From the Desk of HD 4 State Representative Keith Bell
Kaufman County COVID-19 Preparedness Meeting
Was encouraged to witness Kaufman County have three meetings on March 17th, 18th, and 19th, to discuss the COVID-19 outbreak. To view these meetings, click the link below.
Henderson County COVID-19 Preparedness Meeting
I provided an update to the Henderson County Commissioners Court, Henderson County Emergency Management Coordinator, and Mayor Montgomery on Texas' continued efforts to combat COVID-19 (coronavirus). If you were unable to live stream the meeting, you can view at minute 48:00 by clicking the link.   https://youtu.be/VF14LvfMVDU
Updates from Governor Abbott:
Statewide Temporary Closure of all Restaurants, Bars, and Gyms

Governor Abbott announced today an executive order that will limit social gatherings to 10 people, prohibit eating and drinking at restaurants and bars while still allowing takeout, close gyms, ban people from visiting nursing homes except for critical care and temporarily close all schools. The executive order is effective midnight Friday through midnight April 3rd, 2020.

Statewide Temporary Closure of Driver License Offices

Governor Abbott announced that the 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 cdlappointments@ dps.texas.gov.  This exception will allow commercial drivers to continue to ship goods across the state of Texas.

Waive of Certain Regulations to Allow Delivery of Alcohol from Restaurants and to Support the Hospitality Industry

Governor 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 the unopened products.

Impact on May 2020 Local Elections

Governor Abbott issued a proclamation postponing the runoff primary election until July 14, 2020. The runoff election was originally scheduled for May 26th, but has been postponed in conjunction with the state's ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Early voting for the postponed runoff primary election will begin Monday, July 6, 2020.


TxDPS to Waive Expiration Dates on Certain Licenses and IDs

Governor Abbott has directed the Department of Public Safety (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. This suspension will be in effect until 60 days after DPS provides further public notice that normal Driver License operations have resumed.

Certain TDI Regulations on Telemedicine Waived

Governor Abbott has waived certain regulations related to telemedicine care and directed the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) to issue an emergency rule to help patients with state-regulated insurance plans gain telemedicine access so doctors across Texas can help additional patients while mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

Request for Loan Assistance for Small Businesses

On March 17, 2020, Governor Abbott requested designation from the Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Declaration in order for small businesses across the state of Texas to access the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. If granted, the SBA would provide relief through long-term, low-interest loans to qualifying Texas businesses.

Activation of the Texas National Guard

Governor Abbott has activated the Texas National Guard so they are prepared to assist with response efforts for COVID-19 if needed. This preparative step will ensure that the Texas National Guard can assist in various forms throughout the state at a moment’s notice. Healthcare workers and first responders who are members of the Texas National Guard are excluded from this activation so that they can continue serving the people of Texas in their respective fields.

TxDMV to Waive Rules on Disability Parking Placards and Vehicle Registration and Titling

Governor Abbott has announced that Texas is waiving certain rules relating to vehicle registration, parking placards for persons with disabilities, and titling to aid the state's efforts to combat COVID-19. These suspensions will allow Texans to avoid penalties for failure to timely title or register a vehicle, or renew a parking placard. The waivers fall within the actions the Governor is taking under the State of Disaster he declared last week, and are part of Texas’ efforts to reduce in-person contact among Texans and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Executive Order Increasing Hospital Capacity

Governor Abbott today signed an Executive Order to expand hospital bed capacity as the state responds to the COVID-19 virus. These actions will reinforce Texas' health care capabilities and provide additional space for hospitals to provide care to COVID-19 patients. Under this order, the Governor directed all licensed health care professionals and facilities to postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately, medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition or to preserve the life of a patient who without immediate performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient’s physician.

Allows Event Permit Refunds For Businesses Affected By COVID-19 Cancellations

Governor Abbott announced that he is temporarily suspending certain provisions of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code to help businesses whose events were cancelled due to COVID-19. Suspending these provisions will allow for refunds of application fees paid to obtain a temporary event permit for an event that was later cancelled.

Action to Expand Nursing Workforce

Governor Abbott has waived several regulations to help meet Texas’ growing need for nurses as the state responds to the COVID-19 virus. The Governor’s actions will expand Texas’ active nursing workforce by doing the following:
  • Allowing temporary permit extensions to practice for graduate nurses and graduate vocational nurses who have yet to take the licensing exam.
  • Allowing students in their final year of nursing school to meet their clinical objectives by exceeding the 50% limit on simulated experiences.
  • Allowing nurses with inactive licenses or retired nurses to reactivate their licenses.

Distribution Of Federal Funding

Governor Abbott announced that Texas has received $36.9 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of the state's initial allotment of funding from the first emergency coronavirus bill passed by Congress. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) will distribute $19.5 million to 43 local health departments to aid in their COVID-19 response. This includes $1.75 million for Dallas County, Tarrant County, and the San Antonio Metro Health District where operations have been impacted by federal activities. The remaining funds will be used by DSHS to support operations in areas of the state not covered by local health departments and for statewide response activities.
Updates from President Trump:
SAFETY MEASURES AT THE BORDER

PRESIDENT TRUMP: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has decided to exercise its authority under the Title 42 of the U.S. Code to give Customs and Border Protection the tools it needs to protect the transmission of the virus.”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “As we did with Canada, we’re working with Mexico to implement new rules at our ports of entry to suspend non-essential travel.”
SECRETARY POMPEO: “The United States and Canada jointly agree to restrict all non-essential traffic across our border. This decision goes into effect tonight at midnight.”
ACTING SECRETARY WOLF: “The CDC order directs the Department to suspend the introduction of all individuals seeking to enter the U.S. without proper travel documentation. That’s for both the northern and southern border.”
ACTING SECRETARY WOLF: “Tonight, again at midnight, we will execute the CDC order by immediately returning individuals arriving without documentation to Canada, Mexico, as well as a number of other countries without delay.”

RELIEF FOR STUDENTS AND TEACHERS

PRESIDENT TRUMP: “With the many schools closed due to the virus, the Department of Education will not enforce standardized testing requirements – very importantly - for students in elementary through high school for the current year.”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “Today, Secretary DeVos has directed federal lenders to allow borrowers to suspend their student loans and loan payments without penalty for at least the next 60 days.”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “We’ve temporarily waived all interest on federally held student loans.”
MOVING TAX DAY

PRESIDENT TRUMP: “This morning, the Treasury Department also announced that we are moving tax day from April 15 to July 15.”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “Families and business who have this extra time to file with no interest or penalties – we are getting rid of interest and penalties. However, if you have refunds or credits, you would like to claim you may still file. In other words, you can file early if you are owed money by the IRS.”

MEDICAL EQUIPMENT SUPPLIES

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: “Over this weekend, we’ll be announcing a major procurement from the federal government of N-95 masks, as well.”
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: “We’re also encouraged that we’re finding new alternatives to increase the supply of ventilators. We’ve mentioned we have a federal stockpile of some 20,000 ventilators on standby, but that doesn’t count the tens of thousands of ventilators that are in our healthcare system around the country.”
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: “In our recent discussion with anesthesiologists, we’ve literally identified tens of thousands of existing ventilators that can be retrofitted and converted to be ventilators for people struggling with the coronavirus.”

SUPPORT FOR WORKERS AND SMALL BUSINESSES

PRESIDENT TRUMP: “We are going to be helping them a lot. We are going to be focusing -- a big focus, including my conversation with both Mitch and with Chuck, a big focus of that conversation was small businesses. Because they are really the engine behind our country. More so than the big ones. They are the engine behind our country.”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “We’re not talking about a $1,000 check, we’re are talking about much more than that. We’re also talking about doing phases, if this doesn’t work we’re going to keep doing until we get it going.”
Office Contact Information
Forney Office
315 Bois D. Arc
Forney, TX 75126
(972) 552-5573
Capitol Office
P.O. Box 2910, E2.702
Austin, TX 78768 
(512) 463-0458 
Athens Office
100 E. Corsicana St., 204
Athens, Texas 75751
(903) 675-3069
District4.Bell@house.texas.gov