By Matt Roy Posted Wednesday, May 20, 2020 8:00 am

Just days after approving a preliminary budget for next year, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will continue efforts steer federal funds and local donations to help those hurt by the novel coronavirus outbreak and prepare for the coming elections.

With an agenda comprised of dozens of action items, the regularly scheduled formal meeting will be conducted at 9:30 a.m. in the Supervisors’ Auditorium, 205 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix — though due to concerns over the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, the meeting room will be closed to the public.

Though Gov. Doug Ducey allowed his shelter-in-place order to expire as of May 15 as part of a phased reopening of some businesses across the state, county officials cited social distancing guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their decision to keep the county board meetings closed to in-person attendees.

Board Chairman Clint Hickman encouraged residents to continue to attend the meetings remotely in a recent email message to his District 4 constituents.

“This should be an informative meeting that will show how the county is navigating tax dollars amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr. Hickman stated in the May 14 district update.

There are several options are available for those who wish to attend today’s meeting from home, including:

  • Visit Maricopa.gov or maricopa.gov/324 to access the live feed at the start of the meeting.
  • Visit GoToWebinar.com and enter webinar ID: 474-244-635.
  • For residents without a computer, dial 1-914-614-3221 on your phone, and enter the Audio Access code 157313837# (Long distance charges may apply and no PIN is needed.)

Online meetings will not be active until just prior to the meeting; future webinar meeting IDs and access codes will change with each subsequent meeting. Additional information or instructions — including up-to-date access codes — will be provided at the Clerk of the Board’s website, www.Maricopa.Gov/324.

County residents can submit comments by emailing Agenda.Comments@Maricopa.Gov or calling 602-506-3766.

The board’s proceedings will also be streamed live for free at their YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/maricopacountyaz.

Videos are typically archived at the site up to five days following each meeting.

CARES Act spending

County officials announced Monday the board’s approval of a $3 million budget for fiscal year 2021, which makes modest cuts to discretionary spending to focus on responding to serving those affected by the outbreak.

District 2 Supervisor Steve Chucri in the May 18 press release credited the county’s management of federal disaster relief funds to serve those most vulnerable without imposing new taxes.

“We are cutting back on spending where we can and doubling down where we must, with a focus on wise management of the CARES Act funding,” said Supervisor Steve Chucri, District 2. “A crisis of this magnitude makes it even more important for our government to operate at the speed of business. I’m proud of how quickly we’ve been able to adjust our operations to serve constituents, all while not raising the tax rate.”

At today’s meeting, the board will consider approving allocations from the CARES Act for a variety of uses, from facilities improvements to new medical diagnostic equipment.

The county medical examiner’s office has been allocated $800,000 for additional cold body storage capacity and another $225,000 for a rapid DNA instrument, while the federal funds will pay $119,738 for Public Health Dashboard software licenses.

County parks will get $187,000 for exterior signs and barriers and another $410,000 for entry and security gates.

And the Maricopa County Superior Court will receive $156,811 for plexiglass shields and $135,076 for queuing equipment.

So far, the county has received more than $398 million in CARES Act funding, according to the release.

New PPE donations

The county continues to receive donations of personal protective equipment from a variety of sources, including 10 donors this week whose contributions total more than an estimated $69,000, which the board must approve for receipt.

The Arizona Dental Association provided 33 types of PPE — including gloves, masks, gowns, wipes, lab jackets, hand sanitizer, disinfectant, face shields and goggles — for a total estimated donation of $23,683.

The Mayo Clinic boxes of two dozen PPE materials, including gowns, gloves, masks, wipes and disposable shoe covers with a total estimated value of $14,269.

The Central Arizona Dental Society chipped in 82 boxes of disposable gloves, masks and gowns with estimated value of $12,320; while the Maricopa County School Superintendent donated 90 temperature guns valued at approximately $9,773.

Among the other donors noted in the meeting agenda are Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, EIS Tempe, Koukatonon Community Organization, Lindsey Baker, first responder agencies in Mesa and Queen, and another individual cited in the report as Dr. Gimbel, though no first name was provided.

Elections security

The board will consider approving grant applications for federal funding to improve voting security for county voters.

The new application to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission seeks $2,559,425 to cover security efforts from December 2019 through December 2024 in accordance with the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

Among programs approved for HAVA funding are: replacing electronic-only voting machines with those which produce a verifiable paper record; conducting post-election audits to increase tally accuracy and results confidence; upgrading computer systems to prevent cyberattacks; facilitating cybersecurity training; and educating voters about voting procedures, rights and voting technology, among other measures.

The grant this year, obtained through the office Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and awarded to the county as a subgrantee, can also be used to address sanitation and social distancing concerns for those voting in person or working at the polls, according to the award letter.

“HAVA neither expressly authorizes nor prohibits the use of … funds for expenditures necessary to protect against and respond to a pandemic. Both sections provide payments for the purposes of improving the administration of elections for federal office, which can include expenditures that would protect staff and poll workers, secure physical locations, and address unexpected expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic during a federal election,” the letter states.

The grant funding would cover such expenditures as incurred between Jan. 20 and the end of the year.

Original link: https://yourvalley.net/stories/maricopa-county-officials-eye-election-security-covid-19-response-efforts,159921