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TipSheet: Travis County, 6.9.20

Tuesday, June 9, 2020 by Jessi Devenyns

The Travis County Commissioners Court meets every Tuesday at 9 a.m. To help our readers stay informed, each week we offer a selection of interesting items from the voting session agenda. The public can access the meeting by watching the livestream or by tuning in to public access Channel 17. The entire agenda is available at the Travis County website.

4 B. Pending expiration of County Judge Order 2020-8, relating to the Declaration regarding COVID-19, and possible new Travis County guidance regarding the ongoing threat of COVID-19 C. Travis County’s policy regarding the ongoing threat of Covid-19.

Monitor’s Take: Travis County’s most recent stay-at-home order is extended through June 15, which leaves seven days before the county-enforced telecommuting and social distancing mandate expires. Tuesday will bring a discussion on whether or not to further extend this order. Commissioners are expected to discuss social gatherings, hygiene practices and masking requirements, as well as how long these new regulations will continue to be enforced by the county government. The city of Austin similarly has a deadline of June 15 for its Stay Home-Work Safe order.

5. Consider and take appropriate action on Census 2020 outreach activities. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: Amid everything that is going on in the world, it would appear that the 2020 U.S. Census has taken a back seat. However, an inaccurate count could have staggering consequences that will last for years. Everything from federal grant funding to local voting districts are influenced by the numbers that come back from a census count, but the sudden onset of coronavirus has overshadowed this ongoing effort that takes months to complete. Social distancing measures have put the brakes on many county and city efforts to engage residents, making it even more difficult than usual to encourage participation in this nationwide count. While a good number of grassroots efforts are still pushing to conduct an accurate count, local census leaders, including Ryan Robinson, have told the Monitor they are worried about the final numbers from this year’s count. The commissioners may not have any fresh ideas about how to encourage constituents to participate in the census, but they may discuss the subject of redistricting for the new election maps for 2022 an effort that the Commissioners Court does maintain control over.

9. Consider and take appropriate action on the following related to the Travis County Small Business Grant program, funded by the Coronavirus Relief Fund through the CARES Act: A. Overview of progress to date, B. Approval of the program guidelines, C. Delegation of authority to the County Executive of the Planning and Budget Office to authorize modifications to the program guidelines (Commissioner Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: It’s now been just over a month since the Commissioners Court carved out $10 million for a small business grant program to aid business owners struggling to survive the pandemic-induced economic crisis. In late April, the Monitor quoted county staff saying it would take 10 days to a couple of weeks to roll out the program, but it appears that the planning period took longer than anticipated. Instead of an update Tuesday on the number of dollars dispensed and the businesses helped, the Commissioners Court will be asked to approve the final program parameters to ensure that the appropriate county businesses receive the much-anticipated financial aid. Likely there will also be direction to specify a date on which businesses can begin accessing this funding.

20. Consider and take appropriate action on orders designating early voting and Election Day polling places for the July 14, 2020, Joint Primary Runoff Election and Special Election. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: When it comes to voting, the race is on. After Gov. Greg Abbott scheduled the special election to fill Sen. Kirk Watson’s now-vacant District 14 seat, there has been much talk about how to safely and efficiently conduct these elections. Voting by mail has come up repeatedly, but so far Texas courts have blocked this common-sense solution. Nevertheless, county staffers are forging forward with organizational logistics, and the County Clerk’s Office is recommending that early voting take place at 20 separate locations throughout the county. To accommodate voters, early voting for the joint primary runoff election and special election to fill the vacancy in Texas Senate District 14 will be held on weekdays from 7 a.m.-7 p.m., beginning Monday, June 29, through Friday, July 10. Election day will be on July 14 with an expanded list of polling places countywide. At Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners will vote on whether to approve the proposed polling locations and election schedule.

A1. Receive briefing and take appropriate action on communication from city mayors within Travis County regarding CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund. (This item will be taken into Executive Session under the Consultation with Attorney exception.) (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: Although this item will be discussed in executive session, there may still be some conversation on the subject in open court. Last week, the Commissioners Court voted to allocate $7.3 million, or $55 per Travis County resident, to the surrounding municipalities. Although the final figure was settled, there are still a few details that need to be hammered out, including how quickly reimbursement will be provided and the final dollar amounts for each of the 21 cities requesting assistance. These decisions will likely be ironed out at Tuesday’s meeting.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Travis County Commissioners Court: The legislative body for Travis County. It includes representatives from the four Travis County Precincts, as well as the County Judge. The County Judge serves as the chair of the Court.

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