• 04/30/2020 5:03 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    ACRA and its partners at the Coalition for American Heritage have sent a letter to House and Senate leadership regarding investments in historic preservation in the upcoming CARES 2 bill. The bill is aimed at providing further relief and economic stimulation in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

    The letter asks Congress to utilize investments in historic preservation to ensure the continued operation of government services and to spur economic growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes asking that CARES 2:

    • avoid creating any legislative exemptions from permitting reviews designed to identify and preserve cultural resources and historic properties;
    • provide $120 million for State and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices to enable their work while social distancing policies are in place and support local economic recovery;
    • allocate $300 million to existing competitive grant programs in the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF);
    • incorporate the recommendations of the Historic Tax Credit Growth and Opportunity Act (S.2615/HR. 2825); and
    • provide additional funding for the national endowments and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

    Read the full letter here, and stay tuned to the ACRAsphere for further updates.

  • 04/29/2020 5:58 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The following post was authored by Kimball Banks of Metcalf Archaeology. Kimball is the Chair of ACRA's Government Relations Committee.

    Yesterday we received an announcement here in Colorado about the shortfall to the state’s budget due to the pandemic and how the state was going to make it up, which will have to be done over several years. No surprise, but that shortfall is going to be covered in part by cutting budgets of “soft” programs, including education and History Colorado. Any reduction will adversely affect how History Colorado operates, possibly including a reduction in staff which in turn will most likely affect historic preservation activities in the state.

    That announcement got me thinking: every state is going to experience shortfalls and, if Colorado is an example, those shortfalls will be recouped through budget cuts in soft programs. Given that, you should check with the SHPOs/historical societies in the states in which you operate to see if their budgets are targeted and, if so, how that will affect their operations. This will probably be especially critical in those states that require a balanced budget.

    Be sure to let us know what you are seeing and hearing in your state. As Chair of ACRA’s Government Relations Committee, I, along with the rest of the Committee, am committed to supporting our members as best we can during this time, and collecting and disseminating state information is a part of that commitment. You can let us know in the comments below or send us an email here.

  • 04/29/2020 2:32 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Your Congress in Action is a new series that highlights the Capitol Hill news that affects CRM firms the most. This information is sourced from the Coalition for American Heritage, news articles, and more. Be sure to subscribe to the ACRAsphere to ensure you don't miss an update.

    • The House and Senate were both scheduled to return to Washington, DC on May 4, but House leadership has announced that their recess has been extended. The Senate still plans to reconvene next Monday.
    • Congress is wrestling with how to conduct its operations remotely. Most of the concerns focus on how to make the system secure and workable for Members who are not very tech-savvy. In the absence of an existing platform for conducting remote voting, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) put forward a plan to allow Members of Congress to proxy vote on behalf of their colleagues. Many House Republicans pushed back against the plan and said that they are ready to vote in person. They also are refusing to wear masks on the House floor, though most Democrats are doing so.
      • Some lawmakers are experimenting with conducting hearings via Facebook Live and there have been discussions regarding webcasting Congressional hearings. However, significant concerns remain about the possible legal challenges to remote voting (i.e. determining whether courts could overturn the results of House votes if they are not conducted in person).
    • Because Congress has been out of DC for a significant period of time and most efforts are focused on relief legislation when they are in session, there has been little movement on legislation that directly or indirectly affects heritage preservation. One item of interest is that Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) introduced a bill, HR 6499, to study the creation of a national heritage corridor along the U.S.-Mexico border.
    • A number of preservation organizations have sent letters concerning funding in the CARES 2 package. More information on the efforts of ACRA and the Coalition for American Heritage in this area will be available soon.
    • A lawsuit has been filed aimed at preventing Alaska Native Corporations from accessing $8 billion in CARES Act monies. Congress used a definition of “Indian tribe” in the CARES Act from P. L. 93-63 - The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, which covers ANCs. Therefore, the Treasury Department contends that the language of the CARES Act did not exclude ANCs from being eligible for the money, and that the court should not second-guess the executive branch’s “time-pressed determination” about how to distribute the funds. A federal judge issued an injunction barring Secretary Mnuchin from distributing any of the funds to ANCs while the Court considers the issue.
    • The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) announced the findings of a task force charged with formulating recommendations to improve the availability of digital and geospatial information about historic properties in an effort to inform federal project planning. More information is available on our ACRAsphere post regarding the announcement.
    • The ACHP sent a letter to Sen. Murkowski and Sen. Manchin concerning the legislative exemption to NEPA and NHPA that was included in the CARES Act. The letter states:

    “The ACHP maintains a policy against such exemptions and has done so because the regulations that implement Section 106 of the NHPA, found at 36 C.F.R. Part 800, provide for a variety of tools to adapt the process to the needs of particular programs. They have been used effectively to address the concerns of agencies and stakeholders in a wide variety of federal programs.”

    • Army Corps districts apparently cannot extend the deadline for public comment or permitting deadlines without permission from headquarters, a new procedure. In the past, regional offices were empowered to make this decision.
    • A Montana court ruled against the Corps’ EIS for Keystone Pipeline and ruled that they must go back and revisit it to address such issues as cumulative effects.
    • There has been no news on Council on Environmental Quality’s proposed revisions on the implementing regulations for NEPA.
    • There has been no mention of including funds for to address infrastructure in the CARES bills. Infrastructure will likely not be addressed until after the election and the next Congressional session convenes.

  • 04/28/2020 6:30 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    We will also be hosting another FREE members-only virtual happy hour on Tuesday, May 5 at 6:00 pm EDT.

    All employees of ACRA member firms, from field technicians to owners, are welcome to grab a drink of their choice and join ACRA President Nathan Boyless and Executive Director Amanda Stratton online. We can talk about the industry response to COVID-19, get ideas from your peers, or even simply vent about the current climate. Simply sign up here and we will send you a link to join!

  • 04/28/2020 12:25 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Safety and Human Resources for CRM During COVID-19

    April 30, 2020 | 2:00 - 3:00 PM (EDT) | Register Now

    In response to overwhelming demand, we have now increased our attendance limit for our upcoming webinar on Safety & HR requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. Register now to reserve your spot!

    This webinar is FREE for employees of ACRA member firms and just $10 for non-members. The webinar is designed to provide a preliminary conversation about the safety and human resources implications of the current environment. It will feature two brief presentations: one on the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and its implications and requirements for human resources policies at CRM firms and the second on best practices for field and office safety during the pandemic.

    Attendees will have a chance to ask questions during the Q&A after the two presentations. Learn more about the presenters and register on the event page.

    Register Now

  • 04/24/2020 11:10 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    UPDATE: The latest relief package detailed below has now passed the House. The bill now moves to the President for signature. If you have not yet applied for a loan as a part of the PPP and are eligible, we recommend that you do so quickly. You can view a detailed layout of the loan options available to you in our comparison here.

    The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) ran out of money last week, and yesterday the Senate passed an interim relief package replenishing funds for the program, which was previously created to keep keep workers employed during the current pandemic.

    The funding came as a part of a $484 billion package that is meant as a stopgap measure in advance of additional major relief legislation in the coming weeks. $310 billion was allocated to the PPP, with $60 billion of that allocated for smaller businesses without existing banking relationships.

    Other measures in the bill include:

    • $60 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) fund, with $50 billion allocated for loans and $10 billions for grants
    • $75 billion for healthcare providers treating COVID-19 patients
    • $25 billion for coronavirus testing and contact tracing

    The bill also requires the federal government to develop a  “strategic plan related to providing assistance to states for testing and increasing testing capacity.”

    The bill now moves to the House for a vote, which could come as early as Thursday. Stay tuned to the ACRAsphere for additional updates.

  • 04/23/2020 4:20 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) has released a report by the Digital Information Task Force, which is focused on formulating recommendations to improve the availability of digital and geospatial information about historic properties in an effort to inform federal project planning.

    The report, originally presented to Chairman Aimee Jorjani at the ACHP business meeting in March, outlines 5 major recommendations:

    • Make the Administration, Congress, agency officials, and the public aware of how digital information, including geographic information systems (GIS), increases the effectiveness and efficiency of project planning and helps avoid harm to historic properties.

    • Identify opportunities for funding and resource enhancement.

    • Enable cultural resources GIS data exchange between states, tribes, local governments, and federal agencies.

    • Address data management impediments to increase GIS availability.

    • Properly manage access and secure sensitive data.

    Each recommendation is accompanied by recommended actions in the full report. The ACHP notes that they will "carry out these tasks to implement the report’s recommendations in cooperation with federal and preservation partners over the coming months."

    Access the full report here, and the ACHP press release provides additional information as well. 

  • 04/23/2020 3:32 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Are you interested in being a leader in your industry? Now is the time to step up - ACRA is seeking dedicated members who are interested in serving on the Board of Directors. ACRA’s board of directors consists of 7 officers, 3 designated seats based on firm size, and 11 at-large members.

    Positions that are up for election in 2020 include:

    • Vice President – Government Relations
    • 3 At-Large Seats

    Each nominee must be employed by a firm in good standing with ACRA. Candidates must also be able to commit to quarterly board meetings, including in person at the Annual Conference in the fall. Board members will also be recommended to serve on at least one committee.

    Nominees’ applications are examined by the Nominating Committee to assure that they are current members in good standing and that they can perform the basic requirements of the position for which they are applying. Candidates will be announced to the membership in late May, and voting will take place electronically in June.

    How to Apply?

    Just two simple steps:

    1. Submit a one-paragraph biography, including a photo.
    2. Submit a second paragraph that answers the following questions, keeping each answer short and concise:
    • Relevant Experience. Please list any experience, education, or employment that may be relevant to serving on the ACRA Board of Directors.
    • Interest. Why are you interested in serving on the Board?
    • Contribution. What contribution do you feel you can make? What one or two desirable qualities (those listed above or other qualities) will you bring to the organization?
    • Vision. What is your vision of how ACRA can better serve the industry and its membership in the future?

    Send your nominating files to Kim Redman with a subject line that begins “Board Nomination.” Be sure to include the position you would like to run for in the body of the email. Nomination deadline is Friday, May 22, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

  • 04/21/2020 4:11 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Safety and Human Resources for CRM During COVID-19

    April 30, 2020 | 2:00 - 3:00 PM (EDT) | Register Now

    CRM firms have all adapted differently to the current pandemic. Some have focused on data processing and report writing from the office, and others have maintained strong field operations with new safety measures. All firms have had to follow changes to federal laws that may impact required employee benefits. These changes in safety and human resources policies bring with them questions associated with contract fulfillment, project staffing, project cost, and ethics that have not been faced by many CRM providers.

    Join us for a webinar on Thursday, April 30 at 2:00 pm EDT that will provide a preliminary conversation about the safety and human resources implications of the current environment. Our webinar will feature two brief presentations: one on the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and its implications and requirements for human resources policies at CRM firms and the second on best practices for field and office safety during the pandemic.

    Following the presentation we will host a Q&A session to explore best practices and creative solutions to problems faced as the situation continues to unfold. Both firm owners and employees will learn about the paid leave requirements in the federal relief bills, increased safety measures in the field, and how you can go beyond just the legal requirements in both areas.

    This webinar is free for ACRA members, and non-members can register for just $10. Space is limited - register now to reserve your spot!

    Register Now

  • 04/20/2020 3:35 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) is offering additional courses on their eLearning portal and a free introductory webinar series due the COVID-19 pandemic. From the ACHP:

    The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) recognizes that many of our partners working remotely are better positioned to engage in remote learning and is therefore pleased to remind you that we offer a variety of distance learning opportunities that may meet your needs.

    The ACHP has seven courses available for FREE on the eLearning portal and has just added a 60-minute course, "What Now? Protecting Historic Properties in Disaster Recovery." It also recently posted an overview of Section 106 highlighting opportunities for Native Hawaiians and Native Hawaiian Organizations to participate in the process. Go to https://www.achp.gov/training/elearning to learn how to access the eLearning courses. Or, if you've already created an account, go directly to https://achp.golearnportal.org/ to begin learning today!

    In May 2020, we're offering a FREE Stay-at-Home Webinar Series of four webinars to introduce decision makers, project managers, consulting parties, and others with limited experience to the principle requirements of Section 106 review. The schedule for the series is as follows:

    • May 7 - 3 pm Eastern time - What is Section 106? A blended learning Q&A
    • May 14 - 3 pm Eastern time - Defining the Area of Potential Effect
    • May 21 - 3 pm Eastern time - e106 and Section 106 Documentation
    • May 28 - 3 pm Eastern time - Planning for Successful Section 106 Agreements

    Find out more and register for one or all four of the webinars at https://www.achp.gov/training/webinars.

Become an ACRA member to get exclusive benefits including vendor discounts, premium access to online learning opportunities, and much more.

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