COVID-19: News & Updates


    


UPDATED:  August 3, 2020 - 5:00 PM
Items marked "NEW" or "UPDATED" have been added/edited since the last update.
Information no longer on this webpage can be accessed through the Archives link at the bottom of the page.

In these challenging times, ACEC Texas wants to provide information and be a resource to our member firms to help navigate issues that may arise.

Information is and has been coming fast and furious, and we will try to pass it along to you in a manner that is informative, timely, and unobtrusive.  We have developed a ACEC Texas COVID-19 webpage that will be updated regularly with new, important, and relevant information as it becomes available.  We are in communication with ACEC National, State Agencies, and other entities, and will continue to provide information from these entities and others. 


ACEC National has provided ongoing federal news and updates their ACEC Coronavirus Resource Center homepage.  To access their homepage, please click below:


The Texas Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors has established a COVID-19 webpage regularly updated with regulatory information.  To access their website, please click on the following:

 


ACEC Texas continues to communicate regularly with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) regarding agency operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.  We have developed a webpage dedicated to news and updates from TxDOT, which can be viewed by clicking below:

 

 Happening Now

  • NEW - Texas Comptroller Releases Positive July Sales Tax Numbers:  Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar today said state sales tax revenue totaled $2.98 billion in July, 4.3 percent more than in July 2019.  The majority of July sales tax revenue is based on sales made in June and remitted to the agency in July. Widespread social distancing requirements were more relaxed across the state in June than in previous months. “State sales tax collections in July were better than expected, increasing despite the high unemployment due to the pandemic,” Hegar said. “The increase was due to a surge in collections from the retail trade sector; receipts from other major sectors — including mining, construction, wholesale trade, services and restaurants — showed significant declines.

    To view the complete press release, please click here: Comptroller Hegar Press Release

  • Comptroller Hegar Releases Revised CRE – Projects $4.58 Budget Shortfall: Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar this week revised the Certification Revenue Estimate (CRE) and now projects a fiscal 2021 ending shortfall of $4.58 billion. The shortfall, which Hegar attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and recent volatility in oil prices, is a decrease from the $2.89 billion positive year-end balance originally projected in the October 2019 CRE.  In a July 20 letter to state leadership, Hegar said the state will have $110.19 billion in General Revenue-related (GR-R) funds available for general-purpose spending for the 2020-21 biennium, down from a projected $121.76 billion in the October 2019 CRE.

    • Brief Overview of the State Budget:  The Texas Legislature is bound by the Texas Constitution to pass a balanced two-year budget each legislative session.  The current state budget was passed during the 2019 legislative session for fiscal years 2020-2021 (NOTE: Texas fiscal years run from Sept. 1 – Aug. 31st).  The legislature develops and approves the budget based on revenue estimates from the Comptroller.  If, during the interim between legislative sessions, the Comptroller revises the revenue estimate so that there are less funds than originally anticipated (as he has recently done), the legislature will be required to make up the difference by passing a supplemental appropriations bill at the beginning of the 2021 session to backfill the anticipated shortfall.

    • What Does the Comptroller’s Announcement Mean?  This week’s revised estimate from Comptroller Hegar means legislators will need to backfill an anticipated $4.58 billion funding shortfall for the current 2020-2021 budget when the session begins in January.  In addition, the legislature will be faced with crafting the next biennial budget (2022-2023) with significantly less revenue than they had last time, but that revenue estimate will not be available until closer to January.

    • What Does that Mean for Transportation Funding (State Highway Fund)?
      • Proposition 1 Funding:  The Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF, or the state's “Rainy Day Fund”) and the State Highway Fund (SHF) both receive funding from oil and natural gas severance taxes. In FY 2021, the ESF and SHF each will receive $1.1 billion in transfers from the General Revenue Fund for severance taxes collected in fiscal 2020. Severance tax collections in FY 2021 are expected to drop significantly from FY 2020, resulting in smaller FY 2022 transfers to the ESF and SHF of about $620 million each.
      • Proposition 7 Funding:  Proposition 7 requires the first $2.5 billion in sales tax collections exceeding $28 billion in any fiscal year to be deposited to the SHF. This year, the SHF will receive $2.5 billion from sales taxes collected in FY 2021, although the final transfer will not occur until September 2021.

 REGIONAL NEWS

 ACEC National News & Updates

  • Webinars & Roundtables:  ACEC National continues to host complimentary online classes and webinars free  for member firms to register for.  The roundtables are designed to convene member firms virtually to discuss the issues facing your business as well as share ideas on how the industry can help our communities during COVID-19.  To view and sign up for an upcoming roundtable or webinar, please click on the following links


  • ACEC National Releases New “Private Industry Brief” - ACEC National last week published their latest ACCE Private Industry Brief that reviews the economic performance of the second quarter in the United States and looks ahead through 2024.  The report was written by ACEC National Vice President Private Market Resources Erin McLaughlin, and a few highlights include the following:

    • The engineering industry was better prepared than most entering the pandemic because we were coming off our two best revenue quarters: $89.93 billion in Q4 2019 and $89.68 billion in Q1 2020.
    • The economic recovery will be more of a “claw back” than a “bounce back.” More than 90 percent of the economists in the most recent National Association of Business Economics survey said the economy won’t return to its pre-COVID-19 level until at least the second half of 2021.
    • The market sectors with the biggest declines over the coming months will be those most sensitive to consumer spending and travel: commercial/retail, lodging, and amusement/recreation. Only two sectors are forecast to climb over the next few years: communication and transportation.
    • Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, so a full recovery is unlikely until people are confident they can remain healthy while engaging in a broad range of activities, such as shopping, traveling, and dining out.
    • 80 percent of those economists said the biggest driver behind an economic upswing will be either a COVID-19 vaccine or a comprehensive testing/tracing program.

    To view the complete report, please click on the following link:  ACEC Private Industry Brief.
  • ACEC National Finance/HR/IT Forums 2020 – Sept. 14-15, San Antonio:  If you are a Finance, HR, or IT professional in the A/E industry, ACEC National will be hosting three forums just around the corner.  Early bird registration for the Finance, HR, and IT Forums ends on July 31st.  ACEC National is looking to host the events in-person in San Antonio, TX on September 14th and 15th.  For more information and to register to secure your spot, please click on the following hyperlinks:
  • Recording from July 8: COVID-19 Litigation and Ways for Firms to Reduce Risk: https://secure.icohere.com/ACECWebinars?pnum=WCV70357

  • ACEC Research Institute Releases Findings of COVID-19 Business Impact Survey Series: The ACEC National Research Institute, which serves as the research arm of the association, has been conducting a series of surveys to accurately measure the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the engineering community.  ACEC Texas has been sending out those survey results to members and posting them on our COVID-19 webpage.  ACEC National has compiled the results into a summary which is now available. With seven waves of polls being performed, the Business Impact Survey delivered a weekly measurement of the engineering industry as it navigated the challenges of hiring, workplace culture, operations, travel and overall economic sentiment.

    The executive summary and a supporting infographic can be downloaded here.

  • ACEC National individual survey results from their COVID-19 Business Impact Surveys:
  • Updated 6/12:  Latest ACEC National COVID-19 Resource Document: COVID-19 Resource Doc.

  • ACEC National will be posting to their blog, The Last Word, which they will use to distribute up-to-date information from their departments, and news stories of interest to our industry. ACEC will also host regular "Engineering Influence" Podcast as well.  To sign up for The Last Word and to view the blog, or to listen and view episodes of the Podcast, please click on the following links:

                 
     

 Business News


Business Aid & Loan Opportunities Available:

  1. Paycheck Protection Program (PPP):  The U.S. Small Business Administration has resumed accepting Paycheck Protection Program applications from participating lenders.  For more information, please click on the following link:  SBA COVID-19 Relief Options & Updated PPP FAQ (NEW)

    The PPP Flexibility Act, signed into law on June 5th,  is designed to ease restrictions originally set forth by the PPP. Highlights from the PPP Flexibility Act include reducing the required amount of aid money used on payroll from 75% to 60%, allow businesses 6 months instead of 2 months to use the funds, and pushing back the deadline to rehire workers.  ACEC National issued a letter of support of the bill, which can be viewed here:  ACEC National Letter on PPP Flexibility Act.


    SBA Releases New Versions of PPP Forgiveness Application
    The U.S. Small Business Administration released this week two new versions of the Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness application following the passage of the PPP Flexibility Act:


    The EZ Loan Forgiveness Application is available to borrowers that:

    1. Are self-employed and have no employees; OR
    2. Did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25%, and did not reduce the number or hours of their employees; OR
    3. Experienced reductions in business activity as a result of health directives related to COVID-19, and did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25%.

    For more information, please click on the following link:PPP Loan Forgiveness – SB

    Congress Approves Extension of PPP:  The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives approved a deadline extension for small businesses to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.  The original deadline was set for June 30th and has now been pushed back to August 8th.  PPP loans were first established by Congress in March to help businesses keep their employees on the payroll during closures due to COVID-19.  There is $130 billion remaining in PPP loan money.

    For more information on PPP loans, please click on the following link:  U.S. Small Business Administration PPP Loans.

  2. Business Loan Program:  Governor Abbott has announced a new partnership with Goldman Sachs and LiftFund to provide $50 million in loans to small businesses in Texas affected by COVID-19.  The new business loans, made through the U.S. Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), will be used primarily for payroll continuity.  To apply and for more information, please click on the following link:  LiftFund Website.

  3. The Main Street Lending Program is intended to support small and mid-sized businesses, in good financial standing prior to COVID-19, through offering 4-year loans with principal and interest payments deferred for one year.  Businesses who have applied for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) can also apply for the Main Street Lending Program.For more information, please visit the following link: 
  • P.E. Ethics Webinar:  The Board is offering free ethics webinars to assist license holders with meeting their ethics requirement. Each webinar provides an up-to-date overview of agency activities, case studies, and a review of professional ethics topics.Registration is open at this time, and please click on the following link for more information:TBPELS Ethics Webinar Information.

  • ACEC National Issues Guide for Returning to Work:  ACEC National has released the first edition of the “ACEC Guide to Returning to the Office and the Job Site” report.  The guide provides insight and recommendations for planning the return, health policy and procedures, returning to the office, returning to the job site, and links to additional COVID-19 resources.

    To view the report, please click on the following link: 
    ACEC Guide for Returning to Work.

  • COVID-19 Employer Protections:  The state of Texas joined the growing number of states and federal leaders pushing for employer protections from COVID-19.  Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen have sent a letter to Congressional leaders asking for their support for liability protections for Texas employers. This would include protecting business owners, healthcare facilities and employees, and first responders from being held liable for COVID-19 exposure claims when they adhere to relevant public health guidelines and make good faith efforts to limit the risk of exposure and infection.  State leaders are asking for these provisions to be included in the next phase of COVID-19 relief aid. To view the letter, please click on the following link:  Letter to Congress on Employer Liability.

  • Return to Work Guide:  Greyling Insurance, administrator for the ACEC Business Insurance Trust, has issued an "Employer's Guide to COVID-19 Return to Work or Resuming Operations."  To view the guide, please click on the following link:  Return to Work Guide - Greyling Insurance. 

  • Emergency Leave and Tax Credits:  The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Department of Labor (DOL ) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury released an informal guidance document on emergency leave and associated tax credits.  To view the document, please click on the following link provided on behalf of ACEC National:  Guidance Document from IRS, DOL and Treasury.

 State of Texas & Federal
News & Resources

  • Comptroller Hegar Announces June Sales Tax Revenue Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced last week that state sales tax revenuetotaled $2.67 billion in June, 6.5% less than in June 2019.  The majority of June sales tax revenue is based on sales made in May and remitted to the agency in June. 

    “The decline in state sales tax collections was driven principally by steep drops in remittances from oil and gas-related sectors,” Hegar said. “Collections from the construction and amusement service sectors were also sharply down.”

    Texas collected the following revenue from other major taxes:

    • motor vehicle sales and rental taxes — $394 million, down 7.6 percent from June 2019, a substantial improvement from results in April and May;
    • motor fuel taxes — $250 million, down 24 percent from June 2019;
    • natural gas production tax — $20 million, down 84 percent from June 2019;
    • oil production tax — $83 million, down 77 percent from June 2019;
    • hotel occupancy tax — $23 million, down 61 percent from June 2019, an improvement from the record decline in May; and
    • alcoholic beverage taxes — $65 million, down 47 percent from June 2019, significantly better than May’s results.

    To view the complete press release, please click on the following link:  Comptroller Press Release.

  • State Leaders Direct Agencies & Universities to Cut Budgets:  On Wednesday, Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen issued a joint letter directing state agencies and institutions of higher education to each submit a plan identifying savings to reduce their budgets by 5%.  In the letter, state leaders also urged for agencies and universities to pursue cost-saving strategies that will not affect the state's response to COVID-19 such as forgoing capital expenditures that can be deferred, any avoidable travel expenditures, any administrative expenses that are not mission critical, and keeping unfilled any open positions that are not essential to Texas' COVID-19 response.  To read the letter in its entirety, please click on the following link:  Joint Letter to State Agencies and Institutions of Higher Education.

  • The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has made available an online resource center that shows COVID-19 projection models for the United States and individual States.  To view the website, please click here:  COVID-19 Resources - IHME.

  • Paid Leave:  The U.S. Department of Labor has released new guidance on paid leave requirements:  DOL Guidance on Paid Leave.

  • IRS FAQ:  The IRS issued a frequently asked questions document regarding the delay in 2019 tax payments and tax filing deadline, which has been moved to July 15:  IRS FAQ Document.

  • Income Taxes Deadline:  U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced this morning that the income tax filing deadline has been pushed back from April 15th to July 15th.

  • State Information and Resource Hotline:The Texas Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging Texans in need of COVID-19 information and referrals to community resources to call the 2-1-1 Texas hotline, which is available 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.For more information, please visit the Department’s hotline webpage by clicking on the following:2-1-1 Hotline Information.

  • Driver Licenses: Governor Abbott has directed the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to temporarily waive expiration dates for Driver Licenses, Commercial Driver Licenses, and other identification forms:  Driver License Information

  • Local Elections:  The Governor issued a proclamation suspending provisions of the Texas Election Code to allow political subdivisions to postpone 2020 local elections until November 3, 2020 if they choose.

  • State Runoff ElectionsGov. Abbott announced  that primary runoff elections would be postponed from May 26th to July 14th.


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8/19/2020
ACEC San Antonio Chapter Meeting-08/19/20