These weekly updates will provide the latest news and information on what our community, the state, and the federal government are doing as we face an unprecedented pandemic.
On April 17, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott announced an effort to begin the process of reopening the state. In the announcement, the initial steps to reopen include a set of executive orders that will allow retail stores to be able to provide product pickups, state parks will reopen, and surgery restrictions at medical facilities will be loosened. He also announced the formation of a “statewide strike force” that will develop reopening procedures. All schools will remain closed throughout the rest of the school year. Texas residents are advised to continue social distancing practices and other CDC guidelines. More openings are set to be announced at the end of April and May if infection rates continue to decline and testing capabilities remain sufficient.
Updated Dallas County Health and Safety Requirements
Dallas County announced that starting on April 17, all residents over the age of two are required to wear some form of covering over their nose and mouth when patronizing an Essential Business or using public transportation. Parents and Guardians of children under 10 shall be responsible for appropriately masking children pursuant to this Order. To the greatest extent possible, all non-medical employees who work at an Essential Businesses or perform services that are exempt under this Order must wear face coverings over their noses and mouths while performing their work. An owner or operator of an Essential Business may refuse admission or service to any individual who fails to wear face covering. Children under the age of 2 should not wear cloth face coverings. Those between the ages of 2 and 9 should use them but under adult supervision. Children with breathing problems should not wear a face covering. Acceptable coverings include but are not limited to: homemade masks, scarfs, bandanas or handkerchiefs. The Today Show has provided a guide to making fabric face masks with and without sewing. The guides can be found here.
Newly Announced Small Business Loans
On April 13, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott announced that $50 million dollars of small business loans will be available to Texas businesses starting this week. The goal of the loan program is to prevent small businesses from permanently closing and eliminating payrolls for employees because business is required to be closed or drastically limited during the COVID-19 crisis. Half of the funding is in partnership between LiftFund and Goldman Sachs. These loans, made through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), may be used for payroll/compensation costs, health care costs, mortgage interest (not principal), rent, utilities and interest on debt obligations incurred before Feb. 15, 2020. To qualify, the business or nonprofit must have been in operation as of Feb. 15, 2020 and the owner must be an independent contractor or sole proprietor or the business/organization has either employees or independent contractors for whom they have associated payroll costs and reside in the U.S. If all conditions are met, small businesses can have their loans forgiven in full by the SBA. Business owners can apply for a PPP loan and find more information on the LiftFund website.
Small Business Webinar Series
On April 15, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism (EDT) launched the Governor’s Small Business Webinar Series to provide Texas small business owners and entrepreneurs with timely, relevant, and actionable information on COVID-19 recovery resources. The series covers a variety of resources available including information on programs offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration that may be of assistance to Texas businesses impacted by COVID-19. Businesses can also connect with local experts and support systems. Featured speakers include area Small Business Development Centers and other resource providers based on the needs of the communities covered in each webinar. The first webinar was hosted on April 15; playback can be accessed here. Additional regional webinars will be held throughout the months of April and May and announced on the EDT website in the coming days.
Auto-renewal of Medicaid
The Texas Department of Health and Human Services announced the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid benefits will automatically be renewed so existing clients can maintain uninterrupted coverage during the COVID-19 public health crisis. This means people who have Medicaid can keep their Medicaid without signing up to renew. Members will be notified when it is time to renew again. Texas is also waiving interview requirements for households applying for SNAP. Households are not required to complete an interview before approval if identity has been verified and mandatory verification steps are completed. Texans in need can apply for benefits, including SNAP and Medicaid, at YourTexasBenefits.com or use the Your Texas Benefits mobile app to manage benefits.
Dallas County Tenant Hotline and Eviction Assistance
In order to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and to help those renters from being displaced, Dallas County issued an order to offer assistance to those facing eviction. All currently filed and pending eviction cases are postponed until May 20. Note that tenants are still responsible for paying their rent and should contact their landlord and make sure they are aware when eviction moratoriums are in place. If you are having difficulty paying rent, talk to your landlord, attempt to make payments or establish a payment schedule together. If you have been evicted or notified of a pending eviction after March 18, you can call or email the county’s tenant hotline: 214-653-6563 or firstname.lastname@example.org.