Association of Rural Communities in Texas

Small & Rural Communities Unified for Collaboration, Education, & Advocacy.

Agency Information at Your Fingertips

Texans can dial 2-1-1 (option 6) for information on COVID-19 and local community resources on health care, utilities, food, housing and more. Wait times are currently higher than normal.

State of Texas Resources - Click on the Department to view important information and links.

Open Texas Checklists +

Effective May 5, 2020

From the Texas Education Agency

Texas Department of Health & Human Services (DSHS) +

DSHS has information on its site for what to do if you're sicktesting informationsymptoms, and prevention tips to help DSHS share facts, not fear.

Current Texas case count on DSHS COVID-19 Dashboard page.

Texas COVID-19 Test Collection Sites

Email: coronavirus@dshs.texas.gov

For questions about COVID‑19, dial 2‑1‑1, then choose Option 6.
Hours: 7:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., 7 days per week

On March 19, 2020, Dr. John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, declared a public health disaster in Texas, because COVID-19 “has created an immediate threat, poses a high risk of death to a large number of people, and creates a substantial risk of public exposure because of the disease’s method of transmission and evidence that there is community spread in Texas.”  Read the full text of the declaration.

COVID-19: Guidance for Employers, Employees, and Customers of Reopened Retail Services (4/17/2020)

Mental Health Support Line:

Texas Health and Human Services has launched a 24/7 statewide mental health support line to help Texans experiencing anxiety, stress or emotional challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This new resource offers COVID-19-related mental health support for all Texans. People can call the Statewide COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week toll-free at 833-986-1919.

Daycare Operations:

Texas Department of Health and Human Services has issued strict standards for daycare operations to protect the health of the children, families and communities served.  As long as the HHS guidelines are strictly followed, daycare centers and licensed individual providers may continue operating.

Governor's Office +

https://gov.texas.gov/

The Governor’s Report to Open Texas 

Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas

To Offer Supplies or Volunteer Medical Services

Governor Abbott's Proactive Response To COVID-19 Threat

Executive Orders:

Executive Order 29, Use of Face Coverings

Executive Order 28, Targeted Response to Reopening

Amendment#2 to Executive Order 28 (July 2, 2020) - Mass Gatherings

Amendment to Executive Order 28 (June 30, 2020)

Executive Order 27, Increasing Hospital Capacity

Executive Order 26, Expanding Opening of Texas

Executive Order 25, Suspending In-Person Visitations in County and Municipal Jails

Executive Order 24, Terminating Air Travel Restrictions

Executive Order 23, Expanded Openings, Phase Two
Proclamation Amending EO 23 (May 26, 2020)

Executive Order 22 - Modifying Openings, Eliminating Confinement
Executive Order 21- Expanding Openings

Executive Order 20 - Relating To Travel Quarantines

Executive Order 19 - Amending Hospital Capacity
Executive Order 18 - Announcing Phase One To Open Texas

Executive Order 17 - Establishing Strike Force to Open Texas
Executive Order 16 - Reopening Select Services
Executive Order 15 - Loosening Restrictions On Surgeries
Executive Order 14 - Essential Services

Executive Order 13 - County and Municipal Jail Detention

Executive Order 12 - Mandating Quarantine For Certain Road Travelers
Executive Order 11 - Mandating Quarantine For Certain Air Travelers
Executive Order 10 - COVID-19 Reporting
Executive Order 09 - Increasing Hospital Capacity
Executive Order 08 - Mitigating COVID-19 Spread

Waivers Issued by the Governor:

 Expanding Health Care -

Waiving Testing Requirements For Advanced Practice Registered Nurses

Increasing Hospital And Medical Facility Staffing

Allowing More Nurse Aides To Serve Long-Term Care Patients

Expanding Telehealth Options

Increasing Pharmacy Workforce Capabilities

Allowing Off-Site Outpatient End-Stage Renal Disease Facilities

Removing Barriers To Expand Health Care Workforce

Expanding EMS And Emergency Responder Workforce

Waiving COVID-19 Cost-Sharing For Public Safety Employees

Expediting Reactivation For Advanced Practice Registered Nurses

Extending Licensing Renewal Period for Pharmacists

Extending Licensing Renewal Period For Nurses

Expanding Healthcare Facilities

Increasing Occupancy Of Hospital Rooms

Expanding Nursing Workforce In Texas

Allowing Phone Consultations By Pharmacists

Waiving Health Care Fees For Incarcerated Texans

Expanding Patient Access to Telemedicine Care

Expanding Hospital Capacity

Speeding Supplies -

Creating Supply Chain Strike Force

Allowing Restaurants To Sell Bulk Products To Consumers

Allowing Delivery of Alcoholic Beverages With Food

Allowing Trucks From Alcohol Industry To Deliver Grocery Supplies

Certain State Trucking Regulations

Helping Texans and Communities -

Waiving Late Fees For TexasABC Renewals

Waiving Late Fees For Certain Occupational Licenses

Allowing Videoconference For Notarizing Real-Estate Instruments

Ensuring College Students Receive Financial Assistance

Allowing Video Appearance Before Notary Public

Waiving Match For Victim Services Grants

Preserving And Extending Child Care Capacity

Postponing May 26 Runoff Primary Election To Mitigate Spread

Allowing Event Permit Refunds For Businesses

Suspending Residential Eviction Proceedings (Texas Supreme Court)

Temporarily Closing DPS Driver License Offices

Allowing For Postponement Of May 2 Local Elections

Extending Driver License Renewal Deadlines

Speeding Payment Of New Unemployment Benefits

Vehicle Registration, Titling, And Parking Placard Regulations

STAAR Testing Requirements

Ensuring Students Receive Work-Study Funding

State Of Disaster

 

Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) +

The Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) has launched a website with resources for local elected and emergency officials.

Texas Education Agency (TEA) +

Open Texas Checklist:

www.tea.texas.gov/coronavirus

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) continues to work with the Office of the Governor, Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to coordinate and plan the state’s response to COVID-19. TEA’s role in these efforts is to help coordinate the flow of information from the state to districts, help districts solve problems, and provide guidance that will aid in districts’ decision-making. TEA does not have the general authority to close schools for matters related to health. This authority lies with the local health authority, DSHS, and the Governor of Texas.

Texas Students MealFinder Map

Texas Comptroller +

February Sales Tax

We understand that virtually all of our taxpayers are doing their best to remain in compliance and be responsible in submitting the taxes they collected from their customers. With that in mind, our agency is here to offer assistance to those businesses that are struggling to pay the full amount of sales taxes they collected in February.

For businesses that find themselves in this situation, our agency is offering assistance in the form of short-term payment agreements and, in most instances, waivers of penalties and interest.

We ask that you contact our Enforcement Hotline at 800-252-8880 to learn about your options for remaining in compliance and avoiding interest and late fees on taxes due.

In addition, we have a variety of online tools for businesses seeking assistance. See our COVID-19 emergency response webpage for access to online tools, tutorials and other resources for tax services, and to establish 24/7 online account access with Webfile.

Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) +

Cybersecurity is always a priority. When teleworking or working remotely, additional cybersecurity strategies should be considered.

COVID-19 Preparedness for Information Technology

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) +

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is working with all Texas institutions of higher education -- public and private, two-year and four-year colleges and universities, and health-related institutions – to address coronavirus-related issues and to provide the most up-to-date information and resources relevant to higher education decisions makers.

http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/misc/coronavirus-update-for-higher-education/

Texas Department of Agriculture +

Agriculture is an Essential Industry

It is Texas Department of Agriculture’s understanding that the Department of Homeland Security and the Governor have deemed agriculture as an essential industry which includes agriculture workers and food production and food distribution.

Farmers Markets food vendors can stay open even under a shelter order.  However, a local entity could override especially if the social distancing criteria are not met.

From what is understood, the produce industry is stating for Essential Work related travel, companies can provide  employees with a letter citing the FEDERAL government’s definition of Essential Employees.

Each Industry Association may also be a source for information. The Texas International Produce Association has a very good reference page that can help produce growers. https://texipa.org/covid-19/.  This link has a draft letter that may be beneficial to producers.

This is a very fluid time we are working through and we are working to get as many answers as possible. As of right now, there is nothing in place to prevent breeders or ranchers from holding sales at their ranches or anything that prevents livestock auctions from operating or even other entities such as feed stores, elevators, seed companies, breed associations, greenhouse nurseries, landscape nurseries and so on. However, a local entity could override especially if the social distancing criteria are not met and if local regulations are put in place.

Operation of Meal Service

The Texas Department of Agriculture is requesting waivers from USDA to support the continued operation of meal service should coronavirus impact operations. Waivers are not yet approved; should USDA approve any waivers related to meal service, TDA will update SquareMeals.org/coronavirus with further instructions. CEs should wait until they know the extent of the impact of coronavirus before submitting an application for any released waivers.

Available Supplies

Commissioner Miller's letter regarding available supplies during the current public health emergency.  Although the letter is addressed to rural hospital administrators, the information may also be relevant to communities and emergency services providers.

TxCDBG Program Guidance and Applications – Social Distancing (4/1/2020)

TxCDBG guidance that has been modified for social distancing has been collected HERE.  This document will serve as an FAQ, and we will add topics as needed.  As always, consult your local legal counsel to ensure that any modified procedures meet all applicable requirements.

----

A fundamental component of the Texas CDBG program is the benefit provided to low- and moderate-income persons.  For many communities, this means conducting a door-to-door survey of residents in a project area to document eligibility for grant funding.  In this season of “social distancing”, it is unknown when this work can be safely completed.

As a result, TDA announces the following:

  • Grant Application deadlines for 4 funding programs will be delayed – a new deadline will be announced via listserv and TDA’s website when additional information is available.  These funding programs are:
    • Downtown Revitalization / Main Street Programs;
    • Fire, Ambulance, and Service Truck (FAST) Fund;
    • Planning & Capacity Building Fund; and
    • Colonia Fund – Construction, Secondary Round.
  • Grant Applications for the final round of Texas Capital Fund - Real Estate & Infrastructure Program will continue to be due to TDA no later than May 1, 2020.
  • HUD has released new income limits to be used by all TxCDBG grant programs listed above: https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/il.html
  • TxCDBG staff will update the traditional Income Survey Questionnaires to reflect the 2020 income limits and post the forms to the TDA website.  In addition, TDA is evaluating alternative survey methodologies that will not require in-person contact.

We encourage communities to continue to evaluate community needs and work towards completing the grant applications that have been postponed.  In particular, procuring/designating a grant writer and holding a virtual public hearing to assess community needs can be completed without gathering in person.

TxCDBG announcement: modified procedures for Environmental Review while social distancing (3/27/2020) - 

In an effort to allow communities to continue their CDBG grants while practicing social distancing, HUD has provided temporary alternative procedures for environmental clearance processes.  For TxCDBG communities, the following guidance is effective immediately and until further notice:

Responsible Entities that are practicing social distancing may complete the environmental clearance process without in-person interaction with the public through the following procedures:

  • Make the full Environmental Review Record (ERR) available, either by
    • Posting to the community’s website throughout the public comment periods required by 24 CFR §58.45, or
    • Emailing a copy to any member of the public that requests the ERR, or
    • Mailing a copy to any member of the public that requests the ERR. Additional time for the public comment period must be allowed for the mailed copy to be received by the requestor and for comments to be submitted by mail.
    • Details on requirements for these methods – including sample language for the required publications – are included in the attached ERR Consultation Guidance.
  • The Certifying Officer may sign the Request for Release of Funds and Certification (RROF) using an electronic signature (see guidance in TxCDBG Project Implementation Manual, Chapter 2), or may submit a scan of the signed RROF via email to CDBG_EnvReview@TexasAgriculture.gov  – there is no need to mail to TDA a “wet ink” signature or photocopy of the electronic signature at this time.

Please confirm when this policy is being used:

  • Include in the submittal email the following text: “The comment period and RROF procedures for this environmental review were conducted according to TDA’s temporary social distancing procedures.”
  • If the required notice(s) was published on or before today’s date, the Responsible Entity may use the modified signature options only by confirming in the transmittal email that:
    • “The comment period for this environmental review was completed using standard procedures and city/county offices were open for the public to review the ERR.  The city/county is now practicing social distancing and using TDA’s temporary procedures for the Certifying Officer to execute and transmit the RROF.”

OR

    • “The comment period for this environmental review was published using standard procedures.  Once the city/county enacted social distancing measures, a notice and email address for members of the public to request access to the ERR was posted at the location designated in the publication.  The city/county is using TDA’s temporary procedures for the Certifying Officer to execute and transmit the RROF.”

Responsible Entities that opt not to follow the above temporary procedures should continue to conduct environmental reviews as described in the TxCDBG Project Implementation Manual, Chapter 3.

TDA will continue to provide additional modified procedures or information to assist communities during the public health emergency as available.

CDBG Updates - 

Due to the current public health situation, TDA is currently practicing social distancing and working primarily from remote locations.  This will impact our communication with stakeholders in several ways:

  • Staff will use email as the primary method of contact.
  • Staff will also check voicemail for their office phones once per day.  If you choose to contact us via phone, please allow at least 24 hours for response.
  • A skeleton crew will remain in the office to ensure access to various documentation not available electronically – we appreciate your patience as we coordinate to provide technical assistance.
  • TDA offices are closed to all visitors.  Staff will not be able to meet with stakeholders in the office or accommodate attending monitoring desk reviews at this time.  Conference calls and/or web-based meetings are available in lieu of in-person meetings.
  • Requests for Payment will continue to be processed, based on the contract information readily available.  Please note, however, that if additional concerns are identified once staff is able to access the full file, the Grant Recipient will still be responsible for remedying the issue.
Texas Attorney General's Office (OAG) +

Following Governor Abbott’s statewide emergency declaration regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Office of the Texas Attorney General stands ready to prosecute those seeking to take advantage of Texans by engaging in price gouging and disaster scams during this time.

Under state law, once the governor issues a declaration, vendors are prohibited from charging exorbitant prices for necessities such as drinking water, food, batteries, medicine, lodging, and more. Currently, the disaster declaration is effective across our entire state.

As disaster related cyber scams have been already been reported, so please proceed with caution on any social media post or email with a Coronavirus (COVID-19) subject line, attachment, or hyperlink. Cyber actors often attempt to deceive people into revealing sensitive information or donating to false charities.

Texans who believe they have encountered disaster scams should call the Office of the Attorney General’s toll-free complaint line at (800) 621-0508 or file a complaint online. For additional information on disaster scams, please visit the OAG's disaster scams website.

For additional information on price gouging, please visit our price gouging webpage.

Coronavirus Price Gouging and Scams Handout

For more information on disaster scams, please visit our disaster scams webpage.

News Releases

 

 

Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) +

Message to Texas Employers About COVID-19

Frequently Asked Questions From Employers On COVID-19

Information for COVID-19 Employers, Jobseekers and Child care

If your employment has been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19), apply for benefits either online at any time using Unemployment Benefits Services or by calling TWC's Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Central Time Monday through Friday. The Unemployment Benefit System online portal is available 24 hours a day but is experiencing a high volume of visitors. We are seeing lower volume on the online portal between 10:00p.m. and 8 a.m.

Unemployment Claims - Restaurant Guidance

  1. Here are FAQ's regarding Covid-19 issues and the text of the expanded FMLA and paid sick leave provisions of H.R. 6201, which is currently under consideration in the U.S. Senate.
  2. Specifically for restaurant employers, if a restaurant is required to shut down completely or even partially, and the business is required to lay some employees off due to no work being available, the employees would be able to file unemployment claims and would presumably qualify for UI benefits, based on a temporary layoff, as long as they are otherwise qualified and eligible to draw UI benefits. However, the business could argue in its claim response that the employer’s account should be protected from chargeback of benefits based on Section 204.022(a)(2) of the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act (see https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/LA/htm/LA.204.htm#204.022), which provides that an employer’s account will not be charged if the work separation “was required by a statute of this state or an ordinance of a municipality of this state.”
  3. Disclaimer: this situation is so new that no cases like that have come before the TWC for any decisions, but the above provision is what I would cite if I were in the situation of responding to an unemployment claim.
  4. Another provision of the law that might protect an affected employer’s account would be Sections 207.046(a)(1) and 204.022(a)(16), which basically apply if “the work-related reason for the individual's separation from employment was urgent, compelling, and necessary so as to make the separation involuntary.”
  5. If an employer is able to manage the situation with reductions in work hours between 10 – 40 percent, the company may be able to arrange a “Shared Work Plan” with TWC that would allow partial UI benefits corresponding to the reduction in hours – for information, see https://twc.texas.gov/businesses/shared-work.
  6. Each restaurant will likely have different situations that come up and which will be difficult to predict in advance.
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) +

TCEQ has prepared regulatory guidance and is taking steps to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on both staff and customers.

COVID-19: Waste Disposal Guidance

COVIS-19: Public Water System Guidance

From the Office of Compliance and Enforcement

With the onset of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and the Governor’s Proclamation of a state of disaster in Texas, the TCEQ is aware that regulated entities may be experiencing an impact from a reduced workforce necessary to maintain normal operations at some facilities.  All regulated entities are encouraged to take all available actions necessary to ensure compliance with environmental regulations and permit requirements to protect the health and safety of Texans and the environment.  However, in the instance that noncompliance is unavoidable directly due to impact from the coronavirus, an email box has been established by TCEQ to accept requests for potential enforcement discretion.  Regulated entities should email both OCE@tceq.texas.gov and Ramiro.Garcia@tceq.texas.gov with specific information related to enforcement discretion requests.  The OCE (Office of Compliance & Enforcement) email box is monitored daily by multiple TCEQ staff who will ensure the requests are expeditiously addressed.  The TCEQ’s goal is to provide a response to the regulated entity’s request within 24 to 48 hours.

The email to OCE should at a minimum include the following:

  • Concise statement supporting request for enforcement discretion
  • Anticipated duration of need for enforcement discretion
  • Citation of rule / permit provision for which enforcement discretion is requested

Regulated entities must maintain records adequate to document activities related to the noncompliance under enforcement discretion, including details of the regulated entity’s best efforts to comply. Any questions regarding this guidance should be directed to the OCE email box and a response will be provided.

TCEQ-Approved Online Training Courses for TCEQ Occupational Licenses

Expiration of Occupational Licenses

With the onset of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and the Governor’s Proclamation of a state of disaster in Texas, TCEQ is extending the expiration dates of all occupational licenses expiring in March and April of 2020 by 30 days.  In addition, TCEQ is aware that occupational license holders may be having difficulty completing their continuing education requirements for renewal of their licenses. All license holders are encouraged to seek online training opportunities, when possible.

Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) +

TDLR Approves temporary distance learning, cancels events and meetings. TDLR will continue to update this page with information related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) +

TABC recognizes the major impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on the alcoholic beverage industry due to mandated business closures, event cancellations and other protective measures. To help the industry during this difficult time, we're providing answers to common questions you may have.

In most cases, the existing laws in the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code and Administrative Rules will apply. But if TABC can relax an agency process, or if the Governor's Office grants a statutory exception to help businesses weather global health and economic challenges, we will reflect those changes on this page and connect you to further guidance.

Federal Resources

Center for Disease Control (CDC) +

Resource page by CDC for policy and elected officials trying to responsibly educate their citizens on #COVID19. Includes graphics, PDFs, FAQs and even posters.

CDC - What You Need to KNOW

Small Business Administration (SBA) +

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) granted Texas’ Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) assistance declaration, making loans available statewide to small businesses and private, non-profit organizations to help alleviate economic injury caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Small businesses who believe they may be eligible for an SBA EIDL, should visit the SBA’s website where they can directly apply for assistance. The online application is the fastest method to receive a decision about loan eligibility.  All forms and further details are available on the SBA Disaster Loan website: www.sba.gov/disaster. Click on the Coronavirus link at the top of the page.

Small Business Owner FAQ CARES Act_31MAR2020

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

The CARES Act was passed by Congress on March 27, 2020. The programs and initiatives in the Act are intended to assist business owners and nonprofits with current needs due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Following President Trump’s signing of the CARES Act, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the U.S. Department of Treasury announced a robust mobilization effort of banks and other lending institutions to provide small businesses with the capital they need.

The Treasury and SBA expect to have this program up and running by April 3, 2020, so that businesses can contact a participating SBA 7(a) lender, bank, or credit union, apply for a loan, and be approved on the same day.

For a comprehensive guide on most of the small business provisions and programs included in the CARES Act, download the Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act.

Paycheck Protection Program

The CARES Act established a $349 billion SBA-backed Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to provide immediate access to capital for small businesses who have been impacted by COVID-19.

The PPP is specifically designed to help small businesses keep their workforce employed and assist with payroll and other business operating expenses. It will provide critical capital to businesses without collateral requirements, personal guarantees or SBA fees. All loan payments will be deferred for six months. Most importantly, if employers maintain their payroll, certain portions of the loans can be forgiven, including payroll, interest on mortgage obligations, rent and utility payments.

Loans will be available through more than 135 existing SBA-certified lenders in Texas, including banks, credit unions and other financial institutions.

• Find a certified lender in your area: SBA’s local assistance finder
• Find out when you can apply: Treasury factsheet
• Find more information regarding PPP and loan requirements: SBA.gov/Coronavirus

SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans Update

Due to the CARES Act, small businesses and non-profits can get up to a $10,000 advance on an Economic Injury Disaster Loan even if a previous application was declined or still pending. For more information, visit the SBA’s website and apply for the loan advance here.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) +

Rural communities can access a newly-developed tool for addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled the COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide is meant to help rural leaders who are seeking federal funding and partnership opportunities to help address the pandemic.

The resource guide is for:

  • For-profit businesses: Corporations, limited liability companies, sole proprietorships, etc.; agricultural producers and ranchers.
  • Agricultural producers and ranchers
  • Government entities: local, county and state governments.
  • Nonprofits: economic development corps., universities, schools, libraries, faith-based organizations, etc.
  • Individuals/households
  • Hospitals
  • Federally-recognized tribes or tribal organizations

USDA has taken many immediate actions to assist farmers, ranchers, producers, rural communities, and rural-based businesses and organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on these actions, click here. www.usda.gov/coronavirus.


ARCIT 2020 Annual Conference Information

The 2020 Annual Conference format is changing.  PLEASE STAY TUNED...More Details to Come.

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