Just hours before President Trump declared a national emergency as the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States, Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster in all Texas counties.
While these measures might sound ominous at first, these preventative actions are intended to free up resources and personnel as needed.
Here is a closer look at what Gov. Abbott’s declaration means for Texas residents and how these actions will work in conjunction with President Trump’s national emergency declaration.
Gov. Abbott’s State of Disaster Declaration
“Declaring a State of Disaster is a key component of these efforts because it allows the state to effectively serve the people of Texas without hindrance or delay,” Gov. Abbott said.
- Allows for the use of all available state resources as required;
- Enhances the state’s ability to plan and respond by activating the state emergency management plan and the State Operations Center;
- Authorizes the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to reassign and utilize personnel as needed;
- Grants the authority to move resources around the state as needed, including those from the Strategic National Stockpile;
- Gives the Attorney General the authority to take necessary action to combat so-called “price-gouging.”
Gov. Abbott also announced restricted visitations at certain facilities, including nursing homes, state-supported living centers, hospitals, daycare facilities, prisons, jails, and juvenile justice facilities.
Although the governor strongly emphasized how unnecessary it is to stockpile supplies, grocery stores, like HEB, continue to experience higher than normal demand around Texas.
As a result, certain state truck regulations have been waived in order to help facilitate and expedite the delivery of supplies and resources as needed.
State agencies have been directed to take necessary steps to facilitate telemedicine whenever possible, and health insurance providers have been asked to waive costs associated with testing and telemedicine.
On Friday, San Antonio became the first city to open a drive-through testing facility. Other drive-through facilities in major cities, like Dallas and Austin, are expected to open in the coming weeks.
Additionally, Gov. Abbott informed the public that Texas state agencies were working toward waivers for school lunch programs that would give school districts the ability to continue to provide meals to students despite districts closing in light of the virus.
President Trump’s National Emergency Declaration
On the federal side, the Trump administration’s national emergency declaration allocates up to $50 billion to state and local entities as they prepare and respond to the crisis.
In addition, President Trump announced public-private partnerships that are helping to expand testing capabilities through provisions, like drive-through testing capabilities similar to the one currently in operation in San Antonio.
The declaration also waives certain federal regulations for healthcare providers, and health insurance providers have agreed to waive copayments associated with treatment while also extending insurance coverage as needed.
Additionally, President Trump said the Treasury Department will defer tax payments, provide low-interest loans to small businesses, and provide payroll tax relief.
Travel restrictions have also been imposed on China, Iran, and all of Europe.
In conjunction with this emergency declaration, the House passed legislation early Saturday morning in a bipartisan 363-40 vote. The legislation includes a new paid sick-leave mandate on medium-sized and small businesses, waives work requirements in food stamps, and spends $1 billion in emergency unemployment insurance among dozens of other provisions.
The final text of the bill was given to members at midnight with no opportunity to debate or amend the legislation. Additionally, the Congressional Budget Office was not able to score the bill, so the total cost to taxpayers remains unknown.
The legislation is expected to be taken up in the Senate this week, although technical changes from the House would need to be made first.
To date, 3,813 cases have been confirmed in the United States with 71 reported deaths.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), Texas currently has 56 confirmed cases of the virus and no reported deaths.
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Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.