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Executive Committee

April 7, 2020

PRESENT: Celeste Branham, John Portela, David Burns, Maryalice Crofton, Jeni Tilton-Flood 

Executive Committee convened by skype at 3pm. 

Celeste explained the rationale for scheduling an April meeting which was a change from the earlier decision. The meeting can be done virtually under a special bill enacted at the end of the legislative session. The text was emailed to members earlier. The motivation for gathering is that there is so much happening and the Commissioners have not met as a body since December. It’s unusual to have 4 months go by and the pace of activity could leave some people feeling adrift. 

Maryalice was asked for an update on office operations. Commission staff were in the office until March 30 when the building was evacuated to permit removal of bats and clean up. Everyone will work remotely through April 13. Michael is engaged nearly full-time on emergency response with the state DCT team. Bryan and Maryalice worked on standing up MaineReady.org, the platform for managing VOAD and emergency response needs for volunteers. They are also using social media to locate AmeriCorps Alums and the current NCCC members who have been furloughed home. Both groups could help fill the needs for volunteers to support essential services. Jamie is guiding all the programs through adaptation of their work so members can continue serving the community while abiding by health guidelines. A huge challenge is the federal policies are changing at least daily, sometimes more often. The temp secretary was only able to stay for 4 days. When the stay-at-home order is lifted, the person can return if needed/possible. The upside is the Commission staff have been using technology for meetings for a number of years so it was not a change. 

Request to cover initial Maine Service Fellows from CARES act funds. Maryalice wrote to the Commissioner of Education asking for guidance on the best route to request funding for Service Fellows. The fundraising is now impossible as philanthropic organizations and individuals pivot to support basic needs of citizens. Executive Committee expressed support for continuing exploration of the idea. 

AmeriCorps Planning Grants. Under the AmeriCorps Formula allocation, it has not been possible to offer planning grants for about 15 years. Back then, the federal agency incorporated those funds into the calculation of whether a state met or exceeded the cap on cost-per-member. (Cost per member is determined by dividing the number of 1700 hour service years into the grand total of awarded funds. It may not exceed the cap.) The states have banded together to press hard for reversal of the policy. Staff are asking if Exec Committee would support issuing a planning grant call for proposals. There was support. 

Develop April agenda. Members discussed items to be carried forward from the cancelled March meeting and new items to add. Communications will brief the board on legislative proposals. The Grant Task Force will be in the middle of reviews but not have any items for decisions. A number of other issues were identified and the agenda will be quite full. 

Commission office as Identigo partner for fingerprinting. Maryalice explained an opportunity that includes a small source of income. Identigo is the Dept of Public Safety contractor that takes fingerprints for FBI background checks (via scanner) and sends them to the State Bureau of Identification (SBI). Identigo has not found reliable Augusta partners for this function. If the Commission office was a site, it would not interfere very much because all scheduling, payment, etc. is done on line. The office has complete control over hours of operation and, on a busy day, the history shows low numbers except in certain months. There are spaces on the floor but staff held discussion with the state real estate bureau until getting feedback from Executive Committee. Members did not have objection. Any funds could be put, in part, toward supporting the secretarial position. The person would be trained along with two other staff (most likely grant officer and training officer) on the required procedures. 

Service Project during NGA meeting, Portland in August. There was a change in the consultant working with the NGA and governor’s staff on planning. The new person is Joanne D’Arcangelo who is known to the Commission because she previously facilitated several board retreats. Maryalice connected with Joanne who indicated planning is very preliminary due to the focus of all governors on the pandemic. She did share that the meetings usually have 700+ people in attendance which is many more than we expected. If a service project is able to occur (no one knows if health guidelines will allow), Joanne will reach out. 

National Public Policy and States for Service. John reported he has not been able to get on the calls for States for Service, the advocacy arm of state commissions. Maryalice sits on the ASC public policy committee and reported there is a high level of activity there. Senate staff have asked ASC and states for proposals to include in the next stimulus package. Several policy changes and some funding requests were submitted. The feedback was these were too modest so the discussion continues. 

Notice to board of April 24 meeting. Celeste asked Maryalice to send board members a notice so they would put it on their calendars. By changing to the 24th, it gives members an additional weeks’ notice. The start time will remain 10 am. Hopefully in May, we can return to the regular schedule. 

There being no other discussion items, the members ended the call at 4:09 pm.