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3/26 COVID-19 Highlights for the Business Community

Business Updates for COVID-19

Many members are anxiously awaiting an update regarding the "Phase 3" bill Congress is working on passing. We'll have more on what this bill means for you and your business later today from the Chamber's Government Affairs team.

The following is our latest on coronavirus response and news:

· SURVEY: It's been one week since we last polled the business community on the impact of COVID-19. What's changed in your business during that week time-frame? This is an updated survey to gather more data for the state of Texas of the Abilene Business Community. CLICK HERE.

· TEXAS WORKFORCE COMMISSION: The Texas Workforce Commission approved $40,000,000 for supplemental child care distribution. The funds will allow Workforce Development Boards to provide child care to essential workers during the COVID-19 outbreak. Pending approval of a federal waiver from the Office of Child Care, the funding will also allow supplemental payments to childcare programs to cover lost Parent Share of Cost payments.

· OTHER TEXAS WORKFORCE COMMISSION UPDATES:

· TWC has suspended the week waiting period before applying for benefits.

· TWC has suspended the work search requirement.

· Any overpayment collections in the unemployment benefits system are suspended until the crisis has passed.

· Four call centers are fully staff and TWC has transferred 200 staff to the call center to take calls in addition to other divisions and has hired 100 temps

· TWC is working with AT&T to increase the capacity of switches and calls that can come into the center

· Employers should report tips as wages and count them under unemployment insurance benefits

· There is enough funding to support Unemployment Benefits and TWC will seek federal funds if necessary. The funds are there and as funds are depleted TWC will seek support from other sources

· Self-employed – do not apply for unemployment insurance, but Congress is working on legislation now to address assistance for independent contractors and those who are self-employed

· IRS ANNOUNCES PEOPLE FIRST INITIATIVE: The IRS announced a sweeping set of initiatives aimed at providing Coronavirus relief. These initiatives include the suspension of installment agreement payments from April 1 – July 15, 2020, the creation of new installment agreements, changes to Offers in Compromise, the suspension of liens and levies, the suspension of new certifications to the DOS for taxpayers who are “seriously delinquent”, new delinquent accounts will not be forwarded to private collection agencies, and some new audits will not be started. The People First Initiative will continue to be expanded.

· GOVERNOR ABBOTT TO PROVIDE UPDATE ON COVID-19 EFFORTS IN TEXAS: Governor Greg Abbott will provide an update on Texas' efforts to combat COVID-19 on Thursday, March 26th at 2:00 PM at the State Capitol. The Governor will be joined by Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD, and Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd.

· A MESSAGE FROM TEXAS COMPTROLLER OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS: Thee Texas Comptroller’s office knows that during periods of economic hardship, paying or remitting taxes and fees on time can feel like an extra burden when there’s so much uncertainty. We’re thankful to those businesses that were able to remit state and local sales taxes they collected from customers in February on the March 20, 2020, due date. Read more.

· U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR PUBLISHES GUIDANCE EXPLAINING PAID SICK LEAVE: The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) announced its first round of published guidance to provide information to employees and employers about how each will be able to take advantage of the protections and relief offered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) when it takes effect on April 1, 2020. Click here to read more.

· SUPPLY CHAIN STRIKE FORCE: The Abilene Chamber is proud to partner with Chambers of Commerce across the State of Texas to mobilize businesses to do their part to combat COVID-19. Click here to see how you can help ensure health care facilities have the supplies and resources they need to respond to COVID-19.

· TEXAS RESTAURANT RELIEF FUND: Distribute grants of up to $5,000 PER UNIT to immediately support their financial needs. These funds are earmarked specifically for use to keep their doors open and their workers employed.Click here to apply for relief.

Other previously shared updates below:


· TOWN HALL: Our friends at KTAB/KRBC hosted a town hall yesterday afternoon with community leaders. You can view that video here.

· COVID-19 UPDATED NUMBERS: The City of Abilene announced yesterday that they will be updating the community with numbers surrounding testing for COVID-19 on their website. You can view the most recent numbers here.

· COVID-19 TESTING QUESTIONS: ICYMI, Hendrick Health System and Abilene Regional Medical Center held joint press conferences earlier this week regarding COVID-19. You can view the press conference on either channel's social media account or website. Resources from Hendrick Health System and Abilene Regional Medical Center.

· ABILENE UNITED and SUPPORT ABILENE: The United Way of Abilene and Community Foundation of Abilene have both setup funds to support the community during COVID-19.

· REEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE: If you have been laid off or experienced a reduction in work hours due to COVID-19 apply online for unemployment benefits at: https://twc.texas.gov/. Waivers and Programs for Businesses and Workers Impacted by COVID-19 Provide Relief to Texans in Need.

· ARE YOU HELPING IN SOME WAY? We are tracking the contributions of local businesses to the greater relief effort. If your business is contributing in any way, let us know so we are able to share them with our community.

· DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN FACT AND RUMORS: Federally, here is a page that FEMA has put together. Locally, we recommend the Abilene-Taylor County Public Health District and City website. If you have a question you can't find the answer to, let us know!

· STATE-BY-STATE GUIDE: Which states are on lockdown? Keep track using this handy list.

· TAX DAY: The U.S. Treasury today announced that the deadline to file income taxes has been extended to July 15.

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© 2020 by the Abilene Chamber of Commerce

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