The following is a compilation of pertinent information received from Federal, state and local authorities, as well as other sources, to inform the public about issues regarding the local impact from Coronavirus (COVID-19). Information received since the previous edition will be published in chronological order in this space in each edition.
The Pilot began this process with the Wednesday, March 18 edition. One may access previous publications via the Pilot’s e-Edition through its website (www.rockportpilot.com) or Facebook page, or from hard copies of the newspaper.
The Pilot will post important information on its website (www.rockportpilot.com) and Facebook page as it is received.
George P. Bush addresses suspending foreclosures
(Thursday, March 19)
Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush commended President Donald Trump and U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson for authorizing the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to implement an immediate foreclosure and eviction moratorium for single-family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages for the next 60 days.
“By suspending all foreclosures and evictions during this pivotal time, it encourages more people to stay home and flatten the curve,” said Bush.
According to HUD, these moratoriums are part of the continued effort by President Trump to address impacts to the financial well-being of America’s individuals, families, and businesses caused by Coronavirus (COVID-19). The guidance issued applies to homeowners with FHA-insured Title II Single Family forward and Home Equity Conversion (reverse) mortgages, and directs mortgage servicers to:
• Halt all new foreclosure actions and suspend all foreclosure actions currently in process.
• Cease all evictions of persons from FHA-insured single-family properties.
Message from Rockport Mayor Pat Rios
(Wednesday, March 18)
In light of the recommendations from the federal level, the City of Rockport has implemented a number of measures:
• The Community Aquatic Park will be closed indefinitely beginning Wednesday, March 18.
• Large-scale events that had previously been scheduled at Memorial Park, including Little League, the Easter Egg Hunt, Ruck Rally and more, have been postponed.
• Rockport City Council meetings will have two changes. First, members of the audience will be asked to space themselves in the seating area, unless they’re members of the same household. Secondly, the “Citizens to be Heard” and “Comments on Agenda Items” will take the form of written questions only. These must be submitted to the City Secretary prior to the start of the meeting. These written comments/input shall serve as the required public testimony pursuant to Texas Government Code 551.007 and shall constitute a public hearing for purposes of any public hearing requirements under law.
Our primary mission is to ensure the safety and well being of our residents and visitors. The COVID-19 pandemic is an ever-changing situation, and we will provide additional information as it becomes available. The City’s website will continue to be the focus of information for the community as it was during Harvey.
With that said, here is some information from the County’s Environmental Department:
• Aransas County Transfer Station will not be issuing Trash Cards on Saturdays until further notice.
• Pursuant to CDC guidelines, Aransas County Environmental Health is cancelling all food handler classes until further notice.
The Chamber has started a Facebook Live Show at 9 a.m. for the next 15 days (began Wednesday, March 18). Every day there will be a segment that will touch on some aspect of the coronavirus and what’s happening in the community. In addition to medical information, other topics include business supply chain; reinventing your business during these difficult times, SBA loans and tax credits, ways to relieve stress, and more.
(Editor’s note: The Facebook Live presentation is available on The Rockport Pilot’s and Chamber’s Facebook pages, as well as on YouTube.)
Remember – Through FACTS, not Fear, we’ll come through it.
Federal and State web links can be located on the City’s web (www.cityofrockport.com) site or the Chamber’s web site (www.rockport-fulton.org/Coronavirus_COVID_19_Update).
Gov. Abbott announces temporary closure of driver license offices
(Wednesday, March 18)
Governor Greg Abbott announced that Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) driver license offices across the state are closing immediately. This temporary closure will not apply to those seeking an initial commercial driver license (CDL). DPS offices that provide CDL testing will remain open solely for the purpose of providing initial CDLs. Visits will be by appointment only, and can be scheduled by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This exception will allow commercial drivers to continue to ship goods across the state of Texas.
Gov. Abbott waives certain regulations to allow delivery of alcohol from restaurants, support hospitality industry
(Wednesday, March 18)
Governor Greg Abbott issued a waiver that will allow restaurants to deliver alcoholic beverages with food purchases to patrons, including beer, wine, and mixed drinks. The Governor also directed the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) to waive certain provisions to allow manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers of alcoholic beverages to repurchase or sell back unopened product.
“The State of Texas is committed to supporting retailers, restaurants, and their employees,” said Governor Abbott. “These waivers will allow restaurants to provide enhanced delivery options to consumers during this temporary period of social distancing.”
Under this waiver, effective immediately, restaurants with a mixed beverage permit may sell beer, wine, or mixed drinks for delivery as long as they are accompanied by food purchased from the restaurant.
The buy-back waiver allows alcohol distributors and manufacturers to repurchase excess inventory from restaurants, bars, and clubs affected by event cancellations due to COVID-19.
Gov. Abbott directs DPS to waive expiration dates for driver licenses
(Wednesday, March 18)
Governor Greg Abbott directed the DPS to temporarily waive expiration dates for Driver Licenses, Commercial Driver Licenses, and other identification forms. This action falls within the Governor’s State of Disaster Declaration and is part of the ongoing effort to reduce to spread of COVID-19.
“Temporarily delaying Driver License renewals we will help limit non-essential trips into public settings and slow the spread of this virus,” said Gov. Abbot.
This suspension will be in effect until 60 days after the DPS provides further public notice that normal Driver License operations have resumed.
Though expiration dates have been temporarily suspended, individuals seeking to renew their driver license or personal identification certificate during this period should check the DPS website to see if they are eligible to renew online.
Gov. Abbott waives certain regulations for telemedicine care in Texas
(Tuesday, March 17)
Governor Greg Abbott waived certain regulations and directed that the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) issue an emergency rule, all relating to telemedicine care for patients with state-regulated insurance plans to help doctors across Texas continue to treat their patients while mitigating the spread of COVID-19. The suspensions and emergency rule will work together to allow telemedicine visits for patients with state-regulated plans to be paid the same as in-office visits for insurance purposes. These actions build upon waivers the Governor issued last week of portions in the Occupations Code to expand provider flexibility in providing medical services over the phone.
“As the State of Texas responds to COVID-19, we continue to work to maintain regular health care services and operations throughout the state, and telemedicine is one of the most valuable tools we have to ensure Texans continue to receive the health services they need,” said Gov. Abbott. “Expanding telemedicine options will help protect the health of patients and health care professionals, while help Texas mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
Doctors will be eligible for payment from insurance plans regulated by TDI for medical visits they conduct over the phone instead of in-person at the same rate they would receive for in-person visits.
Medical providers seeking guidance on the impact of the new rule can expect guidance from the Texas Medical Board to be issued in the coming days, including administrative guidance for billing to ensure that claims are processed smoothly.
This coordinated efforts between the Office of the Governor, the Texas Department of Insurance, the Texas Medical Board, and health insurance plans will increase access to health care for all Texans. This action will expand telemedicine options by giving health care providers greater flexibility to perform audio-only telephone consultations with their patients.
As a reminder, Texans covered by CHIP or Medicaid will not be charged copay for test or telemedicine consults. Individuals covered by Medicare or large employer plans should check with their health plan administrator to determine their specific benefits.
Glenn Hegar addresses
sales tax deadlines
(Tuesday, March 17)
As the March 20 monthly sales tax due date approaches, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar reminds businesses to use the agency’s online tools for tax filing and payment.
“We are committed to the health and safety of taxpayers, members of the community, agency employees and businesses throughout the state,” Hegar said. “For that reason, we’re urging businesses to make use of the agency’s online tools to meet the March 20 deadline and remit taxes collected from Texans in February and held ‘in trust’ until now.”
A suite of online tools to facilitate filing and on-time payment of taxes can be found on the agency’s website, and a quick reference site has been set up in response to the COVID–19 emergency. For taxpayers who must visit Comptroller field offices, protocols have been put in place to ensure proper social distancing and protect the safety of both taxpayers and Comptroller employees.
For monthly filers, taxes collected in February must be remitted to this agency by March 20. The agency will in turn remit local sales taxes back to local communities who rely on that revenue to provide day-to-day and emergency services to local residents.
“I know this will be difficult for many businesses, especially small businesses, that are facing a severe downturn in customer activity,” Hegar said. “These dollars, however, represent money collected from individual Texans, and Texans expect those dollars to be available to provide emergency health care and support other emergency operations during this difficult time.
“My office is charged with allocating local dollars back to communities fighting on the frontlines of this outbreak. They rely heavily on these dollars to operate hospitals, police, fire and other emergency services. I’m extremely sympathetic to our small businesses struggling through this pandemic, but I ask our partners in the business community to make a good-faith effort to pay taxes held in trust from before the outbreak began impacting their operations.
“This is a complex and rapidly evolving situation. Many fellow Texans are facing devastating economic conditions as bars, restaurants, retail outlets and other businesses make difficult staffing decisions. The economic impacts are currently the most visible, but a more pressing concern is simmering behind the economic concerns. A looming health emergency may strain our abilities to provide adequate care and emergency services to our fellow Texans. We must pull together to ensure we can meet the needs we will inevitably face. As part of that pulling together, I ask businesses to remit the taxes they collected from Texans by the established due date.
“We will examine each tax due date as it approaches, and I will keep lawmakers and all stakeholders informed as the agency evaluates rapidly changing conditions.”
Gov. Abbott requests emergency designation For Small Business Disaster Loans from U.S. Small Business Administration
(Tuesday, March 17)
Gov. Greg Abbott requested designation from the Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Declaration in order to access the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program for the entire state of Texas. If granted, the SBA would provide long-term, low-interest loans to qualifying businesses across the state.
“At a time when small businesses are hurting from the economic impact of COVID-19, the State of Texas is committed to helping these businesses receive the financial relief they need to continue operating,” said Gov. Abbott. “That is why I requested that the U.S. Small Business Administration implement a declaration to provide SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans for the entire state of Texas.”
All small businesses who believe they may be eligible for an SBA EIDL should visit the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) website at www.tdem.texas.gov/covid-19/. They will be directed to the SBA website where they can apply for assistance.
Gov. Greg Abbott activates National Guard in response to COVID-19
(Tuesday, March 17)
Governor Greg Abbott activated the Texas National Guard to be prepared to assist with response efforts for COVID-19. This preparative measure will ensure that the Texas National Guard can assist in various forms throughout the state when needed. Healthcare workers and first responders who are members of the Texas National Guard are excluded from this activation so they can continue serving the people of Texas in their respective fields.
“By activating the Texas National Guard, we are ensuring Texas is prepared as we continue to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” said Gov. Abbott. “I am grateful to the men and women of the National Guard for their dedication to serving their fellow Texans, and want to assure the public this is a precautionary measure to make sure the Texas National Guard has the capability to serve at a moment’s notice where they are needed most.”