News & Press: Member Update

ACEC Texas Member Update - April 7, 2020

Tuesday, April 7, 2020  
Posted by: Michael Hancock
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ACEC Texas: COVID-19 Homepage

April 7, 2020

CARES Act and Fourth Stimulus Package Update

Applications are furiously being filed for relief funding made available by the CARES Act. We have discussed the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) with other ACEC chapters, other business associations, and bankers, and the bottom line is that there will be an enormous demand for this funding…so please don’t wait to apply. You can review the information on applying for assistance from the PPP in the MEMO we distributed last week: CARES Act MEMO.

Fourth Stimulus Package
: Rumors have circulated on a fourth Congressional stimulus package – notably with an infrastructure funding component. However, leadership on both sides of the aisle have stated that they would like to see the effect of the third stimulus package before moving forward with subsequent relief. With the high demand for the relief funding provided by the CARES Act, President Trump and House Speaker Pelosi have recently stated that a fourth relief package might be needed sooner rather than later and that moving forward with a bill should happen in the next few weeks. President Trump also stated at a recent press conference that more relief is needed for the entertainment and restaurant industries. Although no draft legislation has been circulated, the infrastructure funding component appears to have been moved to the backburner at this time. Congress is not scheduled to return until April 20th, but both the Senate and House have acknowledged that families and workers urgently need additional assistance and therefore may convene sooner.

Comptroller Hegar Reports on Texas Economic Impacts from COVID-19

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar was interviewed Tuesday morning by the Texas Tribune on the state of Texas’s economy and the ongoing effects of COVID-19. Hegar opened his remarks by stating, “A month ago, the Texas economy was very strong with 50,000 job gains in the month of February, sales tax receipts for this fiscal year were tracking just slightly ahead of our revenue estimate in October. Then unfortunately, the pandemic hit the United States.” Hegar said that the effects of COVID-19 coupled with a global oil price war, the Texas economy has entered into a recession at this time. Hegar stated, “We are now looking at double digit unemployment numbers across the nation, and the question is how long will this last?”

Hegar mentioned that although the oil and gas community is a large and important part of the Texas economy and the price war and slowdown does have an impact, it does not compare to the massive number of businesses that were forced to close overnight for an extended period of time. He stated that he will have a first look at how COVID-19 is truly affecting our state’s economy in mid to late April when we receive new data. “In the next few months, we will have real data on how the pandemic is affecting our economy, and in July, we will likely have a revised, likely downward, revenue adjustment,” stated Hegar. He mentioned that the state does have the necessary cash flow available to avoid a special legislative session.

In regard to the Economic Stabilization Fund (aka: Rainy Day Fund), Hegar said that his office had projected a $9.8 billion fund balance but is now predicting a fund balance of $8.5 billion. He had also forecasted transfers of $1.6 billion to the economic stabilization fund and state transportation fund (Prop. 1), but are now lowering that estimate to $1.2 billion. It is important to note that the Comptroller’s office has been looking at funding that was appropriated during the 2019 Legislative Session, but has not yet been spent, to see if it could be rerouted or postponed (which might include Hurricane Harvey-related funding). However, no decisions have been made at this time.

During the interview, Hegar was also asked about the need for other sources of revenue to help fill the gap. He stated that although he is not a policymaker anymore and that it would ultimately be up to the legislature, his office does provide lawmakers with a tax exclusions and exemptions publication. Of the current services that are excluded by the Texas Tax Code from paying sales tax on services, the largest group is professional services, which includes engineering, architecture, real estate brokerages, medical and legal services. Prohibiting a sales tax on professional services will continue to be a top priority for ACEC Texas.

To watch the Comptroller's interview in full, please click on the following link: Texas Tribune Interview with Comptroller Hegar.

Governor Abbott Reports on COVID-19 Efforts & New Statistics

Gov. Abbott held a press conference on Monday to update the public on the State’s ongoing response to COVID-19. The Governor mentioned a recent call he had Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Deborah Birx, who provided positive feedback regarding the mitigation efforts taken to combat COVID-19, stating that they seem to be working.

Gov. Abbott reported, “She (Dr. Birx) said that we are getting close to beginning to bend the curve, but also she made clear that if we let up now all of our efforts that have led us to this point will have been for nothing.”

Last week, Gov. Abbott announced that the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) would begin pulling over vehicles crossing the border from Louisiana into Texas and continue to require a 14-day self-quarantine. The Governor stated, “Beginning yesterday, the DPS has now altered that policy to increase enforcement by establishing checkpoints from all border crossings from Louisiana into the state of Texas.”

The Governor also discussed recent COVID-19 statistics, and reported that as of Monday, there have been 85,357 Texans who have been tested for COVID-19, with 7,319 have tested positive. He said the number of those testing positive continues to remain less than 10% of everyone tested. A statistic making news around the U.S., Gov. Abbott reported that there are currently 21,033 available hospital beds statewide, including 2,223 ICU beds, with the number of ventilators dropping from 8,857 last week to 6,080. The Governor reported that 1,676,510 face masks, 209,856 face shields, 2,721,350 gloves, 169,231 gowns and 7,594 coveralls have been distributed across the state in the past week. The State has received approximately 2.5 million masks over the course of the last day, with 3 million more expected later this week.

“The good news is those numbers are continuing to increase,” Abbott said. “Additional masks, which is the part of PPE that most people are asking for, they are on the way.”

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