NB_440_21_2 - NB 440-21-2 PGM - Guide to Program Flexibilities due to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) National Emergency
NB 440-21-2 PGM - Guide to Program Flexibilities due to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) National Emergency
National Bulletin: 440-21-2   Date:  October 15, 2020  
Subject: PGM - Guide to Program Flexibilities due to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) National Emergency  


  
 
Purpose.   To replace National Bulletin (NB) 440-20-20, “Guide to Program Flexibilities during the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)” and to extend this guidance to States through FY 2021 on program flexibilities for participants that will help NRCS continue to effectively and efficiently provide financial and technical assistance during the COVID-19 national emergency, specifically focusing on financial assistance and easements programs.  
 
Expiration Date.   September 30, 2021  
 
Background.   NRCS has established program delivery policies that ensure agency and participant actions in furtherance of conservation programs are compliant with Federal laws and regulations. Considering the COVID-19 national emergency and the need to limit physical interactions (i.e., social distancing), NB-440-20-20 identified potential flexibilities in program delivery that allowed for continued, seamless service to participants, while maintaining compliance with Federal laws and regulations.         
 

Explanation.   The COVID-19 national emergency requires continued limited physical interactions. Therefore, this updated bulletin extends guidance on actionable flexibilities and potential tasks that NRCS staff may use to adapt to this COVID-19 national emergency through the end of FY 2021. Additionally, this bulletin identifies acceptable signature types by program to reduce contact between participants and NRCS or partner staff.

The spreadsheet document “Guide to Program Flexibilities due to COVID-19" provides guidance on the following categories of flexibilities: 

• Actionable Flexibilities tab—Outlines how NRCS can do things differently to work with participants in a flexible manner.

• Potential Tasks tab—Includes reminders of duties/tasks that States can work on with limited contact.

• Forms tab—Lists acceptable signature types, based on specific form or document, including additional flexibility (i.e., different ways to receive participant signatures beyond “wet” signatures and eAuthenticated digital signatures).

      o Fields marked ‘Yes’ denote an acceptable form of signature

      o Fields marked ‘No’ denote an unacceptable form of signature

      o Footnoted fields provide additional information and flexibility (highlighted in yellow as a reminder to ‘proceed with caution’) 

• Definitions tab—Defines signature types.

Note:  While NRCS is providing greater flexibility on how a document may be submitted, all documents are required to be fully completed. In addition, documents that support contracts with multiple participants or landowners must include ALL required signatures.

Note:  For Farm Bill 2014 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects, the RCPP covered programs are expected to mirror the covered programs, unless an adjustment of terms is requested and approved.

The spreadsheet document “Guide to Program Flexibilities due to COVID-19" continues to be updated, as new information and additional electronic signature software tools become available. The current spreadsheet version is available at:

• DCP SharePoint Site:

     o https://usdagcc.sharepoint.com/sites/nrcs_programs/default.aspx

As a reminder, these program flexibilities will expire September 30, 2021, and should be considered temporary and specific to the COVID-19 national emergency. Any program flexibility extensions beyond that date will be noted in an additional directive.

Request for feedback.  If States have additional forms or participant signature requirements that they would like to be considered for addition to this list of acceptable documents, please send them as a program question on the FAPD SharePoint and by email to EasementSupport@usda.gov.    

 
Contact.   Questions about this bulletin should be directed through the appropriate State contact through the FAPD SharePoint site or for easement programs at EasementSupport@usda.gov.   
 
 

 /s/

JIMMY BRAMBLETT
Deputy Chief for Programs          
 
  
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