Volume 18, Issue 14 - Friday, April 3, 2020
Texas public transportation systems to get more than $1B from CARES Act
Texas' metropolitan public transportation systems are set to receive more than $1.01 billion in recovery funds from the $25 billion committed to the nation's public transportation systems in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced on April 2 that $22.7 billion of the $25 billion will be allocated to large and small urban areas and $2.2 billion distributed to rural areas.
Texas cities with more than 1 million population each will receive $774.54 million with Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington getting $318.63 million, Houston collecting $258.57 million, Austin accepting $104.06 million, and San Antonio getting $93.29 million.
Cities in Texas with 200,000 to 1 million population will receive a total of $118.68 million with El Paso getting $39.24 million, McAllen accepting $20.15 million, Corpus Christi collecting $16.36 million, Laredo getting almost $10 million, Lubbock receiving $9.6 million, Conroe-The Woodlands accepting $9.54 million, Brownsville - $7.6 million, and Killeen - $6.2 million.
Those cities with populations between 50,000 and 200,000 getting more than $119.8 million total in FTA funds are:
- Abilene - $5.14 million;
- Amarillo - $9.9 million;
- Beaumont - $6.26 million;
- College Station-Bryan - $8.83 million;
- Galveston - $4.67 million;
- Harlingen - $6.09 million;
- Lake Jackson-Angleton - $3.26 million;
- Longview - $3.81 million;
- McKinney - $8.84 million;
- Midland - $5.56 million;
- Odessa - $5.96 million;
- Port Arthur - $6.22 million;
- San Angelo - $4.24 million;
- San Marcos - $6.43 million;
- Sherman - $3.48 million;
- Temple - $3.87 million;
- Texarkana - $2.03 million;
- Texas City - $4.29 million;
- Tyler - $5.34 million;
- Victoria - $3.07 million;
- Waco - $7.95 million; and,
- Wichita Falls - $4.55 million.
Funding will be provided at a 100 percent federal share; no local match is required. Funds will be available to support capital, operating, and other expenses eligible under those programs to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.
Texas, Army Corps to establish pop-up medical facilities around the state
|Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center|
The state, the Texas Military Department (TMD), and governor are setting up pop-up hospitals with the help of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), and county officials to increase health care capacity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas is the first of these sites. USACE is planning to install 250 beds there with capacity for 1,400 beds total.
Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, USACE commanding general, said the plan begins with state governors.
Local leaders will pinpoint available buildings, such as hotels, dormitories, and convention centers, in a prioritized order. Once identified, the existing buildings will be leased by the state and handed over to USACE. The corps will take over and hire contractors in a short amount of days, Semonite explained.
The facilities will need negative pressure abilities to keep the virus sealed off from room-to-room, and be outfitted with the appropriate medical supplies based off a list provided by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), he said.
Each facility will be staffed with medical professionals hired by the state, Semonite said.
Corps engineers produced a "standard design" to retrofit medical facilities, which was approved by both HHS and FEMA.
Due to the uncertainty of COVID-19, the Army is trying to understand the capabilities of every state, while focusing on hot spots such as New York, California, and New Jersey.
HUD approves $4.3B state action plan for flooding, disaster mitigation work
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on March 31 approved Texas' state action plan for distributing $4.38 billion in disaster mitigation funds.
HUD's approval enables the Texas General Land Office (GLO) to begin implementing the plan. GLO submitted a modified state action plan on February 3 for HUD's review.
Of the $4.38 billion, GLO will administer Community Development Block Grant-Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) totaling $4.07 billion for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts, $169.75 million for 2016 floods, and $52.99 million for 2015 floods.
HUD will direct allocations of $61.88 million to the city of Houston for 2015 floods and $24 million to the city of San Marcos for 2015 floods.
In total, 140 Texas counties are eligible for CDBG-MIT funding due to 2015, 2016, and 2017 (Hurricane Harvey) disasters.
HUD reduced the amount of grant funds that must be expended in the HUD-designated most impacted and distressed areas (MID) to 50 percent, with the caveat that up to 50 percent may be spent in state MID areas in the counties of Aransas, Brazoria, Chambers, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Hardin, Harris, Hays, Hidalgo, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Montgomery, Newton, Nueces, Orange, Refugio, San Jacinto, San Patricio, Travis, Victoria, and Wharton.
Health commission to restart bidding process to manage Medicaid programs
|HHSC's Brown Heatley Building|
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) is resetting its procurement process for selecting health insurance companies to manage portions of three Medicaid programs.
Facing questions about the department's scoring process for awarding contracts to operate the STAR-PLUS program, HHS commissioners decided to restart the procurement for contracts that have a total estimated value of $10 billion.
STAR-PLUS serves about 530,000 Texans who have disabilities or who are 65 or older.
HHS also is planning a new contract procurement for the State of Texas Access Reform (STAR) and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that total $19.2 billion in combined contract value and serve an estimated 3.3 million Texans.
STAR is a Texas Medicaid managed care program that provides, arranges, and coordinates preventive, primary, acute care, behavioral health, and pharmacy covered services for pregnant women, newborns, children, and parents with limited income.
CHIP is a jointly funded state-federal program in which HHSC contracts with managed care organizations to help Texas families obtain affordable primary and preventive health care coverage for their uninsured children from birth up to age 19.
HHSC officials said the agency is instituting procurement reforms while determining the timeline for future procurements.
The reforms stem from an outside consultant's recommendations for better and more consistent training of request for proposals (RFP) evaluators to ensure uniform scoring of submissions and the use of a contractor to review and manage the procurement and evaluation process for reissuance of the procurements.
To ensure continuity and quality of care as a new procurement process moves forward, contract extensions with existing providers for STAR-PLUS, STAR, and CHIP will remain in place to serve those in the state's Medicaid managed care system, according to HHSC officials.
FEMA awards $237M grant to state's emergency management division
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) a $236.76 million grant to assist in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Funding comes from FEMA through the Robert T. Stafford Act.
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) also will receive $2.08 million for its Hospital Preparedness Program from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Response.
Those funds will go toward DSHS' hospital program which works with Texas' 22 trauma service areas (TSAs) to support state and local efforts in emergency preparedness and to integrate the work of the public health and first responder communities.
Vulnerability Index models county, MSA unemployment levels in U.S.
A new Economic Vulnerability Index
for all counties and Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in the United States predicts the impact that COVID-19 may have on unemployment.
The economics team at Chmura Economics & Analytics in Virginia developed the model based on a region's industries using employment data from 4Q 2019 provided by JobsEQ.
An average Vulnerability Index score is 100, representing the average job loss expected in the United States.
The Vulnerability Index only measures the impact potential related to the mix of industry employment. The index does not take into account variation due to a regions' rate of virus infection, nor does it factor in local government's policies in reaction to the virus.
The index is based on a model of potential job losses due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. Expected employment losses at the subsector level are based upon inputs which include: primary research on expert testimony; news reports for key industries such as hotels, restaurants, retail, and transportation; preliminary release of unemployment claims; and the latest job postings data from Chmura's database.
Sectors with the largest expected job losses are:
- Arts, entertainment, and recreation;
- Accommodation and food services;
- Wholesale trade; and,
- Transportation and warehousing.
Those with smallest projected losses are:
- Professional, scientific, and technical services;
- Management of companies and enterprises;
- Public administration; and,
- Real estate and rental and leasing.
Job losses referred to in the index are expected to be temporary for the length of the crisis. Consequential economic shocks are not incorporated into this model.
Military commission awards $14.1M in grants for infrastructure projects
|Goodfellow Air Force Base|
The Texas Military Preparedness Commission (TMPC) awarded $14.1 million in grants to Texas military communities on April 1.
Grant funding will come from the TMPC's Defense Economic Assistance Grant (DEAAG) program to assist defense communities that may be positively or negatively impacted by a future base realignment and closure (BRAC) round.
The money will be invested in infrastructure projects and other initiatives to increase the military value of military installations and to protect jobs.
Entities receiving FY2020-2021 DEAAG disbursements are:
- Abilene - $616,389; security control center capacity expansion at Dyess Air Force Base;
- Alamo Area Council of Governments - $5 million; reinforcement and hardening of power distribution across San Antonio and Joint Base San Antonio;
- Corpus Christi - $919,500; flight line security and safety enhancement at Corpus Christi Army Depot;
- El Paso - $2,05 million; expansion of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant serving El Paso and Fort Bliss;
- Texarkana - $516,670; robotic vehicle program preparing Red River Army Depot for the Army's new robotics mission; and,
- Tom Green County - $5 million; funding of power infrastructure, human resiliency, and communications infrastructure, benefiting San Angelo and Goodfellow Air Force Base.
The 13-member commission is part of the Governor's Office and advises the governor and the Texas Legislature on defense and military issues and ways to strengthen the position of the state's military installations in preparation for a potential BRAC and other defense-related issues.
Congress considering 4th stimulus
On the heels of the $2 trillion stimulus package Congress achieved last week, several members have begun work on a fourth phase of funding.
Infrastructure such as water, broadband, schools, and more could benefit from the new round of stimulus funding designed to help front-line medical staff and first-responders, homebound parents, and COVID-19 patients.
Hospital capacity and rural broadband have been strained by the pandemic and could get additional funding in another stimulus package. Some leaders are advocating for extra funds to support state government budgets sapped by new spending needs and loss of tax revenues.
Other appropriations under consideration would improve access to personal protective equipment (PPE), expand paid leave for workers and parents who must stay home, boost specific pension payments, and enhance occupational safety protections for workers.
Lawmakers also are contemplating additional cash payments to individual Americans, free coronavirus treatments, and more support for the District of Columbia, which was classified as a territory in the last round of funding.
Innovations in 3-D printing, medical tech reinforce diminishing supplies
|Enmed's diffusers for inhalers|
Several public and private sector organizations are developing new and creative medical equipment and technologies to help medical institutions battling COVID-19 pandemic.
Texas A&M University's new engineering medicine program, EnMed, responded to medical equipment shortages by developing a 3-D printed diffuser for metered dose inhalers.
EnMed provided 200 of the 3-D printed diffusers to Houston Methodist Hospital that may be used in early treatment for most hospitalized patients showing signs of COVID-19 infection. The diffusers serve as "spacers" that improve efficiency in delivering medication to the patient's lungs.
Responding to a global shortage of medical equipment used in COVID-19 treatments, EnMed made the STL printing file
available for free to the public.
EnMed also designed a smaller device that can be incorporated with a water or soda bottle to serve as a spacer. It requires less printing material, prints faster, and works on smaller machines.
Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) partnered with Texas Tech University to develop 3-D printed face masks and shields for health care workers.
The joint efforts led to the creation of the West Texas 3D COVID-19 Relief Consortium, a collaborative community involving several departments at TTUHSC, Texas Tech, the University of Texas-Permian Basin, Odessa College, local businesses, citizens, and aviators.
Team members currently have enough material to make 350 face shields, but they hope to produce more. The first 32 were delivered to University Medical Center on March 26, and some rural partners received shipments March 30.
Siemens has opened its Additive Manufacturing (AM) Network Platform
to anyone who requires medical device design or print services. Through its network, anyone may reach designers and suppliers worldwide who will prepare the parts needed to keep medical centers running.
Austin-based Luminex Corporation announced that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for its CoV Extended Panel. High complexity molecular laboratories may now use the panel to rapidly detect the virus that causes COVID-19 disease for up to 96 patients in about four hours.
Georgetown mulls mobility bond
Georgetown City Council weighed the timing of a proposed mobility bond election at its March 24 workshop.
Councilmembers discussed conducting the election in November 2020 or pushing it to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, they decided to postpone their vote to May.
The city is scheduled to complete its 2008 and 2015 road bond projects by 2022. Based on a staff update of these projects at a February workshop, councilmembers directed them to prepare a presentation on a potential mobility bond election in November.
City staff in their presentation stated the city's goals for future road projects would be to enhance connectivity and safety by improving streets, bridges, bike network, and sidewalks and to deliver projects that aid the city in managing accelerated growth.
Other mobility bond priorities are to increase capacity of roadway network and bridges with high traffic volume, improve intersections and build sidewalks throughout the city to create new connections within and among neighborhoods, and align efforts with other planned transportation projects to expedite construction timelines.
Water board seeking information on interregional water supply projects
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) issued a request for information (RFI) on April 1 for information and comments on interregional water supply projects.
TWDB is collecting information on types of water supply projects that would benefit multiple water planning regions. These projects could be considered for funding later.
This RFI is only a request for information; it is not a solicitation for applications for funding.
Staff at TWDB will develop criteria to prioritize projects based on:
- Maximizing the use of private financial resources;
- Combining the financial resources of multiple water planning regions; and,
- Having a substantial economic benefit to the regions served by:
- affecting a large population,
- creating jobs in the regions served, and,
- meeting a high percentage of the water supply needs of the water users served by the project.
Questions are due by June 8. Responses are due by 2 p.m. CDT on July 1.
Rosenberg weighs road project bond
The city of Rosenberg is considering several road projects to include in Fort Bend County's proposed mobility bond for a November 3 election.
At a March 24 workshop, councilmembers discussed construction and rehabilitation of J Meyer Road from SH 36 to FM 2218, Koeblen Road from FM 2218 to SH 36, and Koeblen Road from FM 2218 to the city limits.
The extension of Graeber Road from Avenue N to the Texas State Technical College campus also could be on the ballot.
City Council is set to review potential road projects at its April 7 regular meeting.
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Governor issues executive order on social distancing
Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order, effective April 2, directing all Texans to minimize non-essential gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household.
The executive order renews and amends Abbott's previous order enforcing federal social distancing guidelines for COVID-19, including closing schools and instructing Texans to avoid eating or drinking at bars and restaurants.
The protocols allow exceptions for essential activities and services based on the Department of Homeland Security's guidelines on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce
. Examples of these essential services include health care, grocery stores, banking and financial services, utilities, child care for essential service employees, and government services.
The Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) will maintain an online list
of essential services specified in the governor's executive order. Other essential services may be added to this list with TDEM's approval.
Abbott's executive order follows the decision by President Trump and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to enhance social distancing guidelines and extend the deadline for these guidelines to April 30.
COVID-19 response fund created for Dallas County
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins joined the Communities Foundation of Texas on April 2 to announce the formation of the Dallas County COVID-19 Response Fund.
The fund will provide the county's frontline responders with necessary resources to combat the spread of the virus SARS-CoV-2 that produces the COVID-19 disease.
Jenkins will direct contributions to the fund based on first-responders' immediate needs.
Board members are Lynn McBee, chief executive officer (CEO) of Young Women's Prep Network; Dr. Michael Horne, CEO and president of the Parkland Foundation; lawyer Debbie Branson; and Miguel Solis, a Dallas ISD trustee.
They already have secured $100,000 in pledged donations to support the production of sanitizer for frontline responders.
Brashears to lead U.S. food safety as under secretary
The U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment of Dr. Mindy Brashears as the under secretary for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on March 23. Brashears succeeds Dr. Elizabeth Hagen who resigned from the post in December 2013.
Brashears most recently served as deputy under secretary for food safety. Prior to joining USDA, she was a professor of food safety and public health and the director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech University.
Corpus Christi port swears in Gulley as new commissioner
The Port of Corpus Christi Authority welcomed Dr. Bryan Gulley as its newest commissioner. Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales swore in Gulley on March 24.
Gulley, who works as an oral surgeon, long has nurtured a professional interest in industry. He has worked with the Texas General Land Office and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Pflugerville names Giannini assistant city manager
The city of Pflugerville announced Amy Giannini as a new assistant city manager on March 30, effectively immediately.
Giannini possesses 14 years of experience in the public and private engineering sectors including nine years of service with the city in several positions, including city engineer.
As an assistant city manager, she will oversee public works and engineering to include fleet, wastewater, water, capital improvement projects, and streets.
Dallas taps Jenkins as parks director
The Dallas Park and Recreation Board announced John Jenkins as the new director of the Dallas Park and Recreation Department on April 2. He succeeds Willis Winters who retired in October 2019.
Jenkins most recently served as interim director of the department where he has worked for 25 years. Previously, he served as deputy director and assistant director of park maintenance services.
Sweetwater ISD selects lone finalist
Sweetwater ISD trustees named Dr. Drew Howard as the lone finalist for superintendent of schools on April 2. If his contract is approved April 23, he will succeed George McFarland who resigned in January.
Howard is currently the senior director of school governance at the Texas Education Agency. He previously served as superintendent at Petersburg ISD and a principal in Peaster and Stephenville ISDs.
Harlingen appoints health authority
Harlingen City Commissioners appointed Dr. Michael Mohun as the city's health authority for a two-year term.
Mohun, who has worked several years as an emergency room doctor, previously served as the medical director for the South Texas Emergency Care Foundation.
His duties with Harlingen will be to prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 emergencies declared at federal, state, and local levels.
State waives cost sharing provisions for first responders
Gov. Greg Abbott has waived certain medical cost sharing statutory provisions for public safety employees who contract COVID-19 during the course of their employment to ensure they will be reimbursed for reasonable medical expenses related to their treatment of COVID-19.
Because the nature of their duties has caused them to increase their risk of contracting COVID-19, the governor has waived these provisions so public safety employees who contract COVID-19 are not also financially penalized.
A&M Forest Service working nonstop to ship medical gear
A team from the Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS) has been working every day since March 16, including weekends, to help organize and prepare shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other COVID-19 outbreak response items at a Texas warehouse.
The 10-member TFS crew has been working in conjunction with the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to process donations, track items, and prepare shipments to fulfill orders statewide.
TFS and Regional All-Hazard Incident Management Team members from throughout the state were called upon to provide planning and incident management support for TDEM disaster district chairs and the State Operations Center.
The Forest Service received a State of Texas Assistance Request, or STAR request from TDEM to help with logistical support at the warehouse. The STAR allows local municipalities to request resources, information and mission assignments, and submit them for local mutual aid assistance or directly to the disaster district chair.
Crews are now working 24-hour shifts to be available for needed items for the COVID-19 response. They continue to receive personal protective equipment to put into inventory, and the operation is now prepared to ship this equipment to fulfill orders across the state as requested.
|Gov. Greg Abbott has announced this appointment from March 27-April 2:|
Debi Hayes - Odessa, Commission on State Emergency Communications (chair)
Janet Reynolds Cassels - Lufkin, district attorney of 159th Judicial District
|Dozens of public-sector jobs are available. Click here to view all job openings and guidelines for job submissions to SPI. New jobs added this week:
- Treasury Safekeeping Trust Company - Financial Analyst IV
- Texas Water Development Board - Team Lead (Data Analyst IV)
- Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs - Program Specialist
- City of Houston - Chief Physician, MD
- City of Houston - Deputy CIO - IT Infrastructure
- Alamo Area Council of Governments - Law Enforcement Academy Manager
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Editor: Devin Monk
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