The following is our latest on coronavirus response and news:
GOVERNOR ABBOTT, TDEM ANNOUNCE EXTENSION OF FEDERALLY-SUPPORTED COMMUNITY-BASED TESTING SITES IN TEXAS: Governor Abbott and the Texas Division of Emergency Management 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)
GOVERNOR ABBOTT WAIVES LICENSE RENEWAL LATE FEES FOR CERTAIN OCCUPATIONAL LICENSES IN TEXAS: The Governor announced he has waived 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.
UPDATE ON TREASURY IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PAYROLL SUPPORT PROGRAM: The Treasury announced, since the start of the Payroll Protection Program, they have approved over $25 billion to 352 applicants. Approved applicants include major airlines, more than 260 smaller passenger air carriers and cargo air carriers and contractors. Additionally, the Treasury has implemented new transparency measures for the program. A list of Payroll Support Program participants, with amounts of assistance provided and, where applicable, financial instruments provided to the Federal Government as appropriate compensation for the provision of financial assistance, is available online here.
IRS PROVIDES TAX RELIEF THROUGH INCREASED FLEXIBILITY FOR TAXPAYERS IN SECTION 125 CAFETERIA PLANS: The IRS released guidance to allow for temporary changes to section 125 cafeteria plans. These changes extend the claims period for health flexible spending arrangements and dependent care assistance programs and allow taxpayers to make mid-year changes. The guidance addresses unanticipated changes in expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Notice 2020-29 provides greater flexibility for taxpayers by:
Extending claims periods for taxpayers to apply unused amounts remaining in a health FSA or dependent care assistance program for expenses incurred for those same qualified benefits through December 31, 2020.
Expanding the ability of taxpayers to make mid-year elections for health coverage, health FSAs, and dependent care assistance programs, allowing them to respond to changes in needs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Applying earlier relief for high deductible health plans to cover expenses related to COVID-19, and a temporary exemption for telehealth services retroactively to January 1, 2020.
Notice 2020-33 increases the limit for unused health FSA carryover amounts from $500, to a maximum of $550, as adjusted annually for inflation.
THE USDA APPROVES FOOD PURCHASING PROGRAM: The USDA announced Texas has been approved to operate Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, a new program authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides assistance to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals dealing with school closures. Pandemic EBT is a supplemental food purchasing benefit to current SNAP participants and as a new EBT benefit to other eligible households to offset the cost of meals that would have otherwise been consumed at school. For the 2019-2020 school year, Texas had approximately 3.6 million children eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch, or approximately 67% of children in participating schools. More information about the Pandemic EBT program can be found here.
TAYLOR COUNTY PREPARING TO OPEN COURTS AND OFFICES: Taylor County offices and courts will be ready to open their doors to the public again Monday. But the actual opening date will depend on when Governor Abbott schedules phase two of his reopening plan. During Tuesday’s Commissioner’s Court meeting Judge Downing Bolls said that when they do open, both employees and the public will go through screening before being allowed to enter. The Juvenile Detention Center and County Jail will remained closed to the public. The commissioners also agreed to set special hours of operation, between 8 and 9 each morning, to serve people over 65 and those with compromised immune systems. (Source KACU)
Previously shared updates:
OPEN FOR BUSINESS: As Texas and the Abilene community work to re-open, the Abilene Chamber is committed to helping you, our member, connect with potential customers. Every day, more and more individuals turn to your Chamber as their trusted source for business information. To help you share your story, the Chamber has made a few updates to your online Member Information Center (MIC). The following resources are now available:
Opt-in to use temporary logos that will be displayed on your profile allowing consumers to see your business is open. Chamber staff is standing by to help. Click here to add one of the three logo options below:
OPTION ONE: Open for Business
OPTION TWO: Open for Business with Modified Hours
OPTION THREE: Open for Business - Working Remotely
Be sure and update your business hours to the most current. Directions here.
As always, the Chamber team is working and ready to serve. If you have any questions about your MIC login information or anything else, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
UPDATE YOUR EMAIL PREFERENCES: Since mid-March, your Chamber has sent daily business updates, advocacy updates, our regularly scheduled Weekly Connection updates, and more. To better serve you and to narrow down which content you'd like to receive, we've created a newsletter preference page. From here, you can manage your preference and choose which updates you receive from the Chamber. Click here for more.
HELP US GATHER A LOCAL RESOURCES: Do you have hand sanitizer, masks, gloves, etc. that would be beneficial to businesses working to re-open? We're gathering a list for the business community. Help us populate it! Click here for more.
Can you pencil us in? You don't want to miss these upcoming events.
Webinars for business
5/14 HOSPITALITY TRAINING: Sign up your employees and volunteers for the Abilene Convention & Visitors Bureau’s live Zoom version of its long-running Abilene Champions Hospitality Training, May 14. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or register here. The class builds skills for service industry employees and includes helpful knowledge to grow their appreciation of Abilene. It’s free and people can do it in pajamas. It’s never been so easy!
5/14 HOW WILL SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT, AND RESTAURANTS MANAGE THE RETURN TO WORK? Join the U.S. Chamber Foundation on Thursday, May 14 at 3:00 p.m. EST for an important discussion on how high-density consumer industries, such as movie theaters, restaurants, and sports leagues, are planning for reopening—how to start that process, how to keep employees and consumers safe, ensuring consumer confidence, and what the “new normal” might look like as we start to reopen the full American economy. Register here.
5/20 INTRODUCTION TO GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING (FEDERAL, STATE & LOCAL) In this LIVE Webinar facilitated by Cross Timbers Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), attendees will learn about important topics in government contracting (i.e. Federal, State, and local), to better prepare potential contractors on next steps to start or continue their government contracting program with confidence. Register here.