City to apply for animal friendly grant

Monday, April 13, 2020

Since the dogs housed with Shelbyville Animal Control have no voice, Shelbyville City Councilors spoke on their behalf during their monthly business meeting Thursday night, which was available through live streaming Facebook video, due to COVID-19 state orders.

The Councilors discussed, and approved through resolution, for city administration to apply for an animal friendly grant through the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s division of consumer industry services-animal health. The application, if approved, potentially provides the city with several thousand dollars, without a city match required, which could prove advantageous for Shelbyville Animal Control.

The grant, to be used by municipalities with shelters for spaying and neutering services, is funded through the purchase of state speciality license plates. The city would use the dollars, if received later this year, to supply assistance to lower income individuals who are unable to afford usual costs associated with spaying and neutering of dogs.

This new live streamed April business meeting, which lasted less than 30 minutes, was also open via the public at the city courtroom but was held electronically in accordance with Gov. Bill Lee’s Executive Order No. 16. Recorder Lisa Smith sent out the city’s latest renewed state of emergency renewal order on Thursday, prior to the meeting, which extended all social distancing laws, those applying specifically to city activity, through Friday.

Don’t stand so close to me

The city informed all persons planning to attend Thursday night’s meeting in person to keep a distance of at least 6 feet from one another and if they are suffering from a fever or cough, not to attend. As well, persons having travelled outside the United States in the last 15 days or anyone who might have been in contact with anyone infected with the coronavirus were told not to attend in person.

All council members, Shelbyville Mayor Wallace Cartwright, city attorney Ginger Shofner and city manager Shanna Boyette were in attendance at the city courtroom. Jean Pruitt and William Christie helped constitute a quorum through their phone and audio conferencing votes.

Shelter shutdown

The coronavirus impact on Shelbyville Animal Control has required that the city drastically reduce its intake at this time as well as its personnel working at the shelter, Deputy Police Chief Brian Crews said Monday morning.

“At this time we are not taking owner surrenders and we are only responding to aggressive dog calls or animal welfare calls. We are limiting access to the shelter to employees only and not allowing volunteers at this time. We have been very fortunate. Currently, we only have two dogs in the shelter which I suspect will be reclaimed by their owner. Beginning this week, we will likely begin responding to more calls but still limit our intake as well as the number of employees working at any given time.”

City council discussed at its last study session how it would set aside general fund dollars in case the COVID-19 pandemic was to put the city in a financial emergency. Council approved an ordinance on first reading to amend the adopted budget ordinance for the fiscal year 2019-2020 and establishing a public hearing for such on May 14.

Seconded with no hesitation, council approved by resolution that it would support all such efforts that the city manager and mayor’s office put forth in the best interest of employees, citizens and city government during the continued COVID-19 pandemic.

Families First

In the same fiscal budget vein, council approved a resolution acknowledging and enacting, if needed, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. That would include financial support of its own city employees, especially those working on the front lines like police.

The families First Coronavirus Response Act requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division administers and enforces the new law’s paid leave requirements. These provisions will apply from the effective date through December 31, 2020.

Generally, the Act provides that employees of covered employers are eligible for:

•Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or

•Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor; and

•Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

The paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA apply to certain public employers, and private employers with fewer than 500 employees. Most employees of the federal government are covered by Title II of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which was not amended by this Act, and are therefore not covered by the expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA. However, federal employees covered by Title II of the Family and Medical Leave Act are covered by the paid sick leave provision. 

Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.

All employees of covered employers are eligible for two weeks of paid sick time for specified reasons related to COVID-19. Employees employed for at least 30 days are eligible for up to an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave to care for a child under certain circumstances related to COVID-19.