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Feb 09

February 9, 2021 TML Coronavirus Update #171

Posted on February 9, 2021 at 1:34 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates


CORRECTION: The link to the FEMA Public Assistance Handbook in the third paragraph of the following Q&A from Update #170 has been updated to a newer edition. 


Has the new administration taken action related to Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement?


Yes. Last week, President Biden issued a memorandum that increased FEMA’s cost share to 100 percent federal. However, it was not clear if this adjustment would be retroactive. On February 2, the Biden Administration issued a revised memorandum clarifying that FEMA will be “retroactively reimbursing states fully for the FEMA-eligible services – including masks, gloves, emergency feeding actions, sheltering at risk populations and mobilization of the National Guard – backdated to the beginning of the pandemic in January 2020.”


The revised memorandum states that FEMA shall provide a 100 percent federal cost share for all work eligible for assistance under Public Assistance Category B, pursuant to the Stafford Act, that was performed from January 20, 2020 through January 20, 2021.


City officials should contact their regional FEMA offices to ensure they receive the full reimbursement for the cost share adjustment.


What’s the latest with expired drivers licenses and vehicle registrations?


In March 2020, the governor granted a waiver for those with expiring drivers’ licenses/identification cards and motor vehicle registrations. The Texas Department of Public Safety announced those waivers will end on April 14, 2021.


Similarly, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles announced that the governor’s March 2020 waiver for expired motor vehicle registration will end on April 14, 2020.


Each link above leads to explanations regarding online renewals, appointments for in-person renewals, and other beneficial information.


The end of these waivers will impact, among other things, city police department operations.


What is the status of the suspended Open Meetings Act provisions?


On February 4, the governor’s office extended the Open Meetings Act suspensions for another 30 days.


Previously, on March 16, 2020, the governor granted the office of the attorney general’s request for suspension of certain open meeting statutes. The temporary suspension allows, among other things, for telephonic or videoconference meetings of governmental bodies that are accessible to the public in an effort to reduce in-person meetings that assemble large groups of people. The guidance associated with the suspension provides that: “These suspensions are in effect until terminated by the office of the governor, or until the March 13, 2020, disaster declaration is lifted or expires.”


The March 13 declaration has been extended for successive 30-day periods, including the February 4 extension. That means the relevant open meetings laws remain suspended for at least another 30 days (or until affirmatively rescinded).


We still can’t be certain, but it is highly likely that the governor will continue to repeatedly extend his declarations. We’ve heard from his staff that they have no immediate plans to rescind the suspensions. It’s likely that legislation will soon be filed to make some of the governor’s suspensions permanent.


What is the state doing to help Texans avoid eviction during the pandemic?


The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs is using $1.3 billion in funds from the most recent federal stimulus bill to assist renters with rent and utility bills. The Texas Rent Relief Program website has detailed information for landlords and renters.


Further Updates


What pandemic-related state legislation has been filed thus far?


League staff summarizes each city-related bill in the Legislative Update newsletter, which is included in your Friday “TML Exchange” email. The bills are categorized by subject matter. 


For the current legislative session, we’ve added the new subject heading of “Emergency Management.” Many pandemic-related bills will show up in that section, with some falling under other headings, such as Open Government, Public Safety, etc. Also, a complete list of bills filed to date by subject matter is updated each week.


Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus Updates?


TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.