Jan 14

January 14, 2021 TML Coronavirus Update #165

Posted on January 14, 2021 at 12:50 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates

 

What’s the best source of information about vaccine rollouts in Texas?

 

The best one-stop location for the state rollout of vaccines is this page on the Department of State Health Services website. It contains a useful overview of the staged rollout plan, where we are in that plan as a state, and sub-links to things like provider location maps and weekly allocation histories. We urge all city officials concerned about vaccines to make themselves familiar with this website.

 

What’s the latest on counties where businesses can open at only 50 percent capacity versus 75 percent capacity?

 

Executive order GA-32 was issued by the governor back on October 7, 2020. A key feature of GA-32 is the ability of most facilities (not including bars, which are subject to additional restrictions) to reopen at 75% capacity, unless they are located in a Trauma Service Area (TSA) with high COVID-19 hospitalizations. An "area with high hospitalizations" is defined as "any Trauma Service Area that has had seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID- 19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of total hospital capacity exceeds 15 percent, until such time as the Trauma Service Area has seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID- 19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of total hospital capacity is 15 percent or less." Hospitalization data by TSA can be found here.

 

Since we last reported on this issue, and due to recent record hospitalizations, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) updated their GA-32 webpage to add new regions/counties including large metropolitan areas to the list of high COVID-19 hospitalization. In fact, out of 22 TSAs in the state, 18 are listed on the DSHS webpage as having high hospitalizations. Even the four TSAs that are not listed as exceeding the threshold in GA-32 (Wichita Falls, Midland/Odessa, San Angelo, and Corpus Christi) appear, based on the hospitalization data, to have exceeded 15% COVID hospitalizations over the past seven days. It may be a matter of DSHS not yet updating their website to reflect the updated data.

 

The county judge of a county located within a high-hospitalization TSA may follow an attestation process with DSHS to continue to operate at 75% capacity for certain businesses if there have been fewer than 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19 over the previous 14 days within the county. The affected counties that have submitted an attestation and qualified to continue operating at 75% capacity are listed on the GA-32 webpage linked above.

 

Further Updates

 

Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus Updates?

 

TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.


Jan 12

January 7, 2021 TML Coronavirus Update #163

Posted on January 12, 2021 at 12:21 PM by TML Staff

   

Urgent Updates

 

What is the status of the suspended Open Meetings Act provisions?

 

On Tuesday (January 5), the governor’s office extended the Open Meetings Act suspensions for another 30 days. Previously, on March 16, the governor granted the office of the attorney general’s request for suspension of certain open meeting statutes. The temporary suspension allows, among other things, for telephonic or videoconference meetings of governmental bodies that are accessible to the public in an effort to reduce in-person meetings that assemble large groups of people. The guidance associated with the suspension provides that: “These suspensions are in effect until terminated by the office of the governor, or until the March 13, 2020, disaster declaration is lifted or expires.” The March 13 declaration has been extended for successive 30-day periods, including Monday’s extension. That means the relevant open meetings laws remain suspended for at least another 30 days (or until affirmatively rescinded). 

 

We still can’t be certain, but it is highly likely that the governor will continue to repeatedly extend his declarations. We’ve heard from his staff that they have no immediate plans to rescind the suspensions, which are sensible and seem to be working well, but that can’t be guaranteed.

 

How are city sales taxes doing during Coronavirus?

 

Actually well, recently. Yesterday, Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced that January city sales taxes were up 3.4% over January 2020. 

 

Further Updates

 

Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus Updates?

 

TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.


Jan 12

January 12, 2021 TML Coronavirus Update #164

Posted on January 12, 2021 at 12:20 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates

 

Is there a good summary of the city-related portions of the new COVID-19 stimulus legislation?

 

Yes. The National League of Cities recently released their Summary of Coronavirus Response and Relief Provisions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (H.B. 133).

 

What do Texas cities need to know about the new federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program?

 

In its most recent COVID-19 stimulus package, Congress allocated $25 billion towards a new Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program. Generally speaking, ERA funds are designed to assist households unable to pay rent or utilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

ERA payments will be made directly to qualifying Texas cities and counties with populations exceeding 200,000 (list). In order to receive direct ERA funding, cities and counties over 200,000 population must submit to the U.S Department of Treasury completed payment information and a signed acceptance of award terms form not later than 11:59 p.m. EDT on January 12, 2021, to ensure payments are made within the 30-day period specified by the statute. Treasury guidance, including the necessary paperwork, can be found here.

 

Texas cities with populations of 200,000 and less will ultimately need to work with state and county government, as applicable, to receive pass-through ERA funding. (Note: Treasury guidance shows that Texas state government will receive roughly $1.95 billion in ERA funding.) The League will provide information on how cities under 200,000 population can access ERA funding from the state when it becomes available.

 

Was broadband funding part of the most recent COVID-19 federal stimulus package?

 

Yes. The recently-passed federal stimulus bill allocated nearly $7 billion in total towards broadband activities. Of that amount, $3.2 billion was reserved for the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program, which generally provides for a $50 per-month emergency benefit to qualifying low-income households to gain or retain internet access. Under the program, funding is allocated to participating internet providers who receive reimbursement for discounts provided to qualifying customers.

 

On January 4, the FCC issued a press release on the program and published a request for comment on how to best administer the EBB program.

 

What’s the latest news on vaccine distribution in Texas?

 

On Sunday (January 10) the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) announced that 28 vaccination hub providers throughout the state will be receiving 158,825 vaccine doses this week. The full list of vaccine allocations from DSHS for this week can be accessed here.

 

Further Updates

 

Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus Updates?

 

TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.