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TipSheet: Travis County, 6.16.20

Tuesday, June 16, 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 entire agenda is available at the Travis County website. This week’s meeting will be broadcast to ensure everyone is able to follow social distancing regulations. The public can access the meeting by watching the livestream or tuning in to public access channel 17.

2. Consider and take appropriate action to approve the Travis County Interlocal Agreement for Administration of Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) Funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act with each of the 21 cities with a population less than 500,000 that are wholly or partly in Travis County that have executed the agreement in the form approved by the Commissioners Court on the date the agreement was last approved, and authorize the County Judge to sign these agreements without further approval. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: After working through a financial compromise with the 21 small cities in Travis County that did not receive federal assistance funds for disaster relief efforts during the pandemic, the county settled on a direct allocation of $55 per capita. On Tuesday, the Commissioners Court will review which cities agreed to the terms outlined in the contract sent out last week and which qualify to receive 20 percent of their allotted funding up front. This item will also give the county judge the authority to sign agreements with these cities related to this emergency funding initiative without additional items coming before the full court.

3. Consider and take appropriate action regarding rental and mortgage assistance funded by the Coronavirus Relief Fund through the CARES Act, including: A. Overview of program progress to date B. Approval of program policy (Commissioners Shea & Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: In mid-May, Travis County approved $10 million for direct rental and mortgage assistance to county residents economically impacted by Covid-19. Since then, county staffers have been working to lay the necessary groundwork to roll out this program. This Tuesday, the Commissioners Court will review the proposed administrative approach for the program to finally make these funds available to the public. According to the timeline outlined in the backup, the program is scheduled for a June 29 launch and will be available to those directly impacted by the pandemic who reside in Travis County. Qualified residents will need to prove they are earning 250 percent or less of the federal poverty income guidelines and have not received any other CARES funding for rental or mortgage payments. Households are limited to receiving no more than 100 percent of current fair market rents a maximum of three times before Dec. 30, 2020. Of the total monies set aside, $9.5 million will be available for assistance while $500,000 will be set aside for staffing costs associated with the administration of this program.

14. Consider and take appropriate action on adoption of a policy requiring the wearing of face coverings in designated County facilities by members of the public, including adoption of a Trespass policy. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: Wearing facial coverings has become a contentious subject as more and more businesses open in Texas. Although local regulations may require residents to wear a face mask, Gov. Greg Abbott made it clear in late April that citizens who don’t wear masks cannot be penalized with jail time or fines. State and local lawmakers still encourage the use of face masks. It will be interesting to see how the county tackles this ubiquitous question of protecting individuals while still allowing for the reopening of in-person county services. In staff guidelines for reopening, facial coverings are noted to be required for all staff and residents entering county facilities.

15. Consider and take appropriate action on adoption of “Guidelines for Reopening and Restoring Travis County Offices and Services.” (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: The time has come for Travis County to begin reopening its buildings to staff and the public. In order to do so, the Commissioners Court must approve a phased approach that county staffers have outlined in an effort to ensure the safety of all who enter the premises. The county’s human resources department has devised a three-phased procedure based on CDC guidelines. The initial opening phase is anticipated to begin at the end of June and will continue for a 30-day period during which time the majority of employees will continue teleworking and only the most critical functions will take place in the office. Those who do return will be required to wear face coverings in the work environment at all times, unless they are in a personal office. A face mask will also be required for members of the public who are meeting with county employees. Phase two is essentially the same as phase one, but the county intends to have a more formalized teleworking strategy at that point. Phase three will be the county’s ongoing strategy and will still feature social distancing protocols in order to sustain the departments’ continuous operations. The overall return-to-work strategy includes plenty of pages dedicated to disinfection and cleaning.

17. Consider and take appropriate action regarding the “Travis County Resolution on Net Zero Carbon Emissions, June 2020.” (Commissioners Shea & Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: Commissioners will vote Tuesday to support ambitious climate goals for the county, including reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions for county operations by 2030, achieving net zero emissions in the community by 2050 and hiring a climate resiliency officer by 2025. The resolution includes a provision for implementing the goal of having 75 percent of all eligible county employees teleworking. This overarching climate initiative is intended to operate in tandem with the efforts of surrounding counties and municipalities to comprehensively address the climate crisis in Central Texas rather than operating in a piecemeal fashion.

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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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