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.

Reopening Schools Changes and Survey

This week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that local health officials cannot shut down all schools in their vicinity due to coronavirus concerns. Following this announcement, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced that it will not fund school districts that keep classrooms closed because of local health mandates, but that school districts can obtain permission from the TEA to remain closed for up to eight weeks and continue being funded. These announcements come after Dallas County and other county officials across Texas released mandates to close schools for the first few weeks of the school year. More information about AG Paxton’s announcement can be found here.

The Texas House Democratic Caucus’ Education Working Group is looking for feedback from families, educators, staff and students across the state regarding preferences for policies surrounding in-person or remote instruction at schools this fall. This survey will help the Education Working Group create solutions that incorporate the voices and concerns of all Texans. If you would like to provide your feedback, the survey can be accessed here.

Waived STAAR Testing Requirements

Governor Greg Abbott today announced that the grade promotion requirement related to the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test for students in grades 5 and 8 has been waived for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year. Typically, a student’s score on the STAAR test assists school systems in determining whether the student can be promoted to the next grade level. The traditional A-F rating system will remain in place, albeit with certain adjustments due to COVID-19. More information can be found here.

Extension of Automatic SNAP Renewals

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has received federal authority to extend certifications by six months for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients whose benefits are up for renewal in July and August. HHSC also received federal approval to waive interview requirements for new and current households, allowing HHSC to process applications as they are received and make eligibility determinations faster. The automatic renewals will extend the benefits of approximately 276,000 households who have not yet turned in their renewal information for July and August.

Extension of Pandemic EBTs Application Deadline

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) is extending the application deadline for the federal Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer program (P-EBT) to August 21 to ensure eligible families have more time to apply. Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) provides eligible families with a one-time payment for each child who previously received free or reduced-price meals. P-EBT works the same way Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits do and will help families get the food they need during the current pandemic. For more information about eligibility or to apply, go here.

Families who have been denied but think they are eligible should contact HHSC within 15 days of receiving their denial notice. They can either call the P-EBT Call Center at 833-613-6220 or send an email to AES_PEBT_Complaints@hhsc.state.tx.us with proof of free or reduced-priced meals. Proof includes the award letter that is sent to parents when their children become eligible for the National School Lunch Program.

Upcoming Governor’s Small Business Webinar

The Governor’s Small Business Team will be hosting an online webinar next Wednesday, August 5th, at 1:00pm. This webinar will be on “Business Strategies for an Evolving Future” and will help guide business owners and entrepreneurs in implementing solutions, such as e-commerce and online strategies, to maximize business resiliency during uncertain times. The event will offer information and advice on:

  • Enhancing online presence and communications
  • How e-commerce could be added to a business model
  • Advice on financial management strategies
  • Advice on current workforce challenges

More information and free registration can be found here.

Available Medicaid and CHIP Provider Relief Funds

Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) urges eligible Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) providers to apply for federal COVID-19 relief funds before the August 3 deadline. Provider Relief Funds may be used to cover lost revenue due to COVID-19 or health related expenses purchased to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the virus, including supplies and equipment to provide health care services for COVID-19 patients, workforce training, reporting test results to federal, state, or local governments, and acquiring additional resources, and more.

Up to $15 billion from the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund is available to eligible providers that participate in state Medicaid and CHIP programs. As of July 15, 2020, less than 5 percent of the state’s 27,351 eligible providers in Texas have applied. Applicants can receive approximately 2 percent of reported gross revenue from patient care. For more information, visit the U.S. HHS website.  

DARTzoom Website and Survey

DART is currently in the process of redesigning our bus network. The plan, called DARTzoom: A New Bus Network, will change the bus network to improve bus frequency, efficiency and connections throughout DART’s 700 square mile, 13-city service area. As they continue through the redesign process, you can provide them with feedback is through the established, DARTzoom Survey.  Survey participants will have a chance to win a $100 DART GoPass Tap Card for filling out the survey. You can access the DARTzoom website here and the surveys here (English) or here (Spanish).

DART Silver Line Community Meetings

DART is hosting a series of community meetings regarding the DART Silver Line Regional Rail Project. These meetings will be an opportunity for the community to receive an update on the progress of the Silver Line Rail Project and ask questions related to the project.  Due to the on-going pandemic, these meetings will be conducted virtually via a Microsoft TEAMS Live Event. On August 6, there will be a meeting for Coppell/Cypress Waters from 6:30-8:30pm. On August 12, there will be a meeting for Carrollton from 6:30-8:30pm. Credentials for participating in these virtual meetings will be posted to our website soon. For more information on the DART Silver Line Regional Rail Project, please visit here.

Extension of Early Voting for the November Election

On July 27, Governor Greg Abbott issued a Proclamation extending the early voting period for the November 3rd Election by nearly a week. Under this proclamation, early voting by personal appearance will begin on Tuesday, October 13, 2020, and continue through Friday, October 30, 2020. The proclamation also expands the period in which marked mail-in ballots may be delivered in person to the early voting clerk’s office, allowing such delivery prior to as well as on Election Day.

Gassing Up in Carrollton: Gas Gift Card Donation Initiative

District 115 Constituent Highlight

Coppell Middle School East student Nehal S. is one of the winners of the TCS Ignite Innovation Student Challenge for 2020. The challenge was to create a 1-2 minute video addressing a solution to a problem that can be solved through digital innovation in the areas of Health, Our Planet, or Education. Nehal’s solution is an app called Food Advisor that will help users choose meals based on personal daily calorie amounts. You can learn more about the challenge and watch her submission video and others here. Congrats Nehal!

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