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COVID-19 Public Policy Update: April 3, 2020

Published Apr 03, 2020 by Taylor Landin

In response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Partnership will provide a daily update on public policies and other newsworthy items from local, state and national levels of government.

Executive Summary 
All levels of government continue to respond to the economic and public health impacts of COVID-19. At the federal level, the Department of the Treasury and the Small Business Administration issued guidance for the Paycheck Protection Program, the $350 billion initiative through the CARES Act to help small businesses keep workers employed amid the pandemic and economic downturn. At the state level, Governor Greg Abbott waived some regulations for emergency medical service (EMS) providers, including some license and application renewal requirements to increase EMS worker availability. At the local level, Houston ISD has announced plans to resume meal distribution this Monday and will provide about 500 meals at 4-5 sites daily. 

Federal 
Paycheck Protection Program Launched on Friday

  • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocated $350 billion to help small businesses keep workers employed amid the pandemic and economic downturn through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This initiative provides 100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses. On Thursday evening, the Department of the Treasury and Small Business Administration issued guidance for the Paycheck Protection Program. The guidance, sample application and other key resources can be found here:

House Committee on Coronavirus Oversight 

  •  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is creating a House Select Committee on the coronavirus response, which will be chaired by Majority Whip Jim Clyburn. 
  • The committee’s focus is stated to be the current status of the federal pandemic response and looking forward, not to address the initial response. However, the Speaker commented there will be a time for review of the initial response at a later date.  
  • The committee will be charged with examining the federal response while ensuring taxpayer dollars are used efficiently and to save lives, deliver relief, and benefit the economy. The committee will have subpoena power according to the Speaker.  
  • Speaker’s Press Release announcing committee formation.

 Unemployment  

  • Approximately 6.65 million Americans have filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total claims for the last two weeks to almost 10 million.  

Direct Payments to Americans

  •  Within two weeks the first direct deposits will be made.  
  • Social security recipients will not have to file a new tax return. They will qualify for the payment. If one does not have direct deposit, a portal will be made available to provide a process to receive the payment. 

Numbers

  •  As of Tuesday afternoon, Johns Hopkins University is reporting over 230,000 cases, and over 5,700 deaths.  

State 

  • Governor Greg Abbott waived some regulations for emergency medical service (EMS) providers, including some license and application renewal requirements in an effort to increase EMS worker availability. 

Numbers 

  • As of noon on April 2: 4,669 cases in Texas. 70 deaths. 143 counties reporting cases. 50,679 tests administered. 

Public Education 
Houston ISD Food Distribution 

  • Houston ISD has announced plans to resume meal distribution this Monday and will provide about 500 meals at 4-5 sites daily. A map of the food distribution here

Higher Education  
Higher Education Institutions

  • Fall 2020 enrollment forecasts are starting to be reviewed as institutions continue to understand the financial implications of COVID-19.   

Policy Implications 

  • $14 billion of the Education Stabilization Fun within the CARES Act will go directly to institutions based a formula which allocates 75% to the full-time enrollment (FTE) of PELL recipients and 25% of non-PELL FTE.  The formula excludes students who were fully online prior to COVID-19. 

Visit the Partnership's COVID-19 Resource page for updates, guidance for employers and more information. And sign up for daily email alerts from the Partnership as the situation develops. 

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COVID-19 Public Policy Update: April 8, 2020

4/8/20
In response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Partnership will provide a daily update on public policies and other newsworthy items from local, state and national levels of government. Executive Summary  All levels of government continue to implement economic and public health policies to respond to COVID-19. At the federal level, CMS Administrator Seema Verma announced $30 billion from the $100 billion allocated to hospitals in the CARES Act will be disbursed this week. Hospitals will receive the funding based on the individual hospital’s Medicare revenue. While Congress is in recess, negotiations, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have begun on a fourth phase for the coronavirus recovery package. Despite earlier discussions of this phase being focused on infrastructure, Speaker Pelosi has recently indicated the package will be like the recently passed CARES Act and focus on small business assistance, direct payments to Americans, and funding for public health. At the state level, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission will temporarily close all state parks and historical sites to strengthen social distancing measures. At the local level, Harris County Commissioners Court approved an agreement with Houston-Galveston Area Council for a Small Business Economic Assistance Loan Program in response to COVID-19. The program aims to help businesses impacted by the pandemic by offering zero-interest, forgivable loans up to $25,000 to meet ordinary and necessary operating expenses and obligations.  Federal Phase 4 Recovery Package – “CARES Act 2”  While Congress is in recess, negotiations, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have begun on a fourth phase for the coronavirus recovery package.  Despite earlier discussions of this phase being focused on infrastructure, Speaker Pelosi has recently indicated the package will be like the recently passed CARES Act and focus on small business assistance, direct payments to Americans, and funding for public health.  It is anticipated the bill will be on the House floor on April 20th, when Congress is expected to return to Washington, D.C.  CARES Act Hospital Funding  CMS Administrator Seema Verma announced $30 billion from the $100 billion allocated to hospitals in the CARES Act will be disbursed this week.  Hospitals will receive the funding based on the individual hospital’s Medicare revenue and funds will be received via direct deposit. It should be noted that the money will not be released on a first come, first serve basis.  Numbers  As of early Tuesday morning, Johns Hopkins University is reporting nearly 400,000 cases and over 12,900 deaths in the United States.  African Americans may be disproportionately affected by COVID-19.  Reports are showing African Americans make up over 70% of deaths from COVID-19 in Louisiana and Chicago, while only approximately 30% of the population.  In Chicago, African Americans make up 30% of the population, yet represent 52% of the reported cases of COVID-19 and 72% of the related deaths.  Similar reports are coming out of Wisconsin, Washington, D.C., and Michigan.  More testing and better data are still needed, as most states and territories have not released racial or ethnic data.  Sources:  Washington Post NBC News  State  At the direction of Governor Abbott, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the Texas Historical Commission (THC) will temporarily close all state parks and historical sites to strengthen social distancing measures in response to COVID-19. State parks and historical sites will remain closed until further notice otherwise to be given by the Governor.  Governor Abbott announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has implemented an emergency rule that will provide increased flexibility to providers to serve dialysis patients during the COVID-19 crisis. This will allow end stage renal disease (ESRD) facilities to operate off-site outpatient locations for those who test positive for COVID-19 to prevent the spread of the virus to other dialysis patients.   Numbers  As of late afternoon on April 7: 8,262 cases in Texas. 154 deaths. 161 counties reporting cases. 88,649 tests administered.  Local  On Tuesday, Harris County Commissioners Court approved an agreement with Houston-Galveston Area Council for a Small Business Economic Assistance Loan Program in response to COVID-19.  The program aims to help businesses impacted by the pandemic by offering zero-interest, forgivable loans up to $25,000 to meet ordinary and necessary operating expenses and obligations. Businesses must demonstrate that they have been harmed by the pandemic. Loans can be forgiven through county tax breaks over five years. If the borrower violates the loan's conditions, the business will become ineligible for loan forgiveness and will begin repayment following a three-month grace period.  An amendment was accepted to track whether businesses that are approved for loans are MWBE businesses.  The program will go live Wednesday and anticipates cutting checks to businesses within 30 days.  To be eligible, businesses must have existed for at least one year, be in Harris County and in good standing with the tax assessor, have a net worth of less than $15 million and annual average net income of less than $5 million over the past two years.  Source: Houston Chronicle Visit the Partnership's COVID-19 Resource page for updates, guidance for employers and more information. And sign up for daily email alerts from the Partnership as the situation develops. 
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Partnership Members Respond to COVID-19

4/7/20
Members of the Partnership are helping fight COVID-19 here in Houston and around the country in many different ways. Learn about some of our member companies who are making a difference.    Donations & Assistance  AT&T: Supporting Families and Educators with New Fund – April 3  AT&T has created a Distance Learning and Family Connections Fund to give parents, students and teachers tools they need for at-home learning. The $10 million fund also will provide families resources to maintain meaningful connections and stay well while isolated from one another. Learn More Camden: Launch of Fund for Residents Without Income Due to Coronavirus  –  April 2  Houston-based apartment company Camden Property Trust has launched a $5 million program to provide financial support to residents who lost their source of income as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Learn More  AT&T: Feeding First Responders – April 2  AT&T has committed $5.5 million to provide much needed support – in the form of nourishing meals – for first responders, medical personnel and others in need impacted by COVID-19. The effort began with a $1.5 million contribution to World Central Kitchen. Learn More NRG: Pledges $2 million to COVID-19 Reflief Efforts  – April 1 NRG Energy, Inc.announces broad efforts to support first responders, community relief efforts and teachers. Learn More COMCAST: Offering Free Resources for Kids K-12 – March 31 COMCAST has made nearly 2,000 hours of programming and thousands of free titles available to Xfinity video customers to give children and parents quick and easy access to educational programming by grade level. Learn More Kroger: Donating $100,000 to Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund – March 27  Kroger has announced a $100,000 commitment to the Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund, funding access to food, health care, shelter and more in Harris, Fort Bend, Waller and Montgomery counties. Learn More Veolia North America: Donating 40,000 Masks to Hospitals – March 26  Veolia is working to get the company's stockpile of surgical masks to hospitals in six cities that need them to keep patients and healthcare workers safe. Learn More United Way of Greater Houston and Greater Houston Community Foundation: Launch of Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund – March 25  The Greater Houston COVID-19 Fund will focus on funding of support services that stabilize basic needs by providing access to food, health care, shelter, utility assistance, transportation and other unmet basic needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic in the short-term and will respond to developing needs over time as resources are available. Learn More Houston Texans: Donating $100,000 to Houston’s COVID-19 Recovery Fund – March 25  To help support the community's most vulnerable affected by the growing coronavirus pandemic, the Houston Texans Foundation donated $100,000 to the Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund. Learn More   Aiding Coronavirus Response Effort  Houston Community College, San Jacinto College, TX/RX and Other Education Institutions: Create Community Partnership to Address Protective Gear Shortages – April 8 Houston Community College, San Jacinto College, University of Houston at Sugar Land, Fort Bend County Judge’s Office, TX/RX Labs, Alief ISD and Houston ISD have joined efforts to help address personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages for local area medical professionals and first responders in the fight against COVID-19. Learn More Harmony Public Schools: Creating Face Shields – April 7 A team of education engineers at Harmony Public Schools have turned their "Innovation Lab" into a workshop to help healthcare workers. Learn More Houston Methodist: First to Transfuse Donated Plasma from Recovered COVID-19 Patient – March 29  The local health care giant is the first in the nation to be approved by the FDA to transfuse donated plasma from a recovered COVID-19 patient to other critically ill patients. Learn More Union Pacific: Supplying Communities with the Goods to Survive a Pandemic – March 27  Whether it's stocking a home pantry or having the supplies to support essential services at hospitals, police and fire stations, and restaurants, the items in greatest demand are riding the rails as freight trains move the goods communities need most in a national emergency. Learn More Accel Lifestyle: Manufacturing Medical Masks  – March 27  The owner of apparel line Accel Lifestyle is using her antibacterial fabric to make masks for health care workers. Learn More Houston Community College: Making Face Shields – March 26  HCC is making face shields in response to the lack of personal protective equipment for healthcare providers out on the front lines. Learn More HEB: Launch of Texans Helping Texans – March 20  H-E-B has launched Texans Helping Texans, a community-outreach initiative that’s guided by digital innovation, compassionate philanthropy and the generous spirit and strength that brings together all Texans during uncertain times. Learn More  Visit the Partnership's COVID-19 Resource page for updates, guidance for employers and more information. And sign up for daily email alerts from the Partnership as the situation develops.   
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