Face masks mandated in public; sales tax revenue down

by | Jul 9, 2020 | Opinion

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Ab­bott on July 2 issued an execu­tive order to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus while keeping Texas as open as pos­sible for business.

With few exceptions, the or­der requires all Texans to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces in counties with 20 or more posi­tive COVID-19 cases.

Abbott also issued a proc­lamation giving mayors and county judges the ability to im­pose restrictions on some out­door gatherings of more than 10 people and mandating that with certain exceptions people cannot be in groups larger than 10 and must maintain six feet of social distancing from others.

“We have the ability to keep businesses open and move our economy forward so that Tex­ans can continue to earn a pay­check, but it requires each of us to do our part to protect one an­other — and that means wear­ing a face covering in public spaces,” Abbott said.

Cumulative figures posted July 5 by the Texas Department of State Health Services showed some 195,239 people in Texas diagnosed with COVID-19 and 2,637 confirmed deaths result­ing from the disease.

Wear-mask videos posted

The governor’s office re­leased a video of Abbott to coincide with his July 2 execu­tive order plus two more public service announcements implor­ing Texans to step up efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

SNAP deadline extended

Gov. Abbott on June 29 ex­tended the deadline for families to apply for the federal Pan­demic Electronic Benefit Trans­fer program to July 31.

“Ensuring access to healthy food in our communities is an important part of our response to this pandemic,” Abbott said.

This one-time benefit of $285 per eligible child can be used in the same way as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food benefits to pay for grocer­ies. Eligible families include those with children who lost access to free or reduced-price school meals through the Na­tional School Lunch Program due to school closures.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission partnered with the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas Edu­cation Agency to launch the $1 billion federal program on June 1 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Winner to face incumbent

In the top spot on the July 14 Democratic primary elec­tion runoff ballot are state Sen. Royce West of Dallas and for­mer U.S. Air Force officer Mary “MJ” Hegar of Round Rock. The winner will face incum­bent Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in the Nov. 3 election.

West, an attorney whose cur­rent term as a state senator will expire in 2022, has been a mem­ber of the body since 1993. He serves as vice chair of the Sen­ate Higher Education Commit­tee and is a member of Senate committees on Administration, Education and Finance.

Hegar has 12 years of mili­tary experience, including three tours as a helicopter pilot in Af­ghanistan, where she flew com­bat search and rescue and medi­cal evacuation missions. She is a recipient of the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor.

Cornyn, of San Antonio, a member of the U.S. Senate since 2002, previously served as an associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court from 1992 to 1997 and as Texas at­torney general from 1999 to 2002.

Revenue total is down

State sales tax revenue to­taled $2.67 billion in June, an amount 6.5% less than the amount reported for the month of June 2019, Texas Comptrol­ler Glenn Hegar said on July 1.

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

However, “While collec­tions from restaurants also were depressed, the extent of the decline was checked by increased takeout and delivery sales,” Hegar said. “And retail trade receipts rose significantly, buoyed by increased online shopping and building material purchases, as business premises were modified for COVID-19 precautions.”

The majority of June sales tax revenue is based on sales made in May and remitted to the agency in June.

For more stories like this, see July 9 issue or subscribe online.

By Ed Sterling, member services director for the Texas Press Association

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