The following is a summary of actions taken by Texas’ executive branch, including the Governor and relevant state agencies, in response to the recent COVID-19 outbreak. There are currently over 57900 confirmed cases in Texas, with several major metropolitan counties having issued shelter-in-place orders lasting up to two weeks. In coordination with the Governor, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has led Texas’ response to COVID-19 thus far.
Our Firm will continue to update this timeline as the state government continues to take actions responsive to the spread of COVID-19. Please do not hesitate to contact us if there is any way we can assist you, your family, or your business in these difficult times.
May 26, 2020 – Disaster Response
Governor Abbott issued a proclamation expanding additional services and activities that may open under Phase II of the state’s plan to safely and strategically reopen. With this proclamation, the following businesses and services may reopen, subject to the noted limitations:
- Water parks
- May reopen on May 29, but must limit occupancy to 25% and must close off areas with video arcades
- Recreational sports programs for adults
- May resume on May 31, but games and competitions may not resume until June 15.
- Driver education programs
- May resume operations immediately
- Food-court dining areas within shopping malls
- May resume operations immediately, but are encouraged to designate one or more individuals to be responsible for health and safety practices
May 27, 2020 – Disaster Relief, Healthcare
Governor Abbott and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) announced $3.6 million in funding for nursing facilities to purchase tablets, webcams, and headphones to connect residents with their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nursing facilities can submit applications to HHSC to receive up to $3,000.00 in federal funding per facility for purchasing such devices. Application guidance can be found here. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also held a press conference to provide an update on the COVID-19 surge response efforts in Amarillo. The Governor presented data showing that between May 13 and May 25, the number of new COVID-19 cases decreased from 182 to 0, while the number tested increased from 5,674 to 9,318. During that same time period, there were a total of 196 hospitalizations and 12 fatalities. The Governor’s surge response team, originally created on May 5, is responsible for conducting testing in Amarillo. The Amarillo COVID-19 data can be found here. More information can be found here.
May 21, 2020 – Disaster Response
Governor Abbott announced that CVS will open 44 new COVID-19 drive-thru test sites throughout the state. These new testing sites will utilize self-swab testing and will be available only to those individuals who meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) criteria, in addition to age guidelines. You must register in advance at CVS.com beginning Friday, May 22, 2020, to schedule an appointment. A full list of testing locations can be found here.
The Governor also announced that the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) will begin a four-phase plan for opening of driver license offices with limited service offerings starting May 26, 2020. As part of this strategic reopening, DPS will launch a statewide driver license appointment system that allows customers to book appointments up to six months in advance to reduce congestion and in-person wait times. Appointment registrations can be made here. Details on the four-phase plan can be found here.
The Governor also issued an executive order terminating the air travel restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. Previously, travelers incoming from California; Connecticut; New York; New Jersey; Washington; Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; Miami, Florida; or New Orleans, Louisiana were subject to mandatory 14-day self-quarantine upon arrival in Texas. This restriction has been lifted, pursuant to executive order GA-24. Incoming travelers are no longer subject to self-quarantine. The text of executive order GA-24 can be found here. More information can be found here.
The Governor also directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to expand COVID-19 testing to all patients, residents, and staff at the 23 state-operated inpatient psychiatric hospitals and living centers throughout Texas. This expansion provides testing capacity to the patients, residents, and staff of these facilities. More information can be found here.
May 22, 2020 – Disaster Response, Disaster Relief
Governor Abbott issued executive order GA-25 suspending in-person visitations in all county and municipal jails in Texas. This suspension does not apply to visits by an attorney or a member of the clergy. The text of executive order GA-25 can be found here. More information can be found here.
The Governor also announced that the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has extended payment deadlines for designated reimbursing employers that are required to pay a share of unemployment benefits. These designated reimbursing employers include non-profits, local governments, school districts, and other qualifying employers who reimburse TWC for the full amount of unemployment benefits to be paid to eligible former employees. This extension moves the June 1, 2020 reimbursement deadline to December 31, 2020, and waives all interest and penalty charges during that same time period. More information can be found here.
May 20, 2020 – Disaster Relief, Disaster Response
Governor Abbott has waived late renewal fees for all late Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) license and permit renewals. This waiver applies to licenses and permits with an expiration date on or after March 13, 2020. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also directed state agencies and institutes of higher learning to submit a plan identifying savings that will reduce their overall budgets by 5% for the 2020-2021 biennium. Additionally, the leaders of these organizations are directed to pursue further cost-saving methods as part of the state’s strategy to prepare for the long-term economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The following state entities and expenditures are excluded from the 5% reduction:
- Appropriations to the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Military Department, and the Texas Department of Public Safety;
- Funding for debt service requirements and bond authorizations;
- Current law requirements for the Foundation School Program and school safety;
- Funding for Child Protective Services;
- Benefits and eligibility levels in Medicaid programs, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the foster care program, the adoption subsidies program, the permanency care assistance program, and services for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities;
- Funding for behavioral health service programs;
- Appropriations for correctional security operations and correctional managed health care at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice;
- Appropriations to Health Related Institutions and Community Colleges; and
- Employer contributions to the teacher and employee retirement system funds, and to Social Security.
May 18, 2020 – Disaster Response
Governor Abbott held a press conference where he provided an update on Texas’ response to COVID-19, and announced the beginning of “Phase II” of his plan to reopen the state by issuing executive order GA-23. Under Phase II, the following businesses that were previously restricted under Phase I may now open at 25% capacity on the noted dates:
- Child Care Centers (May 18)
- Massage and Personal-Care Centers (May 18)
- Youth Clubs (May 18)
- Rodeo and Equestrian Events (May 22)
- Bowling Alleys, Bingo Halls, Simulcast Racing, and Skating Rinks (May 22)
- Bars (May 22)
- Aquariums and Natural Caverns (May 22)
- Zoos (May 29)
- Day Youth Camps (May 31)
- Overnight Youth Camps (May 31)
- Youth Sports (May 31)
- Certain professional sports without in-person spectators (May 31)
Further, restaurants may open at 50% capacity beginning May 22, up from 25% on May 1. Bars, wine bars, breweries, and similar businesses may now open at 25% capacity, though that limitation does not apply to outdoor patio areas, which may open at full capacity. Businesses located in office buildings may reopen, though they must limit occupancy to the lesser of 10 employees or 25% of their total workforce. Sporting and camp activities may open. Finally, schools may offer in-person summer programs beginning as early as June 1, 2020. Each of these newly opened businesses, programs, and schools are subject to specific, individualized health and safety restrictions outlined in GA-23.
The reopening of counties experiencing COVID-19 surges, including El Paso, Randall, Potter, Moore, and Deaf Smith is delayed until May 29.
The Governor’s full plan to reopen Texas can be found here. The text of executive order GA-23 can be found here. The Governor’s hospitalizations chart can be found here, and the positivity rate chart can be found here. More information about the Governor’s press conference and Phase II can be found here.
May 16, 2020 – Disaster Response
Governor Abbott released a statement on the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Amarillo, Texas. In a single day, the city reported 700 new cases. To combat this localized surge, the Governor deployed a Surge Response Team (SRT) to Amarillo. The SRT is composed of Medical Incident Support Team personnel from the Texas Emergency Medical Task Force (EMTF) and 70 members of the Texas National Guard. The SRT conducted site surveys and tested employees of meat packing facilities. The Governor has committed to providing further updates as they become available, including the results of the testing. More information can be found here.
May 15, 2020 – Disaster Relief
Governor Abbott and the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) announced that local Texas fire departments are partnering with local public health authorities to provide COVID-19 testing in nursing homes throughout the state. More information can be found here.
May 14, 2020 – Disaster Relief
Governor Abbott announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has received more than $3 million in federal funding to support Texas’ 78 HHSC-funded local family violence centers during the COVID-19 pandemic. These centers provide survivors of family and domestic violence with shelter, support services, and access to community-based programs. This funding is made available to Texas through the CARES Act and administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families. A map of Texas’ family violence centers can be found here. More information can be found here.
May 13, 2020 – Government Operations, Healthcare, Disaster Response
Governor Abbott announced a waiver of license renewal late fees that accrued between March 13 and June 15, 2020 for occupational licenses issued by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). This waiver applies to licenses associated with a variety of occupations such as barbers, cosmetologists, electricians, speech-language pathologists, and dyslexia therapists. More information can be found here.
The Governor also announced that the Texas National Guard has activated Facilities Disinfection Teams to support Texans in nursing homes and to help limit the spread of COVID-19. These teams, formed in coordination with Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), are geared towards protecting the vulnerable elderly population from the spread of COVID-19. More information can be found here.
The Governor also announced that the federal government has extended seven community-based testing sites in Texas through June 30, 2020. These federally-supported, state-managed, and locally-executed sites include El Paso (1), Dallas (2), Houston (2), and Harris County (2). FEMA is the federal agency responsible for supporting these testing sites. More information can be found here.
May 12, 2020 – Disaster Response
Governor Abbott issued a proclamation extending his disaster declaration for all Texas counties in response to COVID-19. Originally issued on March 13 and extended on April 12, 2020, the Disaster Declaration provides the state a number of resources to effectively serve Texans and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This action is taken through Governor Abbott’s authority under Chapter 418 of the Texas Government Code. The proclamation can be found here. More information can be found here.
May 12, 2020 – Disaster Relief, Business
Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen sent a letter to U.S. Congressional leaders requesting liability protection for Texas employers. The letter requests that Congress include some form of federal liability protection in the next round of COVID-19 related legislation that would protect business owners, healthcare facilities, and their employees, and first responders from being held liable for COVID-19 exposure claims when they adhere to public health guidelines and make good faith efforts to limit the risk of exposure and infection. The text of the letter can be found here. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott, in coordination with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, announced that Texas has received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to distribute more than $1 billion in food benefits through the federal Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program to families with children who have temporarily lost access to free or discounted school meals due to COVID-19-related school closures. P-EBT provides recipients a one-time benefit of $285 per child, which can used in the same manner as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food benefits to pay for groceries. More information can be found here.
May 11, 2020 – Healthcare
Governor Abbott directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to test 100% of residents and staff in Texas nursing homes. More information can be found here.
May 8, 2020 – Education, Disaster Relief
Governor Abbott, in coordination with the Texas Education Agency (TEA), and Dallas Independent School District (DISD) launched Operation Connectivity, a statewide initiative to deliver internet connectivity and device solutions for school districts, families, and students in Texas. The purpose of Operation Connectivity is to determine which children in the state do not have internet access and/or home electronic devices sufficient for distance learning and work to allocate resources to those in-need students. This program began in Dallas but is being expanded statewide. More information can be found here.
The Governor also announced that the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) has applied for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding to support Texas’s network of food banks. If granted, this funding will provide nearly $70 million to Texas food banks. More information can be found here.
May 7, 2020 – Government Operations
Governor Abbott, in coordination with Texas Motor Speedway (TMS), announced that TMS plans to host the first event of the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES on Saturday June 6, 2020 in Fort Worth. This event will be held without fans due to COVID-19, and strict social distancing and hygiene measures will be taken to protect the participants. More information can be found here.
The Governor also announced a modification to his previous executive orders related to COVID-19. As a result of this modification, confinement in prison is eliminated as a possible punishment for violating the Governor’s prior orders related to business closures and social distancing. This action was taken as a result of recent arrests of business owners who re-opened their businesses in defiance of the state’s direction. More information can be found here.
May 6, 2020 – Disaster Relief
Governor Abbott announced the creation of the Texas COVID Relief Fund, a partnership between the state and the OneStar Foundation, a non-profit civic engagement organization. Funds raised will be distributed through grants focused on community and economic development, healthcare, and education in underserved areas. More information can be found here.
The Governor also announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has received $5.8 million in federal funding to provide crisis counseling services to Texans who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant allows 31 local mental health and behavioral health authorities (LMHAs/LBHAs) to connect Texans to short-term crisis counseling services that include reducing stress and providing emotional support, as well as assisting victims in pursuing disaster recovery programs. Those seeking to take advantage of these resources can visit the Mental Health & Substance Use Resources web page, or dial 2-1-1. More information can be found here.
May 5, 2020 – Healthcare, Small Business, Disaster Relief
Governor Abbott hosted a press conference at which he provided an update on COVID-19 infection rates, upcoming deadlines for business re-openings, and clarified certain rules regarding public gatherings. The Governor explained that while infection rates continue to rise–the current total is over 30,000–hospital bed capacity and PPE shortage have not become issues. Moreover, the Governor stated that the rate of new cases has begun to decrease, indicating that social distancing policies have been effective. The Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) and the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) are creating “Surge Response Teams” to address areas in the state where COVID-19 may begin to proliferate as businesses begin to reopen.
The Governor also stated that beginning May 8, 2020, cosmetology salons, hair salons, barber shops, nail salons and shops, and other establishments where licensed cosmetologists or barbers practice their trade, may open. All such establishments must ensure at least six feet of social distancing between operating work stations. Tanning salons may also reopen under the same limitation. Starting May 8, 2020, swimming pools may open subject to certain limitations on their occupancy or operating levels.
Additionally, beginning on May 18, 2020, office buildings may open with the greater of five or less individuals or 25% of the total office workforce. Gyms and exercise facilities may also open on May 18, 2020, but must also operate at 25% capacity.
The Governor clarified that wedding venues and wedding service providers may reopen. Weddings held indoors at a location other than a church, congregation, or house of worship must limit the capacity of the facility to 25% of its stated occupancy. Further, 2020 graduation ceremonies may proceed in four different manners:
- Completely virtual ceremonies that take place entirely online, with the use of videoconferencing or other technologies.
- Hybrid ceremonies, which consist of a compilation of videos of students being recognized in person as they celebrate graduation in small groups.
- Vehicle ceremonies, in which students and their families wait in their cars while other graduates are recognized one at time with their families alongside them.
- Outdoor in-person ceremonies, which are currently permitted for counties as follows:
- Counties which have attested fewer than five laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19 to the Department of State Health Services may host outdoor, in-person receptions between May 15 and May 31;
- All Texas Counties may host outdoor in-person graduation ceremonies on or after June 1, 2020.
The Governor issued an executive order, GA-21, consistent with the information communicated in this press conference, which can be found here. More information on the Governor’s press conference can be found here.
Finally, Governor Abbott announced that the HHSC has received approval for a $3 million emergency grant for Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living. ADRCs are places where people of all ages, incomes, and disabilities can go to get information and one-on-one counseling on the full range of long-term services and supports available in Texas. More information on ADRCs can be found here. More information on this new source of funds can be found here.
April 29, 2020 – Government Operations, Legal Proceedings
Governor Abbott suspended a statute concerning appearances before a notary public to acknowledge real estate instruments such as mortgages. This suspension temporarily allows for appearance before a notary public via videoconference when executing such documents. This suspension will remain in effect until the earlier of May 30, 2020 or until the Governor lifts his original March 13, 2020 disaster declaration. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also announced an expansion of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s online training series. Originally launched on April 23, 2020 to assist local government leaders in taking advantage of federal and state relief packages, this expansion to the AgriLife program will provide training videos for child care providers and parents who are either in need of, or who will be providing care for, children of essential employees throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The first three trainings are available here. More information can be found here.
April 27, 2020 – Government Operations, Small Business
Governor Abbott held a press conference during which he issued three new executive orders and outlined a three-phase plan to reopen the State to normal operations. The first order, GA-18, initiates Phase I by authorizing certain businesses to reopen to the public, but only to admit 25% of their listed occupancy. This order is in effect from May 1st until at least May 18th. The text of GA-18 can be found here.
The second order, GA-19, relaxes temporary restrictions on health care professionals and updates the State’s requirements regarding hospital bed capacity. Under this order, health care professionals are required to comply with all emergency rules promulgated by their respective licensing agencies regarding safe practice during the COVID-19 disaster, and hospitals are required to reserve at least 15% of their total bed capacity for treatment of COVID-19 patients. The text of GA-19 can be found here.
The third order, GA-20, eliminates the 14-day quarantine period for travelers incoming from Louisiana, though the 14-day quarantine period is still in effect for travelers coming from California; Connecticut; New York; New Jersey; Washington; Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; and Miami, Florida. The text of GA-20 can be found here.
The Governor also released the full text of his plan to reopen the state over the coming weeks, titled “Texans Helping Texans: The Governor’s Report to Open Texas.” The Governor’s plan can be found here. More information on the Governor’s press conference can be found here.
April 24, 2020 – Government Operations, Disaster Relief
Governor Abbott announced that the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) have launched an online COVID-19 test collection site map. The map is interactive and shows detailed information on public and private mobile, walk-in, and drive-thru test collection sites around the state. Over 340 test collection sites are currently operational and listed on the map, with more being added as they come online. The mapping service can be found here. More information can be found here.
April 24, 2020 – Disaster Relief
Governor Abbott, in coordination with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA), announced that Texas will provide Tenant Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) to certain Texans experiencing housing difficulties due to loss of income or other hardship caused by COVID-19. These funds are made available through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Up to $11.3 million in funds are currently available to TBRA administrators. These funds may be used to help qualifying families and individuals with up to 100% of the cost of rent, security deposit payments, and utility bills. Visit Help for Texans to see if you qualify for this federal assistance. More information can be found here.
April 22, 2020 – Healthcare, Disaster Relief
Governor Abbott announced waivers of testing requirements for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). Under this waiver, APRN graduates who have met all licensure requirements, except national certification, may begin practicing under direct physician supervision. Notably, this waiver does not include prescriptive authority. The purpose of this waiver is to increase the number of medical professionals available to combat the spread of COVID-19. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also waived restrictions related to higher education financial aid resources. Under this new waiver, Texas higher education institutions are allowed to transfer unexpended student financial aid funds from the Texas College Work-Study program to other financial aid programs that do not have a work-study component to ensure that all students continue to receive financial aid to the fullest extent possible. Programs which could receive redistributed aid include the TEXAS Grant program, the Texas Educational Opportunity Grant program, and the Tuition Equalization Grant program. More information can be found here.
April 21, 2020 – Disaster Relief
Governor Abbott made multiple announcements about the state of the job market in Texas in light of COVID-19. First, the Governor announced that 481,000 jobs are currently listed on www.WorkInTexas.com, a job matching site developed by the Texas Workforce Commission. The Governor also identified many different industries and specific employers who are currently hiring, providing examples from every region in the state. Finally, the Governor provided a list of local workforce development boards which are able to help place qualified job seekers in employment positions. For links to all 28 local workforce development boards and other resources, job seekers can visit https://gov.texas.gov/business/page/jobs. The Governor’s full presentation can be found here. More information can be found here.
April 20, 2020 – Healthcare, Disaster Relief
Governor Abbott announced the mobilization of over 1,200 personnel, including healthcare workers and soldiers, into mobile testing teams. Each team will be composed of 45 members, and will be stationed throughout the state to provide greater access to COVID-19 testing. The first two units will be stationed in Fredericksburg and Floresville; the remaining 23 locations will be determined by the Department of State Health Services. More information can be found here.
April 17, 2020 – Disaster Relief, Small Business
Governor Abbott hosted a press conference where he announced the State’s plans for managing the spread of COVID-19 moving forward, as well as a plan for beginning to reopen some of the state’s businesses. The Governor announced three executive orders during the conference.
The first of these orders, GA-15, relates to available hospital capacity. Previously, Governor Abbott had suspended all non-essential or elective surgeries from occurring to ensure that adequate space in hospitals for COVID-19 patients. GA-15 loosens this order by allowing such surgeries as long as they do not deplete hospital capacity and resources to less than 25%. The text of GA-15 can be found here.
The second order, GA-16, authorizes the re-opening of non-essential retail stores on a “to-go” basis. This order also mandates that schools will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. The text of GA-16 can be found here.
The third order, GA-17, establishes Strike Force to Open Texas, composed of leaders from around the State. The Strike Force is tasked with assessing the State’s ability to begin reopening and operating on a more regular basis, while maintaining COVID-19 prevention policies. The text of GA-17 can be found here.
More information on Governor Abbott’s press conference can be found here.
April 16, 2020 – Disaster Relief
Governor Abbott, through his Office of Economic Development and Tourism (EDT), launched a Small Business Webinar Series to provide Texas small business owners and entrepreneurs with information about available COVID-19 recovery resources. The first webinar took place on April 15, and a recording can be found here. The Governor has plans to host additional webinars throughout April and May. Dates will be announced on the EDT website. More information can be found here.
April 15, 2020 – Healthcare
Governor Abbott, along with Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, announced that two new COVID-19 drive-through testing stations have been established in Harris County in partnership with Walgreens. The testing sites will come online on April 17, and can conduct 200 tests per day each. Testing will be available by appointment only, and patients will need to perform a digital health assessment online to determine eligibility. The testing site addresses are:
- 14531 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77082
- 101 W Southmore Ave
Pasadena, TX 77502
April 15, 2020 – Government Operations, Disaster Relief
Governor Abbott announced that the state Public Safety Office will provide $38 million in federal funds to local governments in Texas. These funds are sourced from federal emergency appropriations for coronavirus response efforts, and can be used to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the spread of COVID-19. Specifically, the Governor has noted that the funds can be used for:
- Personnel Overtime (Peace Officer, Jailer, Correctional Officer, Medical, and other Essential Staff)
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Supplies (i.e. gloves, masks, sanitizer, disinfectant)
- Medical care for inmates that have tested positive for COVID-19
April 13, 2020 – Disaster Relief, Small Business
Governor Abbott announced that Goldman Sachs and the LiftFund, along with other community development financial institutions are partnering to provide $50 million in loans to small businesses in Texas that have been affected by COVID-19. These loans will be made through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and will primarily be used for payroll so that employees can continue to receive paychecks and small businesses can retain employees. These loans may be wholly or partially forgiven.
Cantey Hanger attorney Jasmine Vu wrote an article detailing and explaining the PPP that can be found here. Businesses can inquire about this program through the LiftFund website here. More information can be found here.
April 12, 2020 – Disaster Relief
Governor Abbott extended his initial disaster relief declaration from March 13, 2020. By extending the declaration, the Governor ensures that necessary aid is available statewide as necessary to combat the spread of COVID-19. There is currently no end date for the disaster declaration. The Governor’s original disaster declaration can be found here. The Governor’s proclamation extending the disaster declaration can be found here. More information can be found here.
April 11, 2020 – Healthcare, Disaster Relief
Governor Abbott announced a waiver of healthcare regulations on physicians-in-training permit holders to increase the available healthcare workforce in the state. Texas hospitals and facilities associated with Graduate Medical Education training programs will be able to utilize permit holders, with appropriate oversight, in areas outside their education training programs. More information can be found here.
April 10, 2020 – Disaster Relief
In conjunction with the Texas Frontline Child Care Task Force led by Elaine Mendoza of the Supply Chain Strike Force, the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Education Agency, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Governor Abbott announced the launch of a frontline child care website. The purpose of this website is to help essential workers in Texas locate child care centers who are able to care for their children during the COVID-19 outbreak. The website will allow frontline workers to search for care facilities in their area, access the facilities’ compliance records, hours, and other essential information. The child care website can be accessed here. More information can be found here.
April 9, 2020 – Healthcare
Governor Abbott waived certain regulations related to telehealth services. As a result of the waivers, a smart phone or any audio-visual, real-time, or two-way interactive communication system qualifies as a telecommunications technology for the purpose of receiving telehealth services. These waivers apply to speech-language pathologists and audiologists, behavior analysts, hearing instrument fitters and dispensers, and dyslexia therapists and practitioners. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission has adopted an emergency rule to temporarily allow more nurse aides to serve in long-term care facilities. Under this emergency rule, long-term care facilities may hire people to provide nurse aide services without the employees having to complete a full certification program in their first four months of work, as is normally required. It is still the responsibility of the facilities to ensure that nurse aides are competent in performing their assigned tasks. More information can be found here.
April 8, 2020 – Healthcare, Disaster Relief, Government Operations
Governor Abbott made two announcements regarding state preparedness for the COVID-19 outbreak. First, the Texas Military Department, and Prestige Ameritech, a private company in Fort Worth, are partnering to increase production of protective masks for health care workers. The partnership aims to run a 24-hour operation, and hopes to begin producing 2 million masks per week as soon as possible. More information can be found here.
Second, the Governor announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Department will begin providing more than $168 million in SNAP food benefits assistance to SNAP recipients in Texas. The U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed to provide the maximum amount of SNAP benefits for the months of April and May. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also announced that the state Public Safety Office will provide a one-time emergency waiver of the federally mandated match contributions for Victims of Crime Act and STOP Violence Against Women Act grant fund recipients. Normally, these recipients are required to contribute 25% of their own funds or donated services towards projects in order to remain eligible for grant funding. This waiver removes that requirement, in recognition of the cash shortages caused by COVID-19. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also temporarily suspended statutes to allow notaries to witness document signings via videoconference, rather than in person. This suspension is designed to further decrease human contact while allowing notarization of critical documents. The documents specifically impacted by this suspension include:
- a self-proved will,
- a durable power of attorney,
- a medical power of attorney,
- a directive to a physician,
- or an oath of an executor, administrator, or guardian.
As a result of this action, these documents are able to be notarized remotely. Notaries must still go through a specified process to verify the identities of the signors, and the signors must transmit signed documents to the notary electronically for notarization. This action is taken through Governor Abbott’s expanded authority in light of his March 13, 2020 disaster declaration. This suspension will remain effective until the disaster declaration is lifted or expires. Though a copy of the order is not currently available from the Governor’s Office, the press release announcing this suspension can be found here.
April 7, 2020 – Government Operations, Healthcare
Governor Abbott ordered the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to shut down all state parks and historic sites, effective 5:00 P.M. today. There is currently no definite date when these sites will be reopened. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission has adopted an emergency rule to allow end stage renal disease (ESRD) facilities to treat patients more effectively in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. This new rule will allow these facilities greater flexibility to treat their dialysis patients by allowing off-site dialysis services without obtaining a new license at several different locations, including formerly licensed ERSD facilities, mobile units, physician’s offices, and ambulatory surgical centers. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also announced an additional waiver to the pharmacy industry which will allow pharmacy technicians to accept prescription orders over the phone; a task normally only done by the pharmacists themselves. The goal of this waiver is to increase the ability of pharmacies to serve their patients while maintaining the goals of social distancing. More information can be found here.
April 6, 2020 – Disaster Relief, Healthcare
Governor Abbott announced that Care.com, an online business focused on matching consumers with caretakers of various kinds, is offering 90 days of free access to their premium services for frontline workers who are responding to the COVID-19 emergency. This is not an official partnership with the state, and does not entitle frontline workers to free in-home care, but is a useful resource for affected workers. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also announced that Texas has received 2.5 million protective masks in the last 24 hours, and will receive 3 million more by April 11. More information can be found here.
April 5, 2020 – Healthcare
Governor Abbott waived more regulations in an effort to further expand the available medical workforce in response to the spread of COVID-19. This waiver pertains to Physician Assistants (PA), Medical Physicists, Perfusionists, and Respiratory Care candidates for licensure who have completed all requirements other than taking their final licensure examination. These individuals may enter the workforce under an emergency license as long as they are working under supervision. This waiver also forgoes fingerprint-based background checks, instead using name-only checks for all affected individuals. In a previous announcement, Governor Abbott noted that Texas’ hospital bed availability has increased by 140% since March 18. More information can be found here.
April 2, 2020 – Healthcare
Governor Abbott suspended state regulations to increase the amount of EMS workers available to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. As a result of these waivers, local medical directors for licensed EMS providers can permit people who are qualified, though not formally certified, to provide emergency healthcare services to persons being transported by ambulance. More information can be found here.
April 1, 2020 – Disaster Relief
Governor Abbott announced the passage of a $2 trillion federal stimulus package which empowers states to extend unemployment benefits beyond their normal time frame. Workers whose hours are reduced, or who are terminated or furloughed because of COVID-19 may receive an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits, beyond the normal 26 week limit. The law also boosts weekly unemployment benefits by $600. Employers are able to increase efficiency by filing a single mass claim for all workers who are affected by COVID-19, rather than the normal procedure of filing individual claims for each employee. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott, in coordination with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) announced a plan to take action to provide tenant-based rental assistance for Texans affected by COVID-19. Governor Abbott has requested waivers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to allow greater flexibility in the use of HUD funds at the state level to protect tenants. More information can be found here.
April 1, 2020 – Disaster Relief
Governor Abbott announced the disbursement of $14.1mm in new grants from the Texas Military Preparedness Commission’s Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant to assist Texas Military communities which may be affected by recent base closures. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott, in cooperation with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, has taken initial action to provide tenant based rental assistance to Texans who have been economically impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. The goal of this action is to allow greater flexibility for Texans in need to use Federal Housing and Urban Development funds to make sure they can pay their rent. More information can be found here.
March 31, 2020 – Disaster Relief
Governor Abbott announced the beginning of the Comfort Food Care Packages program. In this program, patrons of participating restaurants can purchase meals for families in need in addition to their food order. The restaurant will prepare a meal large enough to feed 5-6 people, and the Family and youth Success Program will identify recipient family shelters which have the greatest need, to distribute the food. Families interested in utilizing the CFCP program should contact their local Family and Youth Success Program for more information. Restaurants interested in participating in the program can sign up on the Texas Restaurant Association website. More information can be found here.
March 31, 2020 – Government Operations, Disease Prevention
Governor Abbott issued executive order GA-14 implementing a statewide “Essential Services and Activities Protocol.” This protocol is essentially an affirmation of existing Federal guidelines and recommendations for the public to stop the spread of COVID-19. The protocol urges Texans to minimize all non-essential meetings, travel, and interpersonal contact, and reaffirms the closure of all schools and prohibition against visitation elderly care facilities. The text of executive order GA-14 can be found here. More general information can be found here.
March 30, 2020 – Healthcare, Health Insurance
Governor Abbott announced that for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak, public safety personnel will be entitled to reimbursement for reasonable medical expenses related to their treatment if they contract the virus. If you are a public safety employee of the state who contract the virus you should be sure to document any healthcare treatment you receive to take advantage of this waiver. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also announced the approval of a previously requested section 1135 Medicaid waiver. This waiver has significant impact on existing Medicaid enrollees, as well as medical facilities across the state. If you are a Texas Medicaid enrollee or healthcare provider, this waiver likely grants you greater flexibility to receive or give care, as the case may be. More information can be found here.
March 29, 2020 – Healthcare, Travel, Criminal Justice
Governor Abbott issued two new Executive Orders. The first, GA-12, is a mandatory 14-day quarantine for any road travelers coming into Texas from any location in Louisiana. This is an expansion of an earlier order in which the Governor ordered a 14-day quarantine period for passengers of flights incoming from New Orleans, Louisiana.
This travel policy has now been expanded significantly to include mandatory 14-day quarantine for incoming air travelers from the following states and cities:
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Chicago, Illinois
- Detroit, Michigan
- Miami, Florida
Cantey Hanger attorney Andrew Scott recently wrote an article covering the increased risks of traveling out of Texas due to the spread of COVID-19 which can be found here. The text of executive order GA-12 can be found here.
The second executive order, GA-13, prohibits the release of individuals currently in custody for or with a history of criminal offenses involving physical violence or threat of physical violence. According to Governor Abbott, this order was made in response to concerns over the release of individuals because of COVID-19 who are deemed a danger to society. The text of executive order GA-13 can be found here. More information on both orders can be found here.
Governor Abbott also submitted another waiver request to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services seeking greater flexibility in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. This waiver would expand the available workforce by allowing fully trained and qualified nurse aides to provide home healthcare services even if they have not been employed and paid as an aide within the preceding 24 months, allowing non-clinical staff to provide feeding assistance to residents in nursing facilities without completing the normally required 16-hour training course, and allowing individuals with intellectual disabilities in the Home and Community-Based Services and Intermediate Care Facility programs to temporarily receive their same services in either setting. The goal of these actions is to increase flexibility of existing medical professionals to allow for greater availability during the duration of the virus. More information can be found here.
March 28, 2020 – Healthcare
Governor Abbott waived multiple licensing requirements to allow greater participation among medical professionals in managing and treating COVID-19. The first waiver was of licensing regulations related to Texas pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacy trainees. With these regulations waived, the expiration dates on those professional licenses is extended and all continuing education requirements are suspended. More information can be found here.
The second waiver was of requirements relating to nursing licenses. This waiver allows for an expedited reactivation process for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) in Texas. Under this waiver, APRNs whose licenses have been expired for more than 2 years but less than 4 may reactive their licenses quickly and easily and without having to pay a reactivation fee. More information can be found here.
March 27, 2020 – Small Business, Government Operation
Governor Abbott waived Texas Workforce Commission regulations to preserve and extend child care capacity for front line workers. This action is taken in conjunction with the Supply Chain Strike Force, and its goal is to allow flexibility to respond to child care needs for critical workers during the COVID-19 outbreak. Children subject to this waiver will be able to accrue absences without affecting their eligibility for benefits through TWC programs. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also announced the deployment of three National Guard divisions in Texas. The main role of the National Guard in combating the spread of COVID-19 in Texas is to assist with infrastructure development, including establishing drive-thru testing facilities and assisting with supply chain issues across the state. More information can be found here.
March 26, 2020 – Government Operations, Small Business, Healthcare
Governor Abbott requested release of unused federal unemployment funds to pay unemployment claims. More information can be found here.
Texas Health and Human Services Commission submitted a Medicaid Waiver to the Federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid. If approved, this would grant Texas flexibility in administering Medicaid while the state continues to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. Specifically, this increased flexibility would include extending prior authorizations for services, allowing services to be performed via telemedicine, allow the state to waive any requirements that require the signature of a physician or medical provider, streamlining provider enrollment for out-of-state and new providers to increase the overall number of providers in Texas, and waiving certain state licensing requirements to allow out-of-state physicians to render services in Texas. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also signed an executive order mandating the 14-day quarantine of any traveler arriving in Texas from the tri-state area (composed of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut) and New Orleans. More information can be found here.
March 25, 2020 – Healthcare, Government Operations
Governor Abbott announced that the State received a $16.2mm grant from the Federal Department of Health and the Human Services Administration for Community Living to provide meals for older adults. More information can be found here.
The Governor and Texas Health and human Services Commission also requested permission from the Department of Agriculture to allow Texas SNAP recipients to use their benefits at take out and drive-thru restaurants in lieu of visiting grocery stores. The text of the letter can be found here. We will follow up and update if and when this request is approved.
Governor Abbott also announced that President Donald Trump authorized the declaration of a major disaster in the state of Texas. This was a follow-up to Governor Abbott’s request for disaster declaration on March 23rd. This declaration will allow more federal resources to flow into the state to combat the spread of COVID-19. More information can be found here.
The Governor also waived two licensing requirements applicable to the healthcare industry. The first waiver was as to renewal of nursing licenses and related fees. For the next six months, nurses with expired licenses will not be required to renew their licenses. The second waiver was in reference to licensing of medical facilities and available hospital beds. Medical facilities that have pending licenses or facilities that have been closed no more than 36 months are allowed to come online under existing hospital building licenses. These facilities must be operated by hospitals with existing, valid licenses. The waiver also allows for existing, licensed hospitals to operate facilities more than 30 miles away from their facility. More information can be found here and here.
March 24, 2020 – Healthcare
The Texas Medical Board adopted rules related to enforcement of Governor Abbott’s prohibition against elective surgeries during the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak. While the TMB rules primarily relate to punishment for violations of the Governor’s order, they also carve out an exception for certain “urgent” elective surgeries. This article authored by Cantey Hanger partner Julie Bergkamp provides thorough analysis of what constitutes urgent and non-urgent elective surgeries under the TMB’s new rules.
March 24, 2020 – Healthcare, Small Business/Restaurants
Governor Abbott announced that the State’s Supply Chain Strike Force secured more than $83mm worth of purchase orders for essential medical supplies and will begin receiving 100,000 medical masks per day by the end of next week. The Texas Division of Emergency Management will also begin receiving 1,000 masks per day by the end of next week. The state will operate an intake portal for those wanting to provide valid leads for more personal protective equipment, donations of medical supplies, and medical professionals willing to volunteer. The portal is accessible at www.texas.gov. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott issued an executive order to better track hospital bed capacity and COVID-19 test results statewide. The text of the executive order can be found here.
The Governor also directed the DSHS to authorize restaurants to sell bulk retail products from distributors to the public. All such products must still be in their original packaging, presented as received by the restaurant from the wholesaler. This includes items like packaged meat, fruits and vegetables, and dry goods. More information can be found here.
March 23, 2020 – Government Operations, Healthcare
Governor Abbott formally requested a major federal disaster declaration in Texas. This declaration has implications on Federal Government relief; it is a signal to the Federal Government that Texas will require supplemental relief to manage the spread of the virus. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott announced that the CDC has granted the State of Texas $36.9 million as part of Congress’ first Coronavirus response bill. More information can be found here.
March 22, 2020 – Healthcare
Governor Abbott, by executive order, postponed all non-immediate surgeries and procedures to expand hospital bed capacity. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also announced the creation of Supply Chain Strike Force, a temporary organization established to ensure collaboration between public and private sectors to supply health care facilities with necessary supplies and resources. More information can be found here.
March 21, 2020 – Healthcare
Governor Abbott waived state regulations to expand the available nursing workforce, by (1) allowing temporary permit extensions to practice for graduate nurses who haven’t yet been licensed, (2) allowing nursing students in their final year to meet clinical objectives by exceeding the 50% limit on simulated experiences, and (3) allowing nurses with inactive licenses or retired nurses to reactivate their licenses. More information can be found here.
 The Texas Department of State Health Services maintains a website with up-to-date warnings and information which can be found here: https://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/. This timeline is based on information compiled by the National Governor’s Association using press releases from the office of Governor Greg Abbott. The original timeline can be found here.
 Currently, the counties of Bexar, Dallas, Harris, Tarrant, and Travis have all issued shelter-in-place orders effective until early April.
March 20, 2020 – Consumer Protection, Small Business, Government Operations
The Texas Supreme Court issued an emergency order suspending residential eviction proceedings through April 19, 2020. Governor Abbott affirmed this decision as an important step in protecting the rights of Texans during the duration of the virus. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott announced that the Federal Small Business Administration had granted the State of Texas access to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. The link for a loan application through SBA can be found here. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott announced the temporary suspension of certain provisions of the Alcoholic Beverage Code to allow for refunds of application fees to businesses who applied for temporary event permits that have been cancelled due to the spread of the virus. If you believe you are entitled to a refund for a license application, you should consult the TABC website here. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also ordered all primary runoff elections postponed until July 14, 2020. More information can be found here.
March 19, 2020 – Healthcare
Governor Abbott issued a series of executive orders which included: (1) prohibiting public gatherings of 10 or more people; (2) discouraging dine-in at restaurants and bars, or visitation of gyms or massage parlors; (3) prohibiting visitation to nursing homes, retirement homes, or long-term care facilities; and (4) closing all schools. More information can be found here.
The Commissioner of DSHS declared a state of public health disaster for the State. Along with this declaration, the Commissioner issued updated hygiene recommendations to help prevent further spread of the virus. More information can be found here.
March 18, 2020 – Government Operations, Small Business/Restaurants
Governor Abbott directed the Department of Public Safety to temporarily waive all driver’s license and identification card expiration dates. The Governor Also ordered the immediate closure of all driver license offices statewide. More information can be found here and here.
Governor Abbott issued a proclamation suspending portions of the Texas Election Code to allow certain local elections to be delayed until after the duration of the virus. An advisory letter from the State Elections Division can be found here.
Governor Abbott also issued a waiver which allows restaurants to deliver alcoholic beverages with food purchases to customers. The Governor also directed the Alcoholic Beverage Commission to allow manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers of alcoholic beverages to repurchase or sell back unopened products. More information can be found here.
March 17, 2020 – Government Operations, Healthcare, Small Business
Governor Abbott activated the National Guard in preparation to assist with the response to the spread of the virus. That activation does not apply to first responders and healthcare workers. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also granted waivers to allow hospitals to increase the number of unused beds without having to submit applications or pay fees, and directed the Texas Department of Insurance to issue an emergency order that telemedicine visits with physicians should be paid in the same manner as normal doctor’s visits to increase the availability of doctors during the duration of the virus. More information can be found here and here.
Governor Abbott requested designation from the Federal Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Declaration in order to gain access to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program for the entire state of Texas. This program provides long-term, low-interest loans to qualifying business. Businesses who believe they may be eligible for an Emergency Injury Disaster Loan should visit: https://tdem.texas.gov/covid-19/.
March 16, 2020 – Education, Government Operations
Governor Abbott began waiving certain state requirements, including State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) for the 2019-2020 school year, as well as certain rules related to vehicle registration, parking placards, and vehicle titling in an effort to reduce public exposure to the virus. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also suspended certain Open Meetings statute requirements to allow for telephonic and video meetings which are accessible to the public where possible. More information can be found here.
March 13, 2020 – Healthcare
Governor Abbott declared a state of disaster in Texas due to the outbreak of COVID-19 through his authority under Texas Government Code § 418.014. The declaration stated in general terms that its purpose was to expand state resources available to combat the spread of the virus. More information can be found here.
March 12, 2020 – Healthcare, Education
Governor Abbott hosted a call with Texas legislators, Mayors, and County Judges, reinforcing the state’s commitment to ensuring all jurisdictions have the appropriate medical supplies. Governor Abbott was joined by other agencies, including the Texas Division of Emergency Management, and the Texas Education Agency, noting that School superintendents would be briefed weekly on Cov-19 updates from then onward. More information can be found here.
March 11, 2020 – Health Insurance, Healthcare
Governor Abbott and the Texas Department of Insurance requested that insurers and HMOs waive copayments, co-insurance, and deductibles for testing and telemedicine visits for the diagnosis of coronavirus. More information can be found here.
March 6, 2020 – Consumer Protection, Healthcare
Governor Abbott issued a public statement addressing the issue of price-gouging on medical supplies. Governor Abbott explained that he had the power to expand the state attorney general’s office’s power to prosecute those engaged in price-gouging on in-demand medical and sanitary supplies. More information can be found here.
January 27, 2020 – Healthcare
The DSHS activated the State Medical Operations Center, which is an entity tasked with coordinating state response to disease outbreaks by fielding requests from local hospitals, and ensures accurate tracking and reporting of data. More information can be found here.