message:

 

Protections for water and wastewater operations

The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water. Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19. More details: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/water.html

 

For wastewater, the CDC is reviewing all data on COVID-19 transmission as information becomes available. At this time, the risk of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 through sewerage systems is thought to be low. However, it is recommended that wastewater and sewage workers should use standard practices, practice basic hygiene precautions, and wear personal protective equipment (PPE) as prescribed for current work tasks. More details: https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/global/sanitation/workers_handlingwaste.html

 

The public will have questions about the safety of their drinking water and sewer services due to the COVID-19 virus. Many utilities are providing talking points to staff and those that that handle customer service. In addition, a press release will assist with educating the media and public on the safety of drinking water and sewer utilities. Please see the example provided by Hartford, CT and City Utilities of Springfield, MO.

 

Sample key message for water customers: Our utilities remain safe! There is no evidence that Coronavirus can be transmitted via drinking water. Our drinking water disinfection process continues to meet and exceed state and federal standards for virus disinfection.

 

Utility Industry Resources & COVID Health Resources

Utility Industry COVID-19 Resources:

• Great Lakes Water Authority

 Metropolitan Sewer District of St. Louis

 

Public Health - primary information

 

 

more Calendar

4/14/2020
Legislative Committee Meeting

4/14/2020 » 4/15/2020
CANCELLED: Infrastructure Disaster Management Certification

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