How do we explain to our kids that we cannot visit Grandpa because we don’t want to get him sick? How do we tell them their friends and teachers will only be visible through a computer screen? How do we juggle working from home and being a parent, a teacher, a cook, a caregiver, and a therapist?
And with those anxieties, for some of us, we’ve lost our jobs or we’re worried about our small business and the employees we call family, we’re struggling to pay our bills but also scared of contracting the virus the entire world is discussing and spreading it to our loved ones.
I’ve been working day and night with Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick, my fellow legislators, Texas congressional members, and responding state agencies to ensure Texans have the resources they need to weather and recover from this public health storm. Like all crises we face as Texans — remember Hurricane Harvey? — we will get through this together.
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) provides statewide COVID-19 case count data on an interactive case map, including data by county. The map is updated by noon daily. DSHS’s website has various facts and resources on COVID-19 to help you protect yourself and others, including what to do if you get sick as well as information on testing.
Governor Abbott created a Supply Chain Strike Force to help Texas locate and obtain Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other medical response necessities. Individuals seeking to volunteer or make donations of medical supplies or services can go to www.texas.gov
Your local health department is a wealth of knowledge and can help direct you if you get sick or if you have questions on local case counts, testing locations, and response efforts.
COVID-19 Information Line at 979-864-2167
Non-health related questions at 979-864-1898
Monday – Friday 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Saturday 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM.
EMPLOYER & SMALL BUSINESS RESOURCES
Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Mass Claims Program
Are you an employer facing layoffs? You may be able to submit a mass claim for unemployment benefits on behalf of your employees. The Mass Claims program streamlines the unemployment benefit claims process for employers faced with either temporary or permanent layoffs. Employers can submit basic worker information on behalf of their employees to initiate claims for unemployment benefits. Submit a mass claim request here, or find out more about the Mass Claims Program here.
TWC Shared Work Program
If your business has slowed down due to the pandemic and you need to reduce employee working hours, you may be able to avoid laying off employees by submitting a shared work plan.
The Shared Work Program allows employers to:
- Supplement their employees’ wages lost because of reduced work hours with partial unemployment benefits.
- Reduce normal weekly work hours for employees in an affected unit by at least 10 percent but not more than 40 percent; the reduction must affect at least 10 percent of the employees in that unit.
Find out more here.
Business Sales Tax Collections
The Texas Comptroller’s Office is offering businesses struggling to pay the full amount of sales taxes they collected in February short-term payment agreements and, in some cases, waivers of penalties and interest. Contact their Enforcement Hotline at 800-252-8880 to discuss your options.
Small Business Assn. Loans
Texas is included in the federal Small Business Association (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan program for long-term, low-interest loans of up to $2 million for small businesses. Learn more and apply at www.sba.gov/disaster
Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
Loans & Forgiveness to Small Businesses – The CARES Act provides $349 billion in loans for small businesses to help keep their doors open and their employees on the payroll. Businesses can use these loans for payroll support, paid sick or medical leave, insurance premiums, and mortgage, rent, and utility payments. Businesses eligible for loans includes small businesses, 501(c)(3) nonprofits, including churches, sole-proprietors, independent contractors, and other self-employed individuals.
Borrowers should go to their traditional lender, their community bank or credit union, since the legislation gives delegated authority, which means that loans can be originated by most financial institutions.
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has seen a dramatic increase in calls during the COVID-19 pandemic and is increasing its Call Center hours of operation to 8AM – 7PM Monday – Friday and 8AM – 5PM on Saturday. To make your claim, call toll-free at 1-800-939-6631 or apply online. TWC will be waiving work search requirements for all claimants and the waiting week for those claimants affected by COVID-19. TWC has provided resources for job seekers at https://www.twc.texas.gov/news/covid-19-resources-job-seekers
Governor Abbott’s March 20, 2020 executive order closed schools through April 3, 2020 but encouraged educators to implement distance learning with Texas students. Additionally, STAAR testing requirements have been waived for the 2019-20 school year. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has provided support and guidance for districts and the public here.
TEA launched its MealFinder Map at www.TXSchools.gov for students to find nearby locations where schools are offering free school meals. Additionally, many of our local districts are providing meals to students during school closures.
CHILD CARE RESOURCES
At this time, Governor Abbott has not issued any statewide executive orders in regards to child care facilities. These facilities must follow guidelines put forth by the CDC and Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and stay in contact with their local health department. Child care facilities are continuing to provide services to the children of those unable to work from home and those helping in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including medical professionals and first responders.
TWC New COVID-19 Essential Worker Child Care Category
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has approved $40 million of supplemental child care funds to distribute to new COVID-19 Essential Workers through local Workforce Development Boards. Information on and locations of local Workforce Development Boards can be found here.
TWC Subsidized Child Care Program
The TWC subsidized child care program stopped counting absences against child care providers so they will get paid while children stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic. This program allows local the Workforce Development Board to use child care funds to pay beneficiary cost-sharing portion (beneficiaries normally have to pay a copay). Find out more here.
DRIVER LICENSE OFFICE CLOSURES
Governor Abbott has temporarily closed all Texas DPS driver license offices and temporarily waived expiration dates for driver licenses, Commercial Driver Licenses (CDLs), and other forms of identification until 60 days after the DPS provides further public notice that normal driver license operations have resumed. DPS offices that provide CDL testing will remain open by appointment only solely for the purpose of providing initial CDLs. To schedule an appointment, email [email protected].
OTHER HELPFUL RESOURCES
- Updates from Governor Greg Abbott on executive orders and waivers here.
- Experiencing price gouging? Contact the Texas Attorney General’s consumer protection hotline toll-free at (800) 621-0508 or file a complaint online.
- Updates on Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) programs and continuing education here. Be sure to look for updates from your licensing agency or professional association in regard to your occupation.
- Updates on licensing, titling, registrations, and local tax office closures during COVID-19 from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) here.
- Updates from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) on out-of-state travel mandatory quarantine orders here.