To respond to the impact of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the MSBA office has been temporarily closed since March 17, 2020 until further notice. However, the MSBA remains committed to our partnership with districts and we continue to accept reimbursement requests, contracts and other documents electronically so we can continue to support project approvals and reimburse districts throughout this pandemic. In addition, the MSBA is taking multiple steps to assist districts. We are holding Board, Subcommittee, Panel and other MSBA meetings remotely so the MSBA process can continue to move forward. Additionally, the MSBA is working with districts to provide flexibility with extensions and MSBA deliverables. Several districts with projects in the MSBA’s capital pipeline have contacted the MSBA with concerns related to the effect that the current pandemic is having on projects. Each district and each project is facing its own challenges depending on what phase the project is in, as well as each district’s decisions on implementing COVID-19 guidelines. Some of the major concerns that we have heard are regarding MSBA deadlines, project schedules, and potential budget increases.
The MSBA Board of Directors sets the grant amount and reimbursement rate that a district can receive at the time of project approval and we cannot later increase that amount in order to remain in line with our annual funding cap limitation. As a matter of policy, the MSBA does not reimburse for change orders due to schedule delays or accelerated costs, and we have caps on change orders that are set at the time of project approval. We have done our programmatic planning and based our capital pipeline invitations according to this process and based on the annual funding cap limitation that we have. To change our processes or make exceptions would have a profound impact on our future program and impact the ability to continue with other projects in our pipeline.
Of note, the National Council on School Facilities has advised members to keep track of any additional facilities expenses related to the current health crisis. The MSBA concurs with this advice, as it is unclear at this time whether any of these expenses may be eligible to be reimbursed by funding to be allocated to the Commonwealth through the CARES Act. The MSBA appreciates our continued partnership with districts across the Commonwealth. We stand ready to assist districts as we navigate this unprecedented time together.
We recommend that districts work with their project teams and local counsel to review their project contracts and documents to identify any avenues of budgetary relief. Additionally, the MSBA suggests that districts work with their local governmental leaders and local counsel to determine whether there may be some type of assistance through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act).