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.

State-Run COVID-19 Mobile Testing Sites

The Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), in partnership with the Texas Military Department, is continuing to run COVID-19 testing locations across the state. They are also distributing four 3-ply surgical masks to every Texan who undergoes COVID-19 testing at state-run mobile test collection sites. Texans can find a testing site near them by visiting the COVID-19 Test Collection Site map.

Irving Housing and Utilities Assistance

In partnership with Catholic Charities, the City of Irving is offering residents emergency rental, mortgage and utilities assistance if their income or expenses have been affected by COVID-19. In order to qualify, residents must show they have been directly affected by the pandemic, including proof of job loss or reduction in hours, child care or school closures, bank statements or medical bills. Eligible residents must have a household income between 80% and 120% of the area’s median income. Recipients can receive up to $2,000 per month for a maximum of three months to cover housing expenses dating back to March 1. Money is paid directly to landlords, lenders or utility providers. Applications are accepted on a first come, first serve basis and can be found here.

COVID-19 Rent Assistance Resources

PPE Distribution to Schools and Reopening Plans

According to Governor Abbott, the state will continue to purchase and distribute PPE to schools at no cost to the school districts. The state has already distributed the following to Texas schools: 59,410,640 masks; 567,948 gallons of hand sanitizer; 24,017 thermometers; and 511,294 face shields.

Local school boards have up to a 4-week back to school transition period during which they can offer a solely remote instructional setting if that is deemed necessary. After 4 weeks, the school district can extend the transition period up to another 4 weeks after a vote of the school board and receiving a waiver. If any school district believes they need an extension beyond 8 weeks due to COVID-19 related issues, the TEA will review that request on a case-by-case basis.

November Election Poll Workers Needed

Are you interested in helping with the November Election? Consider becoming a poll worker! Poll workers are a critical component for keeping polling locations open. They verify ID’s, distribute ballots, help citizens with disabilities vote, and perform other tasks necessary to effectively run a polling site. Poll workers are needed throughout the entire period of early voting up until Election Day. Information about responsibilities, eligibility, and applications can be found on your county’s website.

High school students who are 16 years of age or older also have the opportunity to participate by serving as election clerks at polling locations on Election Day. Information about the Student Election Clerk Program can be found here.

TCA Guides for Reopening the Arts Safely

As Texas navigates the COVID-19 pandemic, the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) expects that a variety of factors will be considered as performing arts venues determine the feasibility of reopening safely at limited capacity. Because of these limitations, anticipate continuing to see a variety of virtual offerings provided by the arts field; if you can, take advantage of– and to support– these efforts. Please refer to the guidelines provided by the Governor to determine the maximum actions you can take at this time. Additionally, The National Endowment for the Arts has produced a best practices tip sheet on reopening safely, and resources on making virtual activities accessible to people with disabilities.

TCA is also producing a series of professional development webinars focused on COVID-19 resources for arts organizations. Videos of past webinars are available for viewing, including: Fundraising During a Pandemic; Adapting to the Changing Pandemic Landscape, which covers SMU DataArts’ recent white paper, Arts and Cultural Organizations: In It for the Long Haul; Creative Borrowing Solutions; and Staying Agile in the Pandemic – Hints for Small Organizations. If you are looking for more resources for yourself, your business, or your nonprofit, TCA is collecting information about COVID-19 funding opportunities and resources here.

TCA State Artist Nominations Open

The Texas Commission on the Arts is now accepting nominations for the 2021 and 2022 Texas State Artists. Nominations are accepted for Texas State Musician, Texas Poet Laureate, Texas State Two-Dimensional Artist (visual arts), and Texas State Three-Dimensional Artist (visual arts). Any Texas citizen is able to nominate a living artist in any of the four categories and self-nominations are welcome. Nominees must be native Texans or have resided in the state for at least five years. They must have attained the highest levels of excellence and success in their respective disciplines and earned a statewide, regional or national reputation for their high caliber work. Nominations will be accepted online through October 15, 2020. You can learn more about the nomination process or nominate an artist here.

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