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Coronavirus in Texas: U.S. Senate backs new round of economic aid; Dallas County extends stay-at-home order

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by Texas Tribune Staff April 21, 2020

  • U.S. Senate backs new round of economic aid
  • Texas reports 20,196 cases and 517 deaths
  • Dallas County extends stay-at-home order until May 15
  • Abbott touts 500,000 job openings ahead of further plans to reopen economy

U.S. Senate backs new round of economic aid

[4:52 p.m.] The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed another round of economic aid to sustain the country as the new coronavirus continues to ravage American commerce.

With a price tag of $484 billion, the new measure passed the chamber via a voice vote. Most senators were not present, in compliance with social distancing recommendations. The bill will replenish $380 billion into the small business forgivable loan fund and allot $75 billion for hospitals and another $25 billion for coronavirus testing.

“We knew this was a very popular program, and it seemed to be working the way we intended by keeping people connected to their employer,” said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in a statement immediately after the vote. “But there’s more demand than we prepared for, so that’s why it’s important we acted quickly.”

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz blamed Democrats for a delay in negotiations, as Republicans wanted a singular shot of money into small business funding. But Democrats held out, citing the need to add in other provisions — like local government and hospital funding.

“I’m glad Democrats finally came to their senses and stopped their mindless obstruction,” Cruz said in a statement. “But as we’ve seen – no amount of relief can fully counteract the devastating effects of this economic crisis.”

U.S. House members are in the process of returning to Washington for an anticipated Thursday vote on the legislation. President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law. — Abby Livingston

Abbott touts 500,000 job openings ahead of further plans to reopen economy

[3:30 p.m.] Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday encouraged Texans left unemployed by the coronavirus pandemic to look at nearly half a million job openings statewide. He offered the encouragement as he continued to preview a Monday announcement about the next steps in reopening the Texas economy.

“There’s so many people in Texas. They want to get back to work,” Abbott said during a news conference at the Texas Capitol. “Some may have jobs waiting. Some may have employers that will not be there anymore, so you will be looking for a new employer. We have almost half a million jobs that are waiting for you right now.”

Abbott gave a presentation breaking down the openings by region and by major employer. The openings can be viewed here.

Abbott’s latest news conference comes as anticipation continues to mount for his Monday announcement. He took initial steps to restart the state economy last week, reopening state parks, loosening restrictions on medical surgeries and allowing “retail-to-go.”

Abbott said his new task force on restarting the economy is already consulting with medical experts about “different types of businesses that we will be able to announce here in just a few days [that] will be able to open up.”

As he previewed the Monday announcement, Abbott also strongly suggested he would be issuing an executive order that scales back the statewide stay-at-home order he announced late last month. That order expires at the end of this month. — Patrick Svitek

Report: Dallas County extends stay-at-home order until May 15

[3:11 p.m.] Dallas County extended its stay-at-home order until May 15 — two weeks past when the statewide order is scheduled to lift, The Dallas Morning News reported.

At the end of last month, Gov. Greg Abbott had issued a statewide order telling Texans to stay at home until least April 30. Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, one of two commissioners who voted against Tuesday’s order, said he was concerned that the extension was in conflict with the governor’s order, according to The News.

“If I’m wrong, he will quickly tell us and tell us that we have to let everybody play pick-up basketball and do whatever they want to on April 30,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said, The News reported.

Texas approved for program allowing online grocery orders for SNAP recipients

[2:02 p.m.] Texas was approved Monday to be part of a pilot program that allows SNAP recipients to order groceries online, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday.

The start date has not been announced for the program. Currently Lone Star Cards — Texas’ electronic benefit transfer card which works like a debit card — can only be used to buy groceries in-store as deemed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. While many Texans have turned to online grocery shopping and delivery services to limit exposure to the new coronavirus, these resources aren’t available to families who use SNAP.

In-person shopping has long been a concern for groups including the elderly, people with disabilities and people in food-insecure areas, whose access barriers have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. As of Tuesday, the pilot program, which launched in April, is only available through Amazon, Walmart and a few local grocery stores in Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, Oregon and Washington, according to the USDA. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram had reported about Texas’ request to join the pilot program. — Stacy Fernández

Texas reports 20,196 cases and 517 deaths

[12:30 p.m.] Texas reported 738 more cases of the new coronavirus Tuesday, an increase of about 4% over the previous day, bringing the total number of known cases to 20,196. No new counties reported their first cases Tuesday; three-quarters of the state’s 254 counties have reported at least one case.

Harris County has reported the most cases, 4,977, followed by Dallas County, which has reported 2,512 cases. See maps of the latest case numbers for each county and case rates per 1,000 residents.

The state has reported 22 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 517 — an increase of about 4% from Monday. Harris County reported three additional deaths, bringing its total to 78 deaths, more than any other county.

As of Tuesday, 1,419 patients are known to be hospitalized in Texas. That’s an increase of eight patients from Monday. At least 205,399 tests have been conducted. — Chris Essig

Texas oil regulators take no action on production after prices plummet

The day after oil prices crashed into the negatives, Texas oil regulators on Tuesday decided against taking action to impose limits on oil producers, instead creating a task force to gather more information on oil production cuts as the coronavirus has kept much of the world at home, crushing global demand.

The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the state’s huge oil and gas industry, agreed to postpone until at least May 5 its vote on the issue. — Mitchell Ferman

Gov. Greg Abbott to provide update on state’s efforts

[10:35 a.m.] In a 2 p.m. news conference Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott will provide the latest information about efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Nearly 20,000 Texans have tested positive, and 495 died from the virus as of April 20, according to state health officials. You can watch the news conference here.

“Coronavirus in Texas: U.S. Senate backs new round of economic aid; Dallas County extends stay-at-home order” was first published at by The Texas Tribune. The Texas Tribune is proud to celebrate 10 years of exceptional journalism for an exceptional state.

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