Around the Texas Capitol: Coronavirus response dominates government actions
By Shayne Woodard, J Pete Laney and Lauren Spreen
TAD Governmental Affairs
Not surprisingly, response to COVID-19 has filled the majority of everyone’s time at the Texas Capitol, which is currently closed to the public and to in-person hearings. Many legislative offices are empty as staffers work from home.
In our March report, we detailed some of the early actions at Texas Capitol related to the coronavirus. For a building that’s been largely silent since then, a lot has happened in a month. We continue to monitor any developments on the state legislative or regulatory level that could impact the state’s dairy industry.
Below we provide updates of a few recent actions, with the most recent listed first. You can find all of Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive orders issued in response to COVID-19 here.
April 17: Gov. Abbott Announces Plan to Re-Open the Texas Economy
Gov. Abbott issued three new Executive Orders to begin the process of reopening the state of Texas while revising hospital capacity and certain social distancing guidelines. Within the orders, certain activities and services that pose minimal to no threat of spreading the virus are allowed to resume, including:
- On April 20, all state parks will be reopened, with certain restrictions on visitors.
- On April 22, restrictions on surgical procedures and tests will be loosened, allowing doctors and nurses to return to their clinics and hospitals, provided resources (PPE and beds) are appropriately managed for COVID-19 cases.
- On April 25, retail establishments will be allowed to operate as “retail to go.” Still no in-store visitation or purchases.
- K-12 and all higher education campuses will remain closed through the end of their school year.
April 13: Gov. Abbott, Goldman Sachs, LiftFund Announce $50 Million in Loans for Texas Small Business
Goldman Sachs and the LiftFund, along with other community development financial institutions (CDFIs), are partnering to provide $50 million in loans to small businesses in Texas that have been affected by COVID-19 as part of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. These loans, made through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), will primarily be used for payroll so that employees can continue to receive paychecks and small businesses can retain their employees and will be partially or wholly forgiven.
Goldman Sachs will provide the capital as part of its $550 million commitment to COVID-19 relief, and LiftFund, alongside other CDFIs, will administer the funding to qualified small businesses. If all stipulations are met, small business can have their loans forgiven in full by the SBA. Business owners can apply for a PPP loan and find more information about the program on the LiftFund website here.
April 12: Gov. Abbott Extends Disaster Declaration for COVID-19
Originally issued on March 13, the Disaster Declaration provides the state a number of resources to effectively serve Texans as the Lone Star State continues to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“By extending my Disaster Declaration, we are ensuring the state of Texas continues to have adequate resources and capabilities to support our communities and protect public health,” Abbott said. “I urge all Texans to continue practicing social distancing and abide by the guidelines laid out by the CDC and my Executive Orders to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
You can read the Governor’s proclamation here.
April 10: Gov. Abbott Announces Frontline Child Care for Essential Workers
A new online Frontline Child Care website will help essential workers in Texas locate child care and support child care centers who are caring for these children during the outbreak. The Frontline Child Care Portal allows essential workers to search for child care facilities near them, as well as facility operating hours and the number of seats available.
April 9: Telehealth Options Expanded with Regulation Waivers
Abbott has temporarily waived a series of regulations in order to lift certain telehealth restrictions and expand telehealth options as Texas responds to COVID-19. These waivers apply to speech-language pathologists and audiologists, behavior analysts, hearing instrument fitters and dispensers, and dyslexia therapists.
April 8: Gov. Abbott, HHSC Announce Federal Approval of Emergency SNAP Benefits
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission will provide more than $168 million in emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food benefits to help Texans during the COVID-19 response. HHSC received federal approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide the maximum, allowable amount of SNAP benefits to recipients based on family size. The emergency allotments are currently authorized for the months of April and May and will affect all SNAP recipients in the state of Texas. You can read more about the benefits here.
April 7: State Parks and Historic Sites Closed
All state parks and historic sites were closed as part of the state’s efforts to strengthen social distancing practices and prevent gatherings of large groups of people. They will reopen at the direction of the governor.
April 1: Gov. Abbott’s Statewide Executive Order Takes Effect
Abbott’s statewide order implementing Essential Services and Activities Protocols for the entire state of Texas went into effect and will end on April 30, subject to extension thereafter based on the status of COVID-19 in Texas and the recommendations of the CDC. View the Governor’s Executive Order in its entirety here. The protocols direct all Texans to minimize non-essential gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. The Governor’s Executive Order renews and amends his previous orders (see previous orders here) enforcing federal social distancing guidelines for COVID-19.
March 25: President Trump Approves Major Disaster Declaration for Texas
The Declaration provides additional federal assistance to save lives, to protect property, public health, and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of COVID-19. The declaration opens up new sources of funding for individual and public assistance that will help Texas respond to this public health emergency and protect public health and safety.
Updates from the Texas Department of State Health Services
Texas DSHS updates the state case count every day at noon on a dashboard, which also breaks the numbers down by county. As of April 15, 184 of the state’s 254 counties are reporting coronavirus cases.
Texas Department of Emergency Management
TDEM is charged with carrying out a comprehensive all-hazard emergency management program for the state and for assisting cities, counties, and state agencies in planning and implementing their emergency management programs. Visit their website here for the most up-to-date information on Texas COVID-19 response.
Important Agency Links and Related COVID-19 Information
The Texas Association of Dairymen has compiled a list of state and federal websites with resource information of interest to the dairy industry.