eRegions Newsletter

NEWS FROM WASHINGTON
Congress is in session.

NARC 2020 Legislative Survey
As NARC prepares for the new year, we are gathering our members’ thoughts on their legislative priorities. By answering this 5-minute survey, you will help shape the upcoming 2020 National Conference of Regions and NARC’s advocacy efforts throughout the year. We would appreciate your response to the survey no later than January 24, 2020. If you have any questions, please contact Eli Spang at eli.spang@narc.org.

NARC WIOA Advisory Group
NARC will be forming an advisory group that will meet to discuss the upcoming reauthorization of the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA). This group will operate in the same fashion as the Older Americans Act Advisory Group, meeting to discuss advocacy strategies and priorities for the upcoming WIOA reauthorization process. The first tentative meeting for the WIOA Advisory group will be tomorrow, January 22nd at 4:00PM ET. Please reach out to Jessica Routzahn at jessica@narc.org or 202-618-5690 if you are interested in joining the WIOA Advisory Group.
 
NARC WRDA Advisory Group
NARC will be forming an advisory group that will meet to discuss the upcoming reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The first meeting for the WRDA Advisory group is scheduled for Thursday, January 23rd at 3:00PM ET. Please reach out to Eli Spang at eli.spang@narc.org or 202-618-6363 if you are interested in joining the group.

New FEMA Policy Requiring Communities to Build Stronger
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released a new policy requiring communities using federal disaster aid to rebuild public facilities to follow new construction codes to make them more resilient to future calamity. The policy requires states and municipalities that rebuild with FEMA money to take preventative steps such as locating rebuilt public facilities outside flood zones, building a safe distance from wildfire-prone vegetation, and using durable building materials. It will also alter how communities spend the tens of billions of dollars FEMA distributes each year to states that sustain a major disaster and qualify for federal aid. The policy applies only to FEMA grants spent on rebuilding public facilities. It does not affect FEMA’s cash payments to individuals and families in disaster zones.
 
HUD Seeks Comments on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Proposed Rule
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) seeks public comments on an Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing proposed rule. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the provision of housing based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and subsequent laws require participants in HUD grant programs to certify that they affirmatively further fair housing (AFFH) and maintain documentation to support that certification. The proposed rule would revise the definition of AFFH, develop metrics to allow comparison of jurisdictions, and require jurisdictions to certify that they will AFFH by identifying concrete steps the jurisdiction will take over the next 5 years. The rule proposes an “Assessment of Fair Housing” (AFH) to replace the current “Analysis of Impediments” (AI) process.
 
HUD Awards Nearly $2.2 Billion To Local Homeless Programs
HUD announced nearly $2.2 billion in grants to support thousands of local homeless assistance programs across the nation. HUD’s Continuum of Care grants will provide critically needed support to approximately 6,593 local programs on the front lines, serving individuals and families experiencing homelessness. This is the first of two announcements of Continuum of Care awards. HUD Continuum of Care grant funding supports a broad array of interventions designed to assist individuals and families experiencing homelessness, particularly those living in places not meant for habitation, located in sheltering programs, or at imminent risk of becoming homeless. Each year, HUD serves more than a million people through emergency shelter, transitional, and permanent housing programs. A complete list of all the state and local homeless projects awarded funding can be found here.
OTHER NEWS
U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and Indiana University (IU) Launch New USA Opportunity Zones Tool
Last week, EDA and the IU Kelley School of Business announced the launch of the USA Opportunity Zones tool. This web-based tool was created to help Economic Development Districts (EDDs) and local economic and community developers and investors target private investment to economically-distressed areas eligible for capital gain tax incentives under the Opportunity Zones (OZ) initiative. The tool combines location information showing where the zones are and reports that describe the zone itself in economic and demographic terms while showing the intersection of EDA’s EDD and University Center programs. This map also shows the zone context of its congressional district, EDD, state, and EDA (multi-state) Region.
 
Brazos County Becomes First Law Enforcement Agency in Texas To Implement FirstNet
The Brazos County Sheriff’s Office is the first law enforcement agency in Texas to officially adopt FirstNet. FirstNet, or First Responder Network Authority, is a nationwide broadband network that equips first responders to save lives and protect U.S. communities. The capabilities for officers include uploading reports from their vehicle, conducting virtual roll calls, and live streaming significant events from patrol cars to command staff so resources can be dispatched more effectively. Brazos County was involved in a case study of FirstNet in 2018 conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum, an independent research organization that focuses on critical issues in policing. Community leaders expect FirstNet to have a positive impact on the entire region.
REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT 
Geof Benson Receives Tufford Award
Geof Benson, Town Councilman from Beverly Shores and Immediate Past President of NARC, was recognized by the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) for meritorious service. Councilman Benson received the Norman Tufford Award “for exceptional dedication and service to NIRPC.” He has served as a NIRPC Commissioner since 2008 and served as Chair of the Commission in 2012 and again in 2018. Ty Warner, NIRPC’s Executive Director, said ““There was no hesitation or debate in selecting Geof for this award. It was obvious to the selection committee that Geof has been an example of regional service and espouses the ideals this award seeks to encourage.” Congratulations, Geof!
 
MACOG Named a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Business by the League of American Bicyclists
The League of American Bicyclists recognized the Michiana Area Council of Governments (MACOG) with a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Business (BFB) award, earning it a place alongside 1,366 businesses across the country contributing to the movement to build a more Bicycle Friendly America. MACOG kicked off the new year with a bang joining 153 new and renewing BFBs. Being bike friendly has helped show MACOG’s commitment to helping its region expand its bicycle infrastructure and programs. MACOG encourages bicycling as an easy option for transportation and even provides amenities to its employees such as by having a flexible start time. MACOG also encourages more ridership in the region as a whole, most recently by providing 58 bicycle racks to communities this past summer.

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