Table of Contents
July 10, 2020 - How Does the New City of Austin COVID Transmission Prevention Ordinance Apply to Apartment Communities?
July 9, 2020 - City Council approves new enforcement powers for COVID-19 requirements
July 8, 2020 - PPP Loan Program Extended; Loan Data Released: What Small Businesses Need To Know
July 1, 2020 - New Mortgage Forbearance Options for Enterprise-backed Multifamily Properties
July 1, 2020 - Congress Moves to Reopen PPP Application Process
June 26, 2020 - Gov. Greg Abbott orders Texas bars to close again and restaurants to reduce to 50% occupancy as coronavirus spreads
June 17, 2020 - With Abbott’s OK, Austin Requires Masks at Businesses
June 11, 2020 - Travis County judge extends order to prohibit evictions, notices to vacate due to COVID-19
May 28, 2020 - CORONAVIRUS IN AUSTIN: Questions remain over how city will spend $270 million in virus aid
May 22, 2020 - Council approves $6.9M in agreements for remaining RISE funds
May 18, 2020 - Fraudulent rental applications have spiked during pandemic
May 14, 2020 - Supreme Court Rules No Further Extension of the Statewide Eviction Moratorium
May 8, 2020 - Austin City Council Extends Grace Period Through August 24
May 1, 2020 - Neighborhood Housing Department Issues $1.2M in Rental Assistance To Be Administered by HACA
April 30, 2020 - TAA Tips for Reopening Amenities and Common Areas
April 29, 2020 - Leni Louazna's Interview with Univision
April 23, 2020 - City rolls out bridge loan program to assist businesses impacted by Covid-19
April 23, 2020 - House passes $484B package to help small businesses, bolster hospitals and coronavirus testing
April 17, 2020 - Abbott Eases Some Restrictions In Fight Against The Coronavirus
April 8, 2020 - NMHC Rent Payment Tracker Finds 12% Decrease in Share of Apartment HH that Paid Rent by April 5
April 6, 2020 - Eviction Hold Extended Through April 30; More Free Webinars From TAA
March 27, 2020 - New Resident Notice Requirements Passed By City of Austin Amid COVID-19 Crisis
March 27, 2020 - AAA Joins Business Coalition to Keep Apartment Construction Moving
March 27, 2020 - Congress Passes Third COVID-19 Federal Relief Package
March 27, 2020 - Austin Code Makes Changes to Address Emergency Orders
March 23, 2020 - FHFA Moves to Provide Eviction Suspension Relief for Renters in Multifamily Properties
March 20, 2020 - Texas Supreme Court Temporarily Suspends Most Evictions
March 18, 2020 - White House Directs HUD to Cease Evictions Through April 30
How Does the New City of Austin COVID Transmission Prevention Ordinance Apply to Apartment Communities?
July 10, 2020 - As has been widely reported, the City of Austin enacted two ordinances yesterday that establish social distancing rules and COVID transmission protocol. The ordinances also give Austin Code the authority to identify noncompliant locations as a public health nuisance and their health department the power to request legal action against offending sites.
This ordinance is not a criminal ordinance but it provides for enforcement via a civil lawsuit in district court where a court to order could be issued to force compliance. Should anyone decided to ignore the courts order the city can seek sanctions in the form a fine. Fines up to $2,000 can be imposed for locations deemed to be a public health. Persons not wearing a face covering can also be deemed a health nuisance and fined.
Full legal analysis has not been done to examine all angles of the new ordinance. The AAA has asked Austin Code to give a webinar to apartment communities on how to comply with the ordinance and they intend to do so but only after they themselves have been briefed by the Austin Law Department.
As currently understood, the ordinance applies when 10 or more people are present at one time.
To the extent a property faces an issue with residents violating the order the suggestion is to perhaps use a cellphone and record a property employee asking the offending persons to comply with order. With this evidence it is not likely the city will take action against the property.
There are sanitation standards listed in the ordinance and properties should be mindful of those standards. For example, any property that has only hand dryers and no paper towels along with trash cans with manual lids in their common are bathrooms would be in violation of this ordinance.
A presentation from Austin Code about the standards and how to comply will be scheduled as soon as possible. In, the meantime to view the ordinance go to https://www.austintexas.gov/edims/document.cfm?id=342766
City Council approves new enforcement powers for COVID-19 requirements
July 9, 2020 - AUSTIN (Talk1370.com) - The Austin City Council gave unanimous approval Thursday to two new ordinances aimed at furthering enforcement of the state and city COVID-19 orders. Council held a special called meeting Thursday to receive a briefing from local health officials as well as to discuss the two new ordinances.
The first ordinance creates the framework to declare a site a nuisance if it doesn't meet criteria to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Under the ordinance, the city would be able to file a civil suit to require compliance.
The second ordinance allows the health authority to adopt certain rules to protect people from COVID-19. As proposed, violations of the ordinance would be punishable by a civil fine of up to $2,000, and the ordinance would remain in effect until December 31.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott weighed in on Austin's proposals Wednesday, sending a letter to Austin Mayor Steve Adler showing his support for them. "Taking steps to ensure compliance with these Orders, as the City is contemplating, is necessary to protect public health and safety and will reduce the spread of COVID-19," Abbott wrote. The letter made no mention of any additional business shutdown, including a 35-day shutdown that Adler has proposed, and Abbott has rejected that idea in past television interviews.
PPP Loan Program Extended; Loan Data Released: What Small Businesses Need To Know
July 8, 2020 - Forbes - On Saturday July 4, 2020, President Trump signed a new law extending the deadline for applying for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan from June 30 to August 8. This extension comes on the heels of new Interim Final Rules (IFR) issued by the Small Business Administration (SBA) on June 22, clarifying some issues and attempting to make complete loan forgiveness attainable for most borrowers.
In addition, on July 6, 2020, the SBA and the Treasury Department released the complete database of all PPP loans issued to date—approximately 4.9 million. For loans above $150,000, the data includes company name, address, NAICS codes, demographic information, date the loan was issued, number of employees, and congressional district. For loans under $150,000, the name and address were omitted.
In a July 6 press release issued by the SBA, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin stated, “The average loan size is approximately $100,000, demonstrating that the program is serving the smallest of businesses.” He added that, “Today’s release of loan data strikes the appropriate balance of providing the American people with transparency, while protecting sensitive payroll and personal income information of small businesses, sole proprietors, and independent contractors.”
The release of the data came at the behest of many groups and politicians seeking transparency for the $650 billion loan program created under the CARES Act. There is concern among some that the program is subject to widespread fraud and abuse, and they want accountability. Already, many companies receiving negative press coverage and fearing audits and penalties returned $30 billion in PPP funds, although arguably they received them legitimately under the guidelines.
On the other side of the debate are many business groups who want to see a “safe harbor” that all borrowers who received the loans, or at least those under a certain threshold such as $1 million, will receive loan forgiveness for portions of the loan they use according to regulations—60% on payroll and 40% on expenses such as rent, mortgage payments, utilities, and interest payments on loans.
The release of the data caused instant anxiety among borrowers as the data seemed incomplete. After reviewing the data, many companies were reported having none or one employee, even though their loan amounts were over $150,000, signaling many more employees. This raised concerns that inaccurate data would cause audits or adversely impact a review. The reality is the data reflects the input from lenders who were working around the clock to issue the loans as fast as possible and, as per the CARES Act, gave borrowers the benefit of the doubt that the loans were necessary and employees were to be kept on the payroll.
For most borrowers, the inaccurate data will be of no consequence. Businesses with 10 or fewer employees, sole proprietors, or independent contractors will not be the target for harsh reviews or audits, and while those borrowers who received over $2 million in PPP funds have a much higher likelihood of audit, the real targets will consist of fraudsters lying on loan documents.
While the program has been riddled with problems, confusion, and new regulations coming out almost weekly, the reality is, it has had the desired effect of injecting liquidity into the economy and keeping workers on the payroll. While approximately $130 billion remains in the program, necessitating the extension to August 8, the federal government moved at an unprecedented pace and scale on this program. Considering that the SBA issues about 1,000 loans in a typical year, 4.9 million PPP loans in three months is commendable.
The fact that funds remain is the result of a slowdown in applications as many borrowers were concerned that audits would leave them holding a loan they thought would become a grant, or worse, civil or criminal penalties. So, in addition to the extension, the new guidance from June 22 was also meant to assuage the worries of many businesses and increase applications.
While it remains to be seen whether the new guidance will increase loan applications over the next month, the new guidance and future regulations sure to come still create as many questions as they seek to answer. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions on PPP loans and forgiveness:
1. When can I apply for PPP loan forgiveness?
The biggest question coming up about the new rules is whether a borrower has to choose to apply after eight weeks or has to wait for 24 weeks—in other words, “either or.” The rule made clear that a borrower could apply anytime between eight and 24 weeks, stating as follows:
A borrower may submit a loan forgiveness application any time on or before the maturity date of the loan–including before the end of the covered period—if the borrower has used all of the loan proceeds for which the borrower is requesting forgiveness.
The rule continues to explain that borrowers who received loans prior to June 5 can elect eight weeks as the covered period prior to applying for forgiveness, and borrowers have 10 months from after the covered period ends to apply for forgiveness.
Of course, there is a caveat to this rule, which is if a borrower has reduced salaries or wages of employees by more than the 25% allowed under PPP, they have to apply that reduction for the entire duration of the loan period, either eight weeks or 24 weeks, and not as of the date they apply for forgiveness. Here is an example provided in the IFR, which is complicated:
A borrower is using a 24-week covered period. This borrower reduced a full-time employee’s weekly salary from $1,000 per week during the reference period to $700 per week during the covered period. The employee continued to work on a full-time basis during the covered period, with an FTE of 1.0. In this case, the first $250 (25% of $1,000) is exempted from the loan forgiveness reduction. The borrower seeking forgiveness would list $1,200 as the salary/hourly wage reduction for that employee (the extra $50 weekly reduction multiplied by 24 weeks). If the borrower applies for forgiveness before the end of the covered period, it must account for the salary reduction for the full 24-week covered period (totaling $1,200).
This scenario can be minimized, or avoided altogether, by not reducing salaries above 25% and using all PPP funds prior to seeking loan forgiveness. Remember, the PPPFA extends the time limit for borrowers to rehire workers until December 31, 2020. So, there should be plenty of time to rehire and pay workers the wages they are due based on the loan application amounts and to receive full forgiveness. After the forgiveness application is submitted, the business will be free to make decisions on head count and salaries.
2. What is the process for applying for PPP loan forgiveness?
Thankfully, one of the key new changes is an easier application form. The original Form 3508 was so complicated, business owners would certainly need an accountant or lawyer to decipher it. There is now Form 3508EZ, and lenders are also allowed to produce their own application form.
Once the application is submitted, the lender will have 60 days to make a “good faith” review, ask for additional information or documentation, and approve forgiveness in whole or in part. “Good faith” review is described as looking at a payroll report from a third-party provider, like ADP, along with records of payments for authorized expenses. Most borrowers, therefore, should receive complete loan forgiveness by using all the funds on payroll and presenting a payroll report along with the application forms. As with the loan application on the front end, most third-party payroll providers are creating reports specifically for PPP loan forgiveness.
Once the lender has conducted its review, it will submit the application and documentation to the SBA for its review. The SBA will have 90 days to conduct a review. It can either approve the forgiveness, ask for more information, or approve a portion of the loan for forgiveness. If it does not approve all or part of the loan for forgiveness, borrowers now have five years (up from two years) to repay the loan at 1% interest. Borrowers who received the loan prior to June 5, 2020, will have to negotiate the five-year term with their lender.
3. What is the maximum amount owner-operators, self-employed, and independent contractors can have forgiven on their PPP loan?
The previous guidance, for reasons difficult to determine, capped the amount of forgiveness at $15,385 for sole proprietors, employee owners, and independent contractors. For those using $100,000 of salary to calculate the loan amount, they would have received $20,833, leaving a gap of approximately $5,000 to use on authorized expenses. For many in this category, working from home or with minimal expenses left open the possibility that a portion of the loan would be unforgiven. The new rules change the cap on forgiveness received by self-employed individuals to $20,833. Now with a 24-week time horizon, these borrowers can simply run enough payrolls to fully spend these funds and receive full forgiveness.
4. Should I still be worried about an audit on my PPP loan?
The new guidance did not provide any specific safe harbors for an audit. The SBA already provides a safe harbor, whereby loans under $2 million will be considered made in good faith based on economic uncertainty, so there will not be much reason to audit these loans. With government mandated shutdowns, ongoing cases of COVID-19, and a rocky reopening of the economy, economic uncertainty remains for all businesses.
The main concern with audits of loans over $2 million will remain the issue of the “credit elsewhere” test and the liquidity of the borrower. Unlike traditional SBA loans, business owners didn’t have to document a lack of credit elsewhere, and only certify if they did not have sufficient access to credit. At this point, it appears that short of venture funding available or access to public capital markets by virtue of a stock exchange listing, most companies that are audited will likely be able to reasonably claim a lack of adequate credit elsewhere, even with traditional lines of credit.
5. What can I expect next for any easing of restrictions on PPP loans?
The main issue still remaining in the program is around taxes. PPP loans do create adverse tax consequences, mainly that expenses, including federal payroll taxes paid by the employer with PPP funds, are not deductible. So, while PPP funds that are forgiven are not taxable, businesses will lose these deductions.
Business groups are lobbying furiously to make changes to PPP, especially on the payroll tax issue, in what’s being called Phase 4 legislation. The new law could also offer new funds targeted at certain demographics or allow companies a second PPP loan. Negotiations for the new law are underway and should conclude before the Congressional August recess.
The extension of the PPP program until August 8 and the new guidelines should incentivize more businesses to apply for loans. Despite the confusion, the program is largely working as designed, which is to provide small businesses with additional funds to weather the coronavirus storm. While the prospect of an audit remains very real, there is likely more regulations to come that will, hopefully, explain and define what that looks like so businesses have the certainty they need.
In the meantime, with COVID-19 cases surging in many parts of the country, businesses may be facing a new wave of full or partial shutdowns. That prospect will likely accomplish two things: One, remove the issue of “economic uncertainty” from the discussion; and two, lead to a robust new package of economic stimulus.
New Mortgage Forbearance Options for Enterprise-backed Multifamily Properties
July 1, 2020 - In a move to support Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac financed multifamily property owners experiencing difficulties during this period of financial uncertainty, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced changes to the forbearance programs offered to borrowers.
In an email alert to National Apartment Association (NAA) members, sent Tuesday, June 30, Bob Pinnegar, NAA President and CEO, reported that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) are allowing multifamily loan borrowers with existing forbearance agreements to extend the total forbearance period for up six months total. The forbearance extension is available for property owners of qualified properties with an Enterprise-backed multifamily mortgage experiencing a financial hardship due to the coronavirus national emergency.
As before, property owners are prohibited from evicting residents in covered properties due to nonpayment of rent during the forbearance period. Unlike borrowers, residents are not required to show COVID-19 related financial hardship.
The FHFA’s announcement also adds new owner and renter protections that apply during the repayment period. Once forbearance concludes, owners of properties with forbearance agreement extensions may qualify for up to 24 months to repay missed payments. Forbearance extensions, repayment schedule modifications and new forbearance agreements result in the following requirements during the repayment period:
• Residents must be given at least a 30-day notice to vacate;
• Borrowers must suspend late fees or penalties for nonpayment of rent; and
• Borrowers must allow residents the flexibility to repay outstanding balances over time and not in a lump sum.
Pinnegar went on to say that as residents and property owners alike struggle with the financial effects of COVID-19 the NAA continues to fight for mortgage forbearance for all property types, broad flexibility in terms of these agreements and to ensure that eviction protections never exceed the length of forbearance.
The NAA is working with Congress and federal agencies to protect the stability and viability of the rental housing industry and are pressing for emergency rental assistance as the best solution to the challenges facing rental housing. As part of their advocacy efforts the NAA is communicating to policy leaders that extended eviction moratorium does nothing to keep renters stably housed or steady the nation’s rental housing stock.
AAA members can help amplify the NAA’s message to federal policymakers. Contact NAA here to learn more about how you can help. For more information you can also contact Paul Cauduro, AAA Government Relations Director at firstname.lastname@example.org
Congress Moves to Reopen PPP Application Process
July 1, 2020 - The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) application process is on the verge of being reopened thanks to swift action by Congress over the course of the past three days. The deadline to apply for PPP funding was Jun. 30, but House and Senate lawmakers were able to clinch a unanimous consent agreement that will reopen the application process for the roughly $134 billion remaining in the small business rescue program. The measure is now on the President's desk awaiting signature. When signed, the new application deadline will now be August 8. Under the current rules, a small business owner can use 60% of their PPP funds on payroll— and they have up to 24 weeks to do so until Dec. 31. This covered period extension also increases the maximum loan forgiveness from $15,385 to $46,153. For application instructions and related information got to https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program
Gov. Greg Abbott orders Texas bars to close again and restaurants to reduce to 50% occupancy as coronavirus spreads
June 25, 2020 - The Texas Tribune - The moves, announced Friday morning, represent Abbott's most dramatic action yet in response a surge in cases after he allowed businesses to reopen in the state.
Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday took his most drastic action yet to respond to the post-reopening coronavirus surge in Texas, shutting bars back down and scaling back restaurant capacity to 50%.
He also shut down river-rafting trips, which have been blamed for a swift rise in cases in Hays County, and banned outdoor gatherings of over 100 people unless local officials approve.
“At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars," Abbott said in a news release. "The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health."
Bars must close at noon Friday, and the reduction in restaurant capacity takes effect Monday. Before Abbott's announcement Friday, bars were able to operate at 50% capacity and restaurants at 75% capacity.
As for outdoor gatherings, Abbott's decision Friday represents his second adjustment in that category this week.
Abbott on Tuesday gave local governments the choice to place restrictions on outdoor gatherings of over 100 people after previously setting the threshold at over 500 people. Now outdoor gatherings of over 100 people are prohibited unless local officials explicitly approve of them. State officials have noted that case numbers in Texas began to increase around Memorial Day weekend, and have expressed worry about big public gatherings for Fourth of July.
Abbott's actions Friday were his first significant moves to reverse the reopening process that he has led since late April. He said Monday that shutting down the state again is a last resort, but the situation has been worsening quickly.
Abbott put Texas under what was effectively a stay-at-home order for most of April, shutting down all but businesses considered essential by the state. After letting that order expire at the end of April, he moved forward with a phased reopening of the state that was one of the earliest and quickest in the country. By early June, Abbott had permitted almost all business to open at at least 50% capacity.
But cases have climbed rapidly in recent weeks. On Thursday, Texas saw another record number of new cases — 5,996 — as well as hospitalizations — 4,739. The hospitalization number set a record for the 14th straight day. During the increase, Abbott has cited Texas' large hospital capacity and the availability of respirators. But many hospitals in Texas' big cities have reported crowded intensive care unitsin recent days, and some cities have begun reviving plans to treat patients at convention centers and stadiums.
There has also been rapid rise in the state's positivity rate, or the ratio of tests that come back positive. The rate, presented by the state as a seven-day average, has gone up to 11.76% — where it was at in mid-April and above the 10% threshold that Abbott has said would cause alarm for the reopening process.
Abbott specifically cited the positivity rate in explaining his actions Friday. “As I said from the start, if the positivity rate rose above 10%, the State of Texas would take further action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19," he said.
On Thursday, he announced the state was putting a pause on any future reopening plans, though none were scheduled and the announcement did not affect businesses that were already allowed to reopen. Earlier in the day, Abbott sought to free up hospital space for coronavirus patients by banning elective surgeries in four of the state's biggest counties: Bexar, Travis, Dallas and Harris.
"We want this to be as limited in duration as possible. However, we can only slow the spread if everyone in Texas does their part," Abbott said. "Every Texan has a responsibility to themselves and their loved ones to wear a mask, wash their hands, stay six feet apart from others in public, and stay home if they can."
Democrats said they were grateful for Abbott's announcement Friday but that it came too late and was the latest example of a mismanaged response from the start.
Abbott's latest moves "will help, but because the governor has waited so long to act, it's going to be very hard to put this genie back in the bottle," state Rep. Chris Turner of Grand Prairie, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said during a state Democratic Party conference call.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, also a Democrat, said Abbott "is now being forced to do the things that we have been demanding that he do for the last month and a half." Jenkins added that Abbott still needs to issue a statewide order requiring Texans to wear masks and until then, "we will continue to see more and more people getting sick, and we won't be able to reverse this second wave."
Abbott has resisted calls for such a statewide order but clarified earlier this month that local governments can order businesses to require customers to wear masks.
Gov. Greg Abbott pauses Texas’ reopening, bans elective surgeries in four counties to preserve bed space for coronavirus patients
June 25, 2020 - The Texas Tribune - For a second time since the start of the pandemic, Abbott banned elective surgeries to preserve bed space for coronavirus patients. But this time the hold on the nonessential procedures is only in effect for Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday morning that he will pause any further phases of reopening businesses in Texas and that he is once again putting a stop to elective surgeries to preserve bed space for coronavirus patients in certain countiesthat are seeing a surge of COVID-19 cases.
Abbott's latest action does not reverse any of the reopening phases he's already allowed — meaning that bars, restaurants, malls, bowling alleys and other businesses can still remain open with some occupancy limitations. Restaurants can operate at 75% capacity, and virtually all other businesses, including bars, can operate at 50%.
“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses, ” he wrote in a Thursday press release, but the "pause will help our state corral the spread."
The latest ban on elective procedures applies to Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties, which have seen a rapid increase in the number of patients hospitalized with the virus.
Just Tuesday, Abbott stressed that hospital capacity in Texas was “abundant.” A day later, he acknowledged in a TV interview that capacity issues in some parts of the state "may necessitate a localized strategy."
Statewide, the number of hospitalizations has reached record highs for two weeks, soaring to 4,739 on Thursday morning and tripling since Memorial Day. On Wednesday, the state had 1,320 available intensive care unit beds and nearly 13,000 available hospital beds, but with regional disparities.
In hard-hit areas, some hospitals have begun moving coronavirus patients from crowded ICUs to other facilities, and local leaders have warned that hospitals could get overwhelmed if the number of infections keeps climbing. In the greater Houston area, the Texas Medical Center said Thursday that its intensive care units have reached 100% of base capacity. The center has said that once those beds are filled, its hospitals and care facilities can create an additional 373 ICU beds for "sustained use" and add another 504 temporary ICU beds for significant surges in COVID-19 cases.
Marc Boom, head of the Houston Methodist hospital system, said last week,“Should the number of new cases grow too rapidly, it will eventually challenge our ability to treat both COVID-19 and non-COVID 19 patients.”
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On Thursday, Texas Medical Center leaders said the center is not in immediate danger of exceeding bed capacity. During a joint news conference, Boom said it does “have the capacity to care for many more patients.” David Callender, CEO of Memorial Hermann Health System, said officials there are used to “making adjustments on the fly.”
Travis and Harris counties are also reviving plans to create temporary hospital facilities to prepare for overwhelmed hospitals — plans that were largely put on hold earlier this year after widespread stay-at-home orders slowed the pandemic in Texas.
Other parts of Texas are also seeing available hospital beds dwindle.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson planned to meet with Dallas County officials and the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council on Thursday to discuss reactivating a plan to use the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center as a pop-up medical facility.
Laredo TV station KGNS reported Wednesday night that Victor Treviño, the health authority there, has contacted the commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services to fast-track the diversion of COVID-19 patients to other hospitals because ICU units in the city's hospitals are reaching capacity.
The statewide elective surgery ban lasted about a month before Abbott eased it, allowing hospitals to resume nonessential procedures under certain conditions, as long as 15% of beds were reserved for coronavirus patients.
Abbott announced the most recent phase of reopening June 3. That phase included a cascade of reopenings through June 19, when amusement parks and carnivals in counties with more than 1,000 cases were allowed to open at 50% capacity.
In recent weeks, Abbott has largely not previewed any additional phases, as he did earlier in the reopening process. A week ago, he discussed the possibility of soon allowing more visitors at nursing homes, though that seems unlikely given the rapidly increasing case numbers since then.
The Texas Democratic Party criticized Abbott's handling of the pandemic Thursday in a written statement, calling his reopening plan "reckless" and saying that pausing it now is "too little, too late."
With Abbott’s OK, Austin Requires Masks at Businesses
June 17, 2020 - The Statesman - Austin Mayor Steve Adler issued an order Wednesday, mandating that all businesses immediately come up with a plan to require facial coverings.
The order came after Gov. Greg Abbott gave his approval to a new Bexar County rule that requires businesses to mandate masks for workers and customers. As the state reported another day of record-setting COVID-19 infections, Abbott was asked if the Bexar County order went too far. No, he told a Waco TV station, indicating that it was consistent with his emergency orders during the pandemic.
With that clarification in place, Adler moved ahead with similar guidelines in Austin, which requires businesses to “develop and implement a health and safety policy or plan related to COVID-19.” The plan must require, at minimum, that all employees and visitors wear face coverings.
Adler’s order offers several exceptions for facial coverings, including when a person is alone “in a separate single space, whether indoors or outdoors.” It also lays out exceptions for those with members from their same household and when a person is eating or drinking in a restaurant or bar.
“During this time, we will transition to a more direct order on masks, working with our business community so our whole city moves forward together and so that everyone can get prepared,” Adler said in a statement.
A county spokesman said Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe is working with attorneys to research Bexar County’s order and is considering issuing something similar “very soon.”
Under the order issued Wednesday by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, businesses must require employees and customers wear face coverings starting Monday.
Bexar County businesses could face a $1,000 fine for failure to develop and implement the policy, but — keeping in line with Abbott’s previous orders — no penalties can be enforced on individuals who fail to wear a face covering.
Amid uncertainty about the scope of Abbott’s orders and what they allow, the governor said it seemed Wolff had read his reopening plan and “finally figured that out.”
“There has been a plan in place all along that all that was needed was for local officials to actually read the plan that was issued by the state of Texas,” Abbott said in an interview Wednesday with KWTX-TV in Waco.
Health officials largely agree that wearing a face covering, in addition to social distancing, can help limit the spread of the coronavirus.
But the National Federation of Independent Business, a lobbying group for small companies, complained that Bexar County’s order will hurt businesses that are already struggling during the pandemic.
“The shutdown had a devastating impact on the Texas economy,” the federation’s state director, Annie Spilman, said in a statement. “Orders like Judge Wolff’s put owners in the difficult position of policing their customers while trying to reopen and rebuild their businesses.”
Abbott’s approval of the local mask rule came one day after nine Texas mayors, including Adler, asked the governor to allow local governments to draft and enforce their own rules on facial coverings.
Abbott’s statewide executive orders, which supersede local orders, do not require face coverings for Texans. Abbott also has specified that local officials cannot jail Texans for violating his orders.
Democrats have argued that the lack of enforcement makes it difficult for local governments to require social distancing and other policies to slow the coronavirus spread.
In a letter to Abbott, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, urged the governor to give local officials the authority to set their own rules and regulations on public health.
“Unshackle local leaders to lead since you will not,” Doggett wrote Wednesday.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have continued to rise across the state and in Austin.
State health officials reported a record 2,793 COVID-19 patients in Texas hospitals on Wednesday, the sixthday in a row the state had hit a high in hospitalizations.
The Texas Department of State Health Services also reported 3,129 new COVID-19 cases, a record high. Abbott had said the state expects see a surge in new cases because of additional reporting out of prisons, but it’s not clear how many of Wednesday’s cases could be attributed to prison outbreaks.
Travis County judge extends order to prohibit evictions, notices to vacate due to COVID-19
The order is now effective through July 25, according to city documents.
June 11, 2020 - KVUE - In an order issued on June 11 by Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, property owners in the county are prohibited from evicting or issuing notices to vacate until July 25 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The order issued by Biscoe extends former county judge Sarah Eckhardt's order, which states it is prohibited for property owners to evict tenants unless:
Biscoe and Eckhardt's order also prohibits "the removal of property or exclusion of a tenant by a property owner in the manners described in the applicable sections of the Texas Property Code" and "the seizure of a tenant's nonexempt property subject to a lien created under Texas Property Code Section 54 041."
A violation of this order will result in a fine punishable up to $1,000 and/or 180 days in jail. The Travis County Sheriff's Office and Travis County Fire Marshal's Office will have to enforce the order as well, according to Biscoe and Eckhardt.
According to the order, the evictions and or removal of property could contribute to additional person-to-person contact.
This comes after Austin Mayor Steve Adler said on June 11 the stay-home order would likely be extended as cases spike in Travis County.
The City of Austin in March also announced it would be halting evictions. For that story, click here.
You can read the order here.
CORONAVIRUS IN AUSTIN: Questions remain over how city will spend $270 million in virus aid
May 28, 2020 - Statesman - Austin City Council members agreed Thursday on a broad framework for spending $270 million in coronavirus relief funding but have not decided exactly how much will go directly to individuals.
Details about rental assistance and other aid to individuals are expected to be worked out in the next week ahead of another council meeting next week focused on the city’s COVID-19 response.
Mayor Steve Adler said the remaining questions come down to whether the city will provide more direct relief to individuals hit by the coronavirus, as well as where that money will come from and the amount to be included.
Of the $270 million, the city expects to use about $170 million from the federal CARES Act. The remaining $100 million comes from a mixture of FEMA and local funds.
A framework presented by city staffers on Thursday divided funding priorities into three main categories — $105.5 million for emergency response, $62.9 million for medical and public health funds and $103.2 million in economic support.
Council members largely agreed on those three large funding buckets, but line items within those categories could change.
Council members said they think the city is on the right track, but several said more direct assistance to people is needed, as many are out of work and struggling to pay for things like rent, medical bills and groceries, and have less access to help than others.
Council members said money could be moved from funding for creatives or small businesses to provide more individual support, but cautioned there is not much excess to go around.
Proposed big-ticket items presented Thursday include $23.8 million for the RENT program, which began in early May with a rental lottery with $1.25 million. As of noon Thursday, 1,549 applications from more than 10,000 applicants had been approved for assistance through the program.
Other line items included $25.5 million in small business rent aid, $15.5 million in financial and direct support and $14.5 million for staffing at five protective lodging sites through the end of the year.
Chunks of funding already have been rolled out in programs including the $15 million RISE Fund, which offers relief to individuals and families through local nonprofits, and the $18 million ANCHOR Fund, which provides funding, grants or loans to businesses, nonprofits and childcare centers.
Council members also have authorized spending millions on rental assistance and relief for musicians, venues and other creative spaces that have seen business dry up amid bans on gatherings that will likely last through the end of the year.
Even as the economy has begun the process of reopening, the need for help at nearly every level still remains high. Many local businesses could need to modify their buildings to allow for better social distancing, and resources for personal protective equipment and testing will be needed through the rest of the year.
Disparities also have emerged, including overrepresentation of the Hispanic and African American communities in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations, and gaps in health care access, insurance coverage and paid sick leave that the city hopes to tackle, at least in part, with targeted spending.
Discussion on the funding plan will continue during a work session on Tuesday, followed by a vote on Thursday.
Council approves $6.9M in agreements for remaining RISE funds
May 22, 2020 - Austin Monitor - City Council doled out nearly $6.9 million to 12 social services organizations in a unanimous vote Thursday, spending the remainder of the $15 million Relief in a State of Emergency, or RISE, fund approved by Council on April 9.
Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza sponsored the fund with a resolution last month. It is intended to meet a variety of needs, from food and household goods to medical expenses, rent and utility bills not otherwise met by other relief efforts, like the federal CARES Act stimulus package.
Community advocates praised the RISE fund Thursday for what it has enabled social services organizations to accomplish for residents who may otherwise have been left out of relief efforts. With that flexibility in mind, Garza said she had expected the city budget office to funnel some of the CARES Act’s $170 million Coronavirus Relief Fund into the RISE fund as part of its $270 million coronavirus spending framework.
“I was disappointed to see that the recommended spending framework for our federal Covid-19 relief funds did not include an additional allocation for the RISE fund, and I have heard that echoed throughout the community,” Garza told the Austin Monitor after Thursday’s vote. “With such overwhelming and immediate need, it seems clear to me that we should prioritize quick and direct relief to those who need it the most, which is what we designed the RISE fund to do.”
The $15 million was allocated from the city’s General Fund emergency reserves, but an Austin Public Health representative said the department expects a majority of those expenses to be eligible for replenishing through the Coronavirus Relief Fund or FEMA reimbursement.
Some of Thursday’s funds went to previous RISE participants like Workers Defense Fund and Survive2Thrive, but the majority was awarded to new applicants. Central Texas Food Bank received $2 million and Caritas of Austin and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul were each approved for $1 million. Organizations receiving lesser amounts include the Austin Diaper Bank, Family Eldercare, Meals on Wheels & More, Workers Assistance Program, No More No Más, Muslim Community Support Services, and the Financial Literacy Coalition of Central Texas.
With the $15 million allocated, Bethany Carson of Grassroots Leadership asked Council to consider distributing its Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars more equitably than has been proposed.
“Currently the proposed framework does not allocate money into the RISE fund, which is the only city fund that has helped with direct financial assistance to community members,” Carson said. “What we have passed so far, we are incredibly appreciative for. However, it only scrapes the surface of this ongoing economic crisis that is hitting people who are disproportionately impacted – immigrants, people of color – much harder than other community members.”
Like Carson, Monica Guzmán, policy director for Go Austin/Vamos Austin, or GAVA, demanded at least $70 million of the Coronavirus Relief Fund be allocated to the RISE fund and distributed by the Equity Office in the form of prepaid gift cards, direct deposits or bank-to-bank transfers. The city’s current virus spending framework allocates $101.2 million across all categories of community economic support.
The Equity Office previously received $2 million from the RISE fund, but there was no new money for the office Thursday. Kandace Vallejo, executive director of Youth Rise Texas, said the Equity Office dollars allowed her organization to reach youth and families impacted by incarceration who are now also dealing with Covid-19. Youth Rise applied for RISE funds of its own, she said, but was denied.
“Without funds made available again, our people may not have access to other kinds of funds that are becoming available because of maybe not having the social capital or the ability to wait and call back agencies multiple times.”
As of early this week, Austin Public Health had already spent about $8.8 million of the RISE funds, distributed across 11 organizations including the Equity Office.
Several community advocates argued in favor of an alternative solution to adding more money to the RISE fund during Thursday’s meeting.
Rev. Miles Brandon of St. Julian of Norwich Episcopal Church spoke in favor of Austin Interfaith’s recommendation that the city instead add $40 million to the coronavirus spending plan to cover rental assistance for the immediate future, using a mixture of direct payments to landlords and cash assistance.
“RISE effectively targets those that are left out of the stimulus payments, while direct rental assistance targets a much broader group of low-income residents who may have gotten some stimulus help but still are racking up soul-crushing debt in the form of unpaid rent,” Brandon said.
As of now, the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department has settled on $18.6 million for rental assistance, a figure several Council members have said is too low for the community’s needs. Council has discussed holding a special meeting next week to consider the proposed funding framework and provide additional direction on the best use of federal funds.
Fraudulent rental applications have spiked during pandemic.
May 18, 2020 - Housing Wire - Rental application fraud has risen 9% month over month since COVID-19 hit, according to a report from real estate tech company Snappt.
Snappt surveyed 100 residential property managers who manage more than 1,000 units and found that 66% had been victimized by fraudulent applications.
Fraudulent applications often lead to evictions – more than 20% of the managers estimate almost one in three evictions are due to fraudulent applications. Evictions come with a heavy cost – averaging $7,685 for those surveyed.
“If someone understands the law, they can stop paying and live rent-free for six months while we work to evict them,” said Chad Vasquez, general manager of Circa LA.
A typical property manager reports 15% of their online rental applications show proof of obvious fraud, while the respondents estimated that an additional 10% of fraudulent applications get processed unnoticed.
“The increasing number of self-employed applicants, a move to online rental applications and the increasing availability of tools to fraudulently alter financial documentation all make the problem more common,” said Daniel Berlind, CEO and co-founder of Snappt.
In addition to the costs associated with having to evict bad tenants, the top problems resulting from fraudulent rental applications include costs associated with physical damage to the property, missing out renting to good tenants, criminal activity at the property and loss of reputation.
Supreme Court Rules No Further Extension of the Statewide Eviction Moratorium
May 14, 2020 - On Thursday, May 14, the Supreme Court of Texas issued their fifteenth order governing court proceedings.
The order provides no further extension of the statewide eviction moratorium, however it does require a statement in the petition that the property files in the case must make a representation about being subject to the CARES Act. Despite the Court system opening, many layers of government orders and local ordinances may still apply. For example, in the City of Austin, evictions can not proceed without first issuing a 60-Day Notice of Proposed Eviction and adhering to the Mayor’s Order prohibiting any Notice to Vacate (residential or commercial property) until July 25.
The AAA crafted a flowchart to help guide rental property owners through the maze of overlapping rules, orders and ordinances. Although not intended as legal advice, the flowchart does offer a quick summary of where things currently stand. If you have any questions or need additional information contact Paul Cauduro at email@example.com
Austin City Council Extends Grace Period Through August 24
May 7, 2020 - On Thursday, May 7 the Austin City Council added an extension to ordinance requiring a 60-day “Notice of Proposed Eviction” before an official “Notice to Vacate” can be posted using the normal procedures outlined in the Texas Property Code. The ordinance was set to expire on May 8, but has now been extended to August 25 to coincide with the expiration of the eviction protections included in the federal CARES Act.
As now amended, any rents due between March 26 and August 25 will require a 60-day Notice of Proposed Eviction before a Notice to Vacate (NTV) can be issued for that rent due. The notice requirement does not apply to any evictions necessary for criminal conduct by a resident or their guest. Order issued for the City of Austin.
In tandem with the ordinance extension, the Mayor also re-issued and extended his Mayoral Order prohibiting the issuance of any NTV until July 26. With the order extended, any previously issued a 60-day notice set to expire in June or July have to wait until July 25 in order to issue a NTV and begin the process of reclaiming the unit. A copy of Mayor’s Order is HERE.
Before the vote, the Austin Apartment Association (AAA) asked Council to link the ordinance end date with the Texas Supreme Court orders preventing new evictions from happening through the end of May. A subsequent request was to link the date with the Travis County Justice of the Peace Court opening on June 2 or to simply add a 30-day extension to the ordinance from May 8 to June 8.
In addition to offering input on the ordinance extension, the AAA worked with the Austin Board of Realtors (ABOR) to request changes to the ordinance to add a minimum 15-day time period requirement for impacted tenants to make contact with property owners and management to discuss their lease terms and craft payment programs and solutions unique to each resident. The Mayor and Council were made aware that many residents are being non-responsive and are ignoring property management outreach efforts and the opportunities to apply for rent relief programs. Like the request to limit the ordinance extension to 30-days, the Council rejected the request to require tenant actions upon receipt of a notice or proposed eviction.
The AAA was able to secure a change to how the 60-day notices are delivered. The ordinance was amended to allow the 60-day Proposed Notice of Eviction to be delivered “electronically to an impacted tenant using an email address the landlord uses to communicate with the impacted tenant in the regular course of business activity; or posted on the front door of the impacted tenant’s dwelling unit.”
The ordinance still applies to any “Impacted Tenant” defined as: “A person, or a member of their household, who is authorized by a lease to occupy property to the exclusion of others and loses wages or income during the local disaster”. Properties can ascertain if an impacted resident “has lost wages or income” in the manner they deem necessary including: verification from an employer, paystub verification, unemployment claim documentation or other verification method.
Properties can still craft their own 60-day notice form so long as it contains this language in 16pt bold font:
“A NOTICE OF PROPOSED EVICTION AND OPPORTUNITY TO PAY TO AVOID EVICTION – THIS NOTICE DOES NOT EXCUSE YOUR OBLIGATION TO PAY AND YOU CAN BE EVICTED IF YOU FAIL TO PAY BY THE PAYMENT DEADLINE BELOW.”
The AAA will continue to advance the interests of the apartment industry. For more information about the ordinance contact Paul Cauduro, AAA Director of Government relations at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 512-323-2286
Neighborhood Housing Department Issues $1.2M in Rental Assistance To Be Administered by HACA
May 1, 2020 - Applicants must apply 9:00 am May 4th through 11:59 pm May 6th
The City of Austin Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department (NHCD) is providing $1.2 million in emergency rental assistance to Austinites affected by the COVID-19 outbreak to be administered through a contract with the Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA).
The Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants (RENT) program will distribute one-time rental subsidies through a lottery system similar to HACA’s Housing Choice Voucher program. Residents must apply for the lottery through HACA’s RENT website at www.atxrenthelp.org starting May 4th at 9:00 a.m. and ending at 11:59 p.m. on May 6th. More information is available www.atxrenthelpinfo.org.
“Funding for this emergency rental assistance is being accessed from the City’s local funds. In this time of pandemic and economic uncertainty, Austin families need the security of safe and stable housing,” said Rosie Truelove, Director of NHCD.
“While we recognize that $1.2 million can only go so far, we are committed to our ongoing efforts to identify and access additional help for these families as soon as we possibly can. Providing this rental assistance is something we can do right now,” Truelove said.
HACA will manage the intake and processing of applications, determine applicant eligibility, and—upon approval—direct payments to landlords to help cover tenants’ rent obligations.
“The RENT Program is expected to help more than 1,000 families in our community stay in their homes during this difficult time,” said Michael Gerber, CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of Austin. “We applaud the Mayor and City Council providing critical funds for this emergency rental assistance program. While the needs in our community will likely far exceed the rent help available, HACA is committed to moving funds quickly to help as many Austin families as possible."
Applicants not selected in the lottery will receive written notification from HACA, with a list of additional potential alternative resources. Should additional funding become available, all eligible Austin renters would be able to apply for subsequent lotteries or programs to ensure the broadest distribution of rental assistance possible.
Eligibility for Rental Assistance
Eligibility is limited to City of Austin households that are at or below 80 percent of the Median Family Income (see table below) who can document both a financial impact by COVID-19 and need of rent relief (e.g., paystubs, unemployment notice, notice of rent due, etc.). Applicants must also demonstrate that they are party to an existing lease agreement and are not recipients of other rental assistance programs.
FY 2020 Income Limit Category
Amount of Assistance Available
The amount of rental assistance will be determined either by the number of bedrooms in the apartment OR the actual monthly rent amount (per the current lease), whichever is LOWEST minus the 30 percent of the household’s gross monthly income (see table below).
Rental Assistance Limits by Number of Bedrooms in Unit
City of Austin Mayor Steve Adler praised the collaborative nature of the program.
"With so many out of work, the cries for rent relief are loud and they are being heard. Thank you to the Housing Authority and the Austin Apartment Association for helping to rapidly deploy the RENT relief program for those in greatest need. This is our community coming together to get crucial work done," said Adler.
Adler’s remarks were echoed by Austin Council Member for District 4 and Chair of the City of Austin Housing and Planning Committee Greg Casar.
“Addressing the crisis is a community issue. No one should lose their home because of the COVID crisis,” said Casar. “The City is here to help with the RENT program to provide Austinites the support they need paying May rent. For us to protect everyone’s housing stability, we also need landlords in the community to look for ways to offer additional relief through decreased rents and relaxed rules."
Similar agreement was expressed by Austin Apartment Association Executive Vice President Emily Blair.
“Austin Apartment Association member staffs are working closely with families in their communities to help connect people with resources and meet immediate needs, so we know many people who need these funds,” said Austin Apartment Association Executive Vice President Emily Blair.
“Our property managers will be eager to share this rental assistance source with their residents in need. On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of residents in our communities, we thank the City of Austin for helping Austin renters remain safe in their homes and helping keep the City’s housing supply stable,” Blair said.
For more information about the RENT program, call or text the HACA RENT Call Center phone number at (512) 400-4275. Visit www.atxrenthelpinfo.org or www.austintexas.gov/RENT for more information.
TAA Tips for Reopening Amenities and Common Areas
April 30, 2020
When should apartment amenities open?
Governor’s “Open Texas” plan offers some guidance
The Texas Apartment Association will be updating you regularly about our resources and actions taken to respond to challenges our members are facing in response to the coronavirus and COVID-19.
Here are some important factors to consider before reopening apartment pools, gyms, sport courts, theaters or other amenities:
Questions? TAA has a dedicated email for members with coronavirus-related questions: COVIDemail@example.com
Leni Louazna's Interview with Univision
April 29, 2020
City rolls out bridge loan program to assist businesses impacted by Covid-19
April 23, 2020 - Small businesses now have another option for financial assistance in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, in the form of a new loan program from the city that will provide up to $35,000 per recipient.
On Wednesday the city announced the Austin Economic Injury Bridge Loan Program, which has total funding of $6 million and is intended to provide quick relief for businesses either waiting for funds from the U.S. Small Business Administration or that were unsuccessful in their application.
Veronica Briseño, director of the Economic Development Department, said the program can fund loans to 170 businesses if each recipient accepts the maximum amount. She said it is possible but undecided at this point whether more funding will be allocated to provide additional loans once the first round is complete.
The loans are available to small businesses headquartered in any of the 10 City Council districts that can demonstrate an economic loss connected to the pandemic. Recipients must repay the city in 12 months at a 3.75 percent interest rate.
The department will have staff available to serve as case managers for applicants and provide needed assistance, with the hope of avoiding the frustrations many businesses experienced when applying for federal loans under the Paycheck Protection Program.
“We do anticipate the demand for these loans will be high, and because of that we have worked hard to develop the proper infrastructure,” she said. “We’re closely watching what has happened at other levels of government when a program like this has been released, and we took our time to make sure our website is set up to handle the load as well as having staff deployed to assist applicants. We do also recognize there might be a need to reconvene and look at how we could fund this program with additional dollars at some point.”
The loan program comes on top of other moves by the city in recent weeks, including allocating $15 million that will be used to provide housing and food assistance or direct cash payments to vulnerable residents.
Jon Hockenyos, an economist who has helped provide analysis of the effects of the pandemic on city finances and the local economy, said providing bridge funding to keep struggling businesses open is the first step in stabilizing businesses. He said the next step will be creation of a plan to open more currently shuttered businesses for limited commercial activity while keeping them safe from a public health standpoint.
That framework means businesses that require large numbers of customers gathered in one place will likely be the last to reopen. Over the past week, Gov. Greg Abbott and leaders at the city and county level have indicated that the first reopening of limited types of businesses will occur in early May.
“If you’re a ball-bearing factory you have to think about how do I protect my workers and in that process modify my business processes, and there are people doing that,” Hockenyos said. “What’s going to happen next will be businesses that serve people one at a time, like going and getting a haircut or going to get your teeth cleaned or seeing your accountant – we’ll figure out how to do that interaction one-on-one safely for both parties,” he said.
“Where it gets tricky is with a bar or restaurant or movie theater, concert or hotel where you’re open to the public and there are a lot of people to think about, because you’re going to have to do all the other stuff while thinking about how to do it with reduced capacities.”
Hockenyos said the bridge loans will likely need to be supplemented by enhanced unemployment programs for workers, with the goal of covering some basic capital costs to keep businesses from closing for good.
“There’s not enough resources out there to bridge the gap until we get open again. This is about keeping the business itself alive rather than preserving the livelihood of everyone working in the business, but the hope is that you bring everybody back at some point.”
House passes $484 billion package to help small businesses, bolster hospitals and coronavirus testing
The measure, which passed with overwhelming support, replenishes a small business loan program with some $310 billion
April 23, 2020 - Dallas Morning News – The House on Thursday voted 388-5 to approve a nearly $500 billion COVID-19 relief bill to refill a tapped-out small business loan program and to bolster funding for hospitals and coronavirus testing. The measure, which unanimously passed the Senate on Tuesday, now heads to President Donald Trump, who’s indicated he will sign it into law.
Some $310 billion in small business assistance for the recently created Paycheck Protection Program is the legislation’s centerpiece, reflecting the enormous economic strain that the ongoing public health crisis has created for small firms in Texas and beyond.
An earlier $350 billion tranche ran out in less than two weeks as businesses scrambled to get approval for the special loans, which become forgivable if they’re used to maintain payroll. “We must continue our efforts to address the many real and evolving challenges this pandemic presents," said Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, D-Houston. She said she has heard from many small business owners who couldn’t access the initial funding before it ran out.5
Nearly 135,000 small businesses in Texas got the OK in the first batch, totaling nearly $28.5 billion, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. The number of loans in the Lone Star State was more than any other state, while only California saw a higher dollar amount. But many small outfits were unable to take advantage of the loans, even as some larger firms used a quirk of the program to get approval for high-dollar relief.
Mom-and-pop shops all across Texas have reported dire financial situations as a result. Some have seen revenue plummet as shelter-in-place orders have kept customers at home, while others have been forced to close altogether due to being deemed as nonessential.
Adding to the frustration was the fact that Congress dithered for days after the loan program ran out.
Democrats blocked Republicans’ proposal to just replenish the paycheck protection program. They argued that the small business aid should be paired with additional public health funding. But Republicans objected to that counteroffer before relenting amid protracted negotiations.
Partisanship still evident
Even after reaching an accord — which was backed by every Texas member present — a partisan edge was clear on Thursday in the House’s debate. "How many jobs could we have saved if partisan politics had not reared its ugly head,” asked Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of holding “up this bill more than a week while small businesses and their workers desperately fought to hold on.”
Congress has now approved four major coronavirus relief bills.
The latest iteration builds upon an unprecedented $2.2 trillion package passed in late March to address the stunning economic devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, which has left businesses in a lurch amid enforcement of social distancing guidelines designed to slow the outbreak.
But unlike the earlier stimulus bill, which included a large corporate bailout, the clear focus this time was on struggling small businesses.
In addition to the boost for the Paycheck Protection Program, the $484 billion package includes $60 billion for the Small Business Administration’s economic injury disaster loan program, which has been pitched as a way for small businesses to get a quick cash advance.
Those huge sums reflect extraordinary need in Texas and beyond.
“These PPP loans … are essential for small businesses to be able to continue paying their employees and cover their operating costs,” said Rep. Kay Granger, a Fort Worth Republican who noted that more than 1.6 million of those loans have already been approved.
The paycheck protection loans are available to businesses and nonprofits with 500 or fewer employees. Those entities can seek funds to cover eight weeks of payroll, rent and utilities. If the firm maintains its payroll during that period, the loans will be forgiven.
Needed by small businesses
For many small businesses, the program has provided lifeblood.
Tammy Allen owns a dry cleaning franchise in North Dallas. Even when times are flush, she operates on a “nickel and dime profit margin,” with only about two weeks of cash in reserve, she said. Now that many customers aren’t going to work, her business has slowed considerably.
Her $37,000 loan was approved within a day, with the funds arriving this week.
“Total relief,” she said, though she added that there’s still "no guarantee we’re going to make it out of this.” But many others have been left out of a process described by some as convoluted and unfair.
A survey last week of nearly 1,600 U.S. small businesses by National Write Your Congressman, a small business advocacy group, found that more than half of those entities were still awaiting approval for a Paycheck Protection Program loan.
Among those in that camp is Troy Butler, who owns barber shops in Lewisville and Denton.
Under shelter-in-place rules, Troy Cuts hasn’t been allowed to open its doors. Meanwhile, Butler said, the “bills are just stacking up.” He put in for a $25,000 loan to cover rent and utilities and to help his barbers who’ve lost business. But he didn’t get an OK from his bank before the fund ran out.“I’m now at the mercy of my landlords,” he said.
Butler also fumed at reports that some major companies were able to access the small business relief due to carve-outs in the law, while he and other truly small businesses missed out. Some of those big companies — such as Shake Shack, a burger chain –— have since vowed to return the money after public outcry. The Trump administration on Thursday also issued guidelines indicating that those kind of firms are unlikely to qualify for assistance going forward.
But Butler said it was hard to not feel overlooked by Congress and other policy makers. “We don’t even show up on the Richter scale,” he said.
Lawmakers hope that the latest injection of cash will help even more small businesses. They also hailed the legislation’s inclusion of more money to bolster coronavirus testing and to help hospitals, which have been on the front lines of the pandemic.
Lawmakers social distance during debate
“This bill is a good step, and we have much more work to do, including providing assistance to all our cities," said Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas. “Our economic future is directly tied to our public health response.”
Many House members returned to Washington for the vote, despite leadership trying to avoid such gatherings by passing legislation via unanimous consent. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., forced the issue by vowing to object in an effort to obtain a recorded vote.
He was one of five lawmakers to vote against the legislation. The others were Reps. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz.; Ken Buck, R-Colo.; Jody Hice, R-Ga.; and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. Rep. Justin Amash, I-Mich., voted present.
A handful of Texans didn’t make it back for the vote: Reps. Brian Babin, R-Woodville; John Carter, R-Round Rock; Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin; Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas; Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell; Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth; and Ron Wright, R-Arlington.
In the Capitol, the proceedings matched the moment.
Many lawmakers wore face masks as they spoke on the House floor. The House conducted votes in 10-minute time blocks, allowing a few dozen lawmakers into the chamber at a time. The chamber was cleaned between vote series.
But some lawmakers pushed Congress to return to something resembling a regular routine, sooner rather than later.
“Enough — no more half-assed legislation,” said Rep. Chip Roy, an Austin Republican who was gently chided for using a vulgarity on the House floor. “Congress must convene, not just today but every day until America is back on track.”
Abbott Eases Some Restrictions In Fight Against The Coronavirus
April 17, 2020 – Gov. Greg Abbott Friday announced executive orders that will ease some of the most severe restrictions imposed to combat the spread of COVID-19.
However, all Texas classrooms, public and private, will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
Abbott said that all stores in Texas will be able to operate retail to go beginning next Friday, one week from today.
Abbott said state parks will be reopened beginning this coming Monday. Visitors must wear face coverings or masks and maintain a distance of six feet from non-family members and not gather in groups of more than five.
He said that effective April 22, the ban on non-essential surgery will be loosened to allow doctors to diagnose and treat more conditions, like diagnostic testing for cancer, without having to get an exemption.
Abbott said he was imposing infection control procedures to better protect residents of nursing homes and senior living centers and to limit movement of staff between facilities.
Abbott also named a strike force to reopen the Texas economy made up of state leaders - including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Attorney General Ken Paxton, Comptroller Glenn Hegar, Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt, and University of Texas System Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs John Zerwas - as well as business leaders and medical experts. It is being chaired by banker James Huffines.
“They will work together to develop a medical architecture to comprehensively test and trace COVID-19 that will enable Texas to gradually, and safely begin the process of returning to work and returning to other activities,” Abbott said.
“Together, we can bend the curve. Together we can overcome this pandemic. We can get folks back to work. We can adopt safe strategies that prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said. “And, step by step, we will open, Texas.”
Abbott thanked Texans for their cooperation through a very difficult period.
Because of efforts by everyone to slow the spread we’re beginning to see glimmers that the worst of COVID19 may soon be behind us,” Abbott said. “Deaths, while far too high, will not come close to the early dire predictions.” Abbott’s briefing follows by a day President Donald Trump ceding authority for reopening state economies to governors.
“You’re going to call your own shots,” Trump told governors on a conference call Thursday, according to an audio recording obtained by the Associated Press. “We’re going to be standing alongside you.”
But the president did release new guidelines for easing restrictions in areas with low transmission of the coronavirus, and a very gradual return to normalcy.
At his last news briefing on Monday, Abbott said that, “later this week I will outline both safe and healthy strategies where we can go about reopening businesses in Texas and revitalizing our economy.”
He also said that he would let Texans know whether classrooms would be opening again this spring. Abbott made it clear that reopening the economy would be a slow, deliberate process. “This isn’t going to be a rushing the gates, everyone is able to suddenly reopen all at once,” he said.
Abbott said the process will be guided by a team that will put together a comprehensive strategy, with input from medical professionals, for “what must be done for Texas to open back up.”
But, he said, “Our primary goal in the state of Texas right now is to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, contain it, make sure the state is a safe place for all Texans.”
Speaking on Fox Monday night with Sean Hannity, Abbott said, “Texans love to work and we want them to get back to work but we have to do so in a very safe way so we don’t regenerate the coronavirus in the state of Texas.”
“But we’re working on strategies as we speak, with medical experts, with business leaders, to find the right strategy so that we can unleash our economy,” Abbott said. “Remember this Sean, Texas was the No. 1 state for job creation in the nation last year. We are leading in gross domestic product. America needs Texas to get back to business.”
“There are strategies that have worked because there have been some businesses that have been open at the same time we’ve been reducing the spread of the coronavirus,” Abbott said. “So we need to learn from those strategies that work and let other businesses deploy those strategies while we are ensuring that we continue to slow the spread of the coronavirus.”
On Thursday, about 150 protesters demonstrated in front of the Governor’s Mansion calling for an end to Abbott’s stay at home order, which exempts those performing essential services or involved in essential activities, like grocery shopping or exercising.
On Tuesday, a group of leaders affiliated with the tea party wing of the Texas Republican Party wrote Abbott that, “Texas should enact a clearly communicated and citizen-driven plan to prudently and carefully return Texans to work, to church, and possibly back to school.”
“State Reps. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) and Mike Lang (R-Granbury) sent excellent recommendations, presenting strong suggestions on how to move the economy again and stand Texans back on their feet,” they wrote to the governor. “Those recommendations include removing the distinction between `essential’ and `non-essential’ businesses; allowing restaurants, gyms, salons, and other businesses to reopen provided they take commonsense measures to maintain social distancing; and, continuing to waive regulations already waived for an extended and defined period.”
The signers included Ross Kecseg of Empower Texans, JoAnn Fleming of Grassroots America – We the People, Rachel Malone of Gun Owners of America, Jim Graham of Texas Right to Life, and Julie McCarty of the True Texas Project.
But Texas Democrats cautioned that Abbott should be guided by sound medical advice, and by the need for far more testing than the state is now engaged in.
“The governor is the chief executive of our state,” state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said in a conference call with reporters Thursday. “He should be guided by science and make the right decisions no matter how many different places he feels pressure from, and it’s just vitally important that whatever decisions he’s made are in the interests of the public health and are guided by public health experts and not by ideologically driven motivations which seem to be what some of the voices are driven by that we’re hearing.”
U.S. Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, were tapped Thursday to serve on President Donald Trump’s Task Force to Re-Open Economy.
“The consequences of the economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic are serious and dire,” Cruz said. “In just the last four weeks, 22 million Americans have lost their jobs. Congress took unprecedented action to provide emergency relief from this economic devastation, but as we have seen, that relief can only go so far.”
“There are reasonable steps we can and must take now — based on the science and public health guidance — to begin safely reopening the economy and helping the American people return to work, from increasing the production of personal protective equipment to making testing more widely available,” Cruz said. “As a part of President Trump’s bipartisan task force, I’ll be working to do just that.”
In a conference call Thursday with Texas reporters, Cornyn said it made sense to leave great discretion to state and local leaders.
“I think that’s entirely appropriate given the fact that this virus has not been uniform in terms of where it has attacked, and different locations have different challenges and issues,” Cornyn said.
“Obviously, Midland, Texas, is not New York City,” Cornyn said. “And it’s pretty obvious to all of us that this virus loves a crowd, but it can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound.”
NMHC Rent Payment Tracker Finds 12 Percentage Point Decrease in Share of Apartment Households that Paid Rent by April 5
April 8, 2020 – The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) found a 12-percentage point decrease in the share of apartment households that paid rent through April 5, in the first review of the effect of the COVID-19 outbreak on rent payments. The Tracker found 69 percent of households had paid their rent by April 5; this compares to 81 percent that had paid by March 5, 2020, and 82 percent that had paid by the same time last year.
“The COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in significant health and financial challenges for apartment residents and multifamily owners, operators and employees in communities across the country,” said Doug Bibby, President of NMHC. “However, it is important to note that a large number of residents met their obligations despite unparalleled circumstances, and we will see that figure increase over the coming weeks. That is a testament to the quick, proactive actions taken by NMHC members who put forward bold solutions.”
The NMHC Rent Payment Tracker reflects data from 13.4 million units across the country. The Tracker will be updated on a weekly basis with new data released every Wednesday.
NMHC and its data partners are committed to providing comparable data for context. However, noteworthy technical issues may make historical comparisons imprecise. For example, factors such as varying days of the week on which data are collected; individual companies’ differing payment collection policies; shelter-in-place orders’ effects on residents’ ability to deliver payments in person or by mail; the closure of leasing offices, which may delay operators’ payment processing; and other factors can affect how and when rent data is processed and recorded.
Register for today's NMHC Rent Tracker Payment webinar here.
Find more information on the NMHC Rent Payment Tracker here.
NMHC is proud to partner with the following firms on this initiative:
If you have any questions, please contact Sarah Yaussi, NMHC Vice President for Business Strategy – firstname.lastname@example.org or Colin Dunn, NMHC Senior Director for Communications –email@example.com.
This survey is one of a number of NMHC-produced resources focused on the COVID-19 outbreak. Additional resources, data and materials can be found here.
Based in Washington, D.C., the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) is the leadership of the trillion-dollar apartment industry. We bring together the prominent apartment owners, managers and developers who help create thriving communities by providing apartment homes for 40 million Americans. NMHC provides a forum for insight, advocacy and action that enables both members and the communities they help build to thrive. For more information, contact NMHC at 202/974-2300, e-mail the Council at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit NMHC's website at www.nmhc.org
Eviction Hold Extended Through April 30; More Free Webinars From TAA
April 6, 2020 - Supreme Court extends statewide eviction hold through April 30: The Texas Supreme Court today issued a ninth emergency order immediately extending the hold on almost all residential evictions through April 30, 2020. There is a limited exception for an eviction based on a person posing an imminent threat of physical harm to another resident or the rental property’s staff, or for criminal activity. The order applies statewide. Courts may accept new filings, but citation will not be served until after April 30, and the time periods associated with the filings are suspended. Similarly, courts may issue writs of possession, but writs will not be executed until after May 7. This new order essentially aligns with the state’s order to limit activities to essential business through the end of April.
Free webinars on coronavirus-related issues: The Texas Apartment Association has two free webinars on tap this week to assist members with coronavirus-related issues.
Essential business activities defined statewide: Gov. Greg Abbott issued an Executive Order on March 31 defining “essential services” for the purpose of state and local stay home/shelter orders. The guidance follows that by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce Version 2.0, with the addition of allowing religious services and a defined process for requesting services to be added as essential. Services related to maintaining residential housing are classified as essential.
Data on April rent collections: TAA is working with ALN Apartment Data to collect information about April rent collections and any special payment options or fee waivers offered to residents. The National Multifamily Housing Council is also working with the large property management software suppliers to collect some similar information nationwide. The National Apartment Association will also be surveying its members regarding payment options and fee waivers. The release of these surveys may trigger media reports and requests of interviews.
TAA is working with a public relations firm to ensure our industry's perspective is considered in these and other stories. During the March 20 - April 1 period, TAA and its members participated in over 130 media stories. If you are contacted by local media seeking comment, please reach out to Michelle Helmers or David Mintz for assistance. Discussing interview requests with Michelle and David will ensure our messaging is consistent and aligned with other information.
Important note regarding CARES Act and new forms related to COVID-19:The federal CARES Act established a 120-day moratorium for evictions related to non-payment of rent and prohibits property owners from charging late fees. TAA’s two new forms related to COVID-19 (Payment Plan Agreement and Notice of Temporary Waiver of Late Fees) were developed prior to the enactment of the CARES Act. To ensure the use of the forms complies with the CARES Act prohibition on late fees, TAA has prepared a notice for properties covered by the CARES Act to share with their residents notifying them that the property will not collect late fees during the period covered by the CARES Act.
This new notice should be used by properties covered by the CARES Act that have already entered into or plan to enter into Payment Plan Agreements (which mention the ability to charge late fees if the agreement is not fulfilled) and have already provided or plan to provide the Notice of Temporary Waiver of Late Fees (which gives the owner the ability to push back the due date for rent and charge late fees thereafter).
The notice will be posted in TAA REDBOOK Online and in the member resources area of the TAA website as soon as possible this week. If you have questions, please email COVIDemail@example.com, refer to NAA’s information about the federal CARES Act online and contact your legal counsel.
NAA webinar series and other resources: The National Apartment Association (NAA) has introduced a new video series as part of its COVID-19 (coronavirus) resources. These brief, 10-minute or less micro-webinars will examine and provide guidance on pressing issues affecting the rental housing industry in light of coronavirus. You can subscribe to receive this video series as new videos are released. Keep up with the latest guidance from NAA, and with policy issues related to COVID-19.
Questions? TAA has a dedicated email for members with coronavirus-related questions: COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org
New Resident Notice Requirements Passed By City of Austin Amid COVID-19 Crisis
March 27, 2020 - On Thursday, March 26 the Austin City Council has passed an ordinance requiring a 60-day “Notice of Proposed Eviction” before an official “Notice to Vacate” can be posted using the normal procedures outlined in the Texas Property Code. The new notice requirement does not apply to any evictions necessary for resident or guest bad conduct or criminal activity. Related to the ordinance enactment, a Mayor’s Order also issued yesterday, March 26, prohibits the issuance of any Notice to Vacate until May 8, which further prevents any eviction actions for non-payment of rent from occurring under the current Disaster Order issued for the City of Austin. The council has also left open the possibility of extending the ordinance past the current end date. The ordinance provides no relief for property owners from any of the normal expenses they incur each month operating their properties.
A copy of both the Ordinance and Mayor’s Order are HERE.
Before the vote the Austin Apartment Association (AAA) reminded the Council that the Texas Supreme Court has already addressed these issues with orders preventing new evictions from happening through the end of April, along with the new forms and tools that the industry is already using to address individual situations unique to each resident. This ordinance is unnecessary, redundant and we believe illegal. The AAA also submitted a legal brief to the city outlining the many legal questions raised by enacting the new 60-day notice requirement. We are working with the Texas Apartment Association to determine whether this ordinance should be challenged in court.
The Austin Apartment Association remains committed to being a resource for property owners and we are seeking guidance from the city about the new requirement.
It is the AAA’s current understanding that:
“A NOTICE OF PROPOSED EVICTION AND OPPORTUNITY TO PAY TO AVOID EVICTION – THIS NOTICE DOES NOT EXCUSE YOUR OBLIGATION TO PAY AND YOU CAN BE EVICTED IF YOU FAIL TO PAY BY THE PAYMENT DEADLINE BELOW.”
The AAA will continue to say to any residents or media that this 60-day notice is not a rent “grace period” nor any moratorium on rent due. We believe that the best approach to the challenges created by the Corvid-19 issue is for property owners to work with residents on an individual basis to address these issues in accordance with the needs of both parties. We encourage anyone impacted through a job loss or lost wages to begin talking with property owners and in order to craft solutions in the best interest of all.
AAA Joins Business Coalition to Keep Apartment Construction Moving
March 27, 2020 - The Austin Apartment Association joined a wide-range of business and construction groups and organizations in an attempt to reverse parts city and county’s Shelter in Place orders that effectively shut down most construction activity. Because the original order was unclear on whether or not residential and commercial construction could continue under the original order, the city and county subsequently released clarifying language prohibiting these activities under its order with a few narrow exceptions.
The AAA’s participation in the effort is aimed at ending any confusion and urges the city and county to immediately amend their Stay at Home — Work Safe Orders and explicitly allow both commercial and residential construction to continue. The cities of Houston and Dallas recognize, and make clear, that commercial and residential construction are essential services and not subject to the Shelter in Place Order.
The business coalition formed to work on reversing ban on the construction activities includes the AAA, Real Estate Council of Austin, Austin Chamber of Commerce, Austin Board of Realtors, the Downtown Austin Alliance, Home Builders Association of Greater Austin, Associated Builders and Contractors, and the Austin Contractors and Engineers Association among others. The letter sent ot policy issues is HERE
Congress Passes Third COVID-19 Federal Relief Package
March 27, 2020 - Today, Congress passed H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).
As “Phase Three” of an extensive federal relief package, this legislation includes nearly $2 trillion in relief intended to mitigate the enormous economic effects of COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus) on the American economy and bolster the nation’s ability to fight the ongoing public health emergency.
The CARES Act is the culmination of two tumultuous weeks of political wrangling in Washington, D.C., where the Capitol Complex was shuttered except for members of Congress, Trump Administration officials and their staffs who have been hashing out the details of urgently needed legislation.
NAA was deeply engaged and worked to ensure the industry’s voice was heard in all three phases of the federal COVID-19 relief package.
Phase Three – The CARES Act
The CARES Act contains a number of provisions that will have significant impacts on the apartment industry:
Lawmakers must remember that owners and operators are tasked with ensuring the viability of apartment communities. Rental housing providers must pay mortgage payments, employee payroll and benefits, insurance premiums and tax obligations. They, too, are experiencing financial hardships – sometimes tenfold – as renters in communities across the country struggle.
For more information on industry best practices and strategies for navigating this new landscape, please see NAA’s Guidance for Dealing with the Coronavirus and COVID-19-Related Policy Concerns Advocacy Page. We will update these pages regularly as new information becomes available.
Austin Code Makes Changes to Address Emergency Orders
March 27, 2020 - Austin Code Department is working with Austin Police and Austin Fire Departments to enforce the city’s Emergency Order. Currently, Austin Code is focused on educating the community about the orders and requirements they contain and thanks the community for its overwhelming voluntarily compliance.
Austin Code Department is still completing inspections that are not COVID-19 related, but due to staffing availability and pressing priorities those inspections may take a little longer to be completed. To keep residents and Austin Code inspectors safe, all interior inspections of occupied dwellings have been suspended except when there is an immediate threat to life or safety.
Properties with active Notices of Violation (NOVs) who may be experiencing COVID19-related difficulties meeting deadlines should contact their inspectors. Austin Code Department will work on compliance timelines with property owners on a case-by-case basis. To contact Austin Code about compliance extensions or for any questions or additional information about Austin Code and their efforts during this time contact Amy Moosman , Community Engagement Specialist, Austin Code Department, c: 512-696-2492 o: 512-974.3089 or email@example.com
FHFA Moves to Provide Eviction Suspension Relief for Renters in Multifamily Properties
March 23, 2020 - The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) today announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Enterprises will offer mortgage forbearance for multifamily property owners, under the condition that they suspend all evictions for renters who are unable to pay rent because of COVID-19, also known as “coronavirus.”
To be eligible, property owners must suspend evictions for as long as the owner remains in forbearance. Forbearance is available only for multifamily housing properties with an “Enterprise-backed performing multifamily mortgage” that is financially impacted by coronavirus.
We will continue to update you as FHFA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac release information about implementation of this decision. For owners who believe they qualify, contact your loan servicer to learn more about the process to seek relief.
Continue to bear in mind that states and localities are pushing eviction moratoriums, applicable to all privately-owned housing. Nationally, almost 70 jurisdictions announced eviction moratoriums, with some attempting to provide relief to owners and operators. For example, Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey is encouraging any financial institution holding residential or commercial mortgages, equity loans, lines of credit or business loans to implement a process to work with the mortgagors or loan holders to avoid foreclosure or default arising out of financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, or by any local, state, or federal government response to COVID-19.
The NAA has developed a research report to help you navigate this patchwork of mandates, including information on eviction, rent increase restrictions, late fees and shelter-in-place orders.
Texas Supreme Court Temporarily Suspends Most Evictions
March 20, 2020 - TAA offers free sample forms, other resources, to members - The Texas Apartment Association will be updating you regularly about our resources and actions taken to respond to challenges our members are facing in response to the coronavirus and COVID-19.
Statewide evictions on hold through April 19: Late Thursday afternoon, the Texas Supreme Court issued an emergency order immediately suspending almost all residential evictions through April 19, 2020. There is a limited exception for an eviction based on a person posing an imminent threat of physical harm to another resident or the rental property’s staff, or for criminal activity. The order applies statewide. Courts may accept new filings, but citation will not be served until after April 19, and the time periods associated with the filings are suspended. Similarly, courts may issues writs of possession, but writs will not be executed until after April 26.
TAA worked with the governor’s office, the Supreme Court of Texas and Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, the state’s largest legal aid organization, to reach a consensus on eviction court procedures that would be uniform and fair to all parties. “The Court’s action Thursday provides a uniform approach that will be consistent statewide, and will replace the patchwork of conflicting measures being adopted in different Texas communities,” said TAA President Mark Hurley.
Read our full statement and some FAQs about the Court’s order.
Free Sample Forms: We have two new sample forms to assist you in working with your residents. These are a “Notice of Temporary Waiver of Late Fees”and a “Payment Plan Agreement” if you opt to offer residents options for extending their rent payments. TAA encourages members to work with residents directly affected by the coronavirus, and to waive late fees. These are also available in TAA REDBOOK Online in both Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Word versions, and will be available to TAA Click & Lease users now in a print-only form, and as forms you can complete through Click & Lease on March 25.
COVID-19 and rental housing in Texas webinar resources: The recording and presentation from the March 18 TAA webinar are now available. Additional resources, including key takeaways and FAQs, will be coming soon.
Advocate for resident and industry relief: Congress is considering additional measures to relieve economic disruption caused by the pandemic, and support Americans who’ve been affected. In order to provide the most effective relief to our residents and the industry, NAA is suggesting a two-pronged approach: Congress should provide direct assistance to renters as well as support for impacted property owners and operators. Communicate with your congressman using NAA’s suggested letter.
NAA webinar series and other resources: The National Apartment Association (NAA) is introducing a new video series as part of its COVID-19 (coronavirus) resources. These brief, 10-minute or less micro-webinars will examine and provide guidance on pressing issues affecting the rental housing industry in light of coronavirus. View the first micro-webinar, “Teleworking Amid COVID-19,” which shares guidance that will be helpful as organizations transition from normal business operations to working remotely. You can alsosubscribe to receive this video series as new videos are released.
• TAA has a dedicated email for members with coronavirus-related questions: COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org
• AAA is using email@example.com to answer all COVID-19 questions. Please visit the COVID-19 Resource Page on the AAA website for additional information and guidance.
White House Directs HUD to Cease Evictions Through April 30
March 18, 2020 - President Trump today announced he is directing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to suspend all evictions and foreclosures through the end of April 2020. This follows similar actions by governors and mayors in several jurisdictions across the country. Nationally, at least 35 jurisdictions announced eviction moratoriums in light of the spread of COVID-19 with more considering legislation or mandate by judicial action or law enforcement. No details of the President’s order have been provided yet, but NAA is in direct communication with HUD leadership and we are assured that guidance is coming soon.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced it has directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to suspend foreclosures and evictions for at least 60 days due to the coronavirus national emergency. To clarify, the FHFA foreclosure and eviction suspension applies to homeowners with an Enterprise-backed single-family mortgage.
We will keep you apprised as this situation develops and are continually updating our COVID-19 Resource Page