Texas State Senator Angela Paxton

Listen, Learn, Lead

Since mid-March, our communities, state, and nation have been impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) in ways that are unique and unprecedented in United States history.  We all have questions, concerns, and anxiety over the health and safety of our families and friends, over the status of jobs, and the long-term ramifications to our state and country.

My office is engaged in numerous calls with federal officials, state officials, local officials, emergency management personnel, school districts, hospitals, and leaders in our community all in an effort to help be the conduit of information to better serve the public.  Many people have shared great ideas with me that my staff and I have shared with the Governor’s office and the Texas Division of Emergency Management to increase the state’s ability to respond to the public health emergency.

We have weathered the first wave of COVID-19, together, and it has not been easy. Unemployment has increased, some businesses have closed, we have all changed our habits and practices, and we have all discovered the necessity of connecting with people through telephone and virtual meetings. On May 1, the Governor’s plan to Open Texas will begin through phases to reopen the state economy. As the public health threat begins to de-escalate, we must escalate economic activity because all businesses are essential.

The last six weeks have allowed Texans to educate themselves on the CDC guidelines and be prepared to continue to care for themselves and their neighbors. Consumers will naturally reengage to the extent they feel safe, and businesses have a financial incentive to create the conditions of a safe environment without government mandates designating businesses to be closed based on a designation of “essential” or “non-essential.”

Be encouraged.  We are all working together for solutions and by maintaining our diligence and positive attitudes, we can work through the problem together.

This webpage is dedicated to providing you a single resource for federal, state, and local updates on plans to reopen the Texas economy, COVID-19, ways you can support our neighbors in our community, links for supporting our families, businesses, and schools during this time, and ways you can share your constructive ideas with my office.

Please know that I am here to serve you and to listen, learn, and lead for the you in State Senate District 8.

Blessings,

Angela Paxton
Angela S. Paxton

Texas State Senator, District 8

Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Updates

In April, President Trump issued Guidelines to Open America, a set of criteria and a phased approach to reopen businesses to accelerate business activity while simultaneously de-escalating the public health risk of COVID-19. These guidelines set a course for each state to follow based on the public health data of the state that includes local gating criteria based on public health data, state preparedness responsibilities, and allowing the states to create guidelines for employers and individuals to re-engage in the marketplace. If a state has no spikes or significant increases in COVID-19 cases after reopening portions of the economy, then more restrictions can continue to be lifted in phases.

On April 27, 2020, Governor Abbott issued an Executive Order to announce the framework and plan to reopen Texas. That plan can be found on the Governor’s Open Texas website.

I strongly believe that Texans deserve the option to re-engage in the marketplace, and will do so to the extent they feel safe. All Texas businesses are essential, and I look forward to a swift reopening of the remainder of our economy.

On April 23, I sent a letter to Governor Abbott setting forth my principles to reopen the Texas economy. All businesses are essential and reopening the Texas economy is urgent so that families and businesses can once again flourish in physical, mental and economic well-being. These premises will guide the behavior of the marketplace:

a. Consumers will choose to re-engage in the marketplace to the extent they feel safe.
b. Businesses are financially incentivized to create those safe conditions for consumers.

On March 13, 2020, President Trump declared a National Emergency related to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

On March 13, 2020, Governor Abbott issued a state disaster declaration related to COVID-19. On March 19, 2020, Dr. Hellerstedt, Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, issued a Public Health Disaster Emergency for Texas.  The declarations allow the State of Texas to request federal assistance, including financial assistance to the state, and also place cities and counties in cooperation and coordination with the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

Link to the Governor’s State Disaster Declaration.

Link to the Texas Department of State Health Services Public Health Disaster Emergency for Texas.

Link to Governor Abbott’s March 19, 2020, executive order.

Link to Governor Abbott’s website listing waivers and temporary suspension of certain laws.

Link to the Texas Department of State Health Services for COVID-19 updates.

Cities and counties have authority under state law to declare local disasters and issue temporary orders to protect the health and safety of the residents of the localities. These orders are only applicable within the respective jurisdiction and must be consistent with the state executive orders.

Since Senate District 8 overlaps many of these cities and counties, I am creating a clearing house of all of the city and county orders and helpful websites so constituents may access this information easily and consistently.  I will update the links as they are available.

Counties within Senate District 8

Data from the County Health Authorities:

Cities within Senate District 8

One of the most important aspects of the state and local response is at the school district level. Schools are so important to our families and communities and we want to ensure that learning can continue safely and responsibly.  School districts also provide necessary meals for many students during the day that need to continue.

The Governor waived the requirements that students take the STAAR test for the 2019-2020 school year.  As a former teacher myself, I advocated for waiving of the STAAR test and am thankful for Governor Abbott removing this requirement for the school year to allow us to focus on essential learning.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has developed guidance for school districts for instruction continuity planning, teaching children with special needs, school closure issues, and locations where children can pick up meals if necessary.  The TEA is also holding teleconferences with school superintendents that I and my staff have been participating in to help distribute important updates to the public.

 

School Districts within Senate District 8:

Many of you have asked how you can help our neighbors and have offered support.  Here are just a few ways that you can provide assistance.  This list is certainly not exhaustive, but does highlight some of the ways you can provide assistance, including financial assistance, to organizations who help our community.

The impact from the coronavirus is already being felt in many sectors of our economy.  Workers in retail, manufacturing, restaurants, hotels, bars, and entertainment are especially hit hard.  With the executive orders in place statewide and in our counties, many businesses are not able to continue operating normally. The social distancing and avoiding gathering in groups of ten or more has disproportionally hurt small businesses and many of them, unfortunately, are having challenges making payroll, continuing employees health insurance plans, and operating.

There are resources available to employees, including job opportunities, during this time.

  • Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas is the workforce board serving those living and working in Collin County as well as 13 other counties surrounding Dallas and Tarrant.
  • Workforce Solutions for Greater Dallas is the workforce board serving those living and working in Dallas County.
  • The Texas Workforce Commission has resources available for employers, job seekers, and child care on their website at: https://twc.texas.gov/. The volume of calls and website inquiries is greater than normal at the Workforce Commission right now, so if you need assistance with connecting with the agency, please email my office at [email protected] and my staff can provide assistance.

With the executive orders in place statewide and in our counties, many businesses are not able to continue operating normally. The social distancing and avoiding gathering in groups of ten or more has disproportionally hurt small businesses and many of them, unfortunately, are having challenges making payroll, continuing employees health insurance plans, and operating.  Small businesses and restaurants are the backbone of our local communities and economy.

Many business owners have asked my office questions about assistance for their businesses, their employees, and tax deadlines.  As we receive answers to questions, we will update this page so you can find information that is important and relevant to your employees’ needs.

As a member of the Texas Senate Business and Commerce Committee, we are working to provide answers to questions that many small business owners have and provide ways to access resources that are available at the state and federal levels.  Our future committee hearings will discuss many of these public policy concerns and questions in the coming months, once we are able to hold committee hearings and take public input safely.

  • The Texas Workforce Commission has resources available for employers, job seekers, and child care on their website at: https://twc.texas.gov/

While preparing for Spring Break in March, none of us could have imagined the unprecedented crescendo of events that would result just one week later as a result of the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the United States. Schools began extending spring break and the Governor officially issued an Executive Order closing in-person classrooms. Our students began learning from home through virtual classrooms and will continue to do so at least until May 4, 2020. As our children began learning and completing their school work at home and college students came home to complete their semester through virtual courses, many parents also began working from home. Adjusting to this new environment is challenging and can often feel overwhelming causing a lot of stress within a household.
I am a former teacher and school counselor with more than 20 years of education experience. I have taught in public and private schools in addition to homeschooling my own children early in their education. To help with the adjustment of this new (albeit temporary) circumstance, I am providing a few best practices for educating students from home:

  1. Give yourself time to prepare your children and your household. Take time to review your children’s assignments, create a checklist, and think about how their learning may relate to everyday activities. Consider developing some practice activities or fun learning projects for your child to work on independently. Learning becomes more relevant and relatable as students observe how their lessons apply to activities done at the home on a regular basis, such as baking or growing plants.
  2. Prepare a workspace. Our homes have become our living space, our school, and our work space all rolled into one on very short notice and with little forethought. Preparing a workspace for your children and yourself will go a long way to have a physical separation within your home that can lead to a mental separation of your living space later in the day. Each of us needs a place to mentally retreat, so using a child’s bedroom as a school, while necessary at times, may lead to the child resenting school as the school space has taken away from their play space, especially in younger children. Additionally, allow your child to have some ownership in the layout of their space, such as allowing for colorful markers or a stuffed animal to snuggle during lessons.
  3. Understand your child’s learning style. Each child learns differently. For example, students may learn best through auditory, visual, verbal, social, logical, or physical. Some students may have a blend of these for different subjects. Focus on your child’s strongest learning style to help your child get the most out of the curriculum and the day.
  4. Develop a schedule. Each of us operates on some form of a daily routine or schedule, especially our children. Just like we have our Outlook calendars to keep us on track, school children have daily activities, regular classroom schedules and syllabi helps them understand what is expected and keeps them moving forward. Keeping a pattern gives our children certainty that there is a time that we, as parents, will dedicate to them each day, the subjects they will learn each day, and when feedback can be expected. Eighty percent of learning comes in twenty percent of the day, so focus on activities in that twenty percent of the time that can maximize learning and completing tasks. You may find that you will only need to dedicate a couple of hours each day to formal hands-on educating instead of non-stop activities throughout a traditional school day. This can also be an excellent time for your children to learn self-discipline and time management, two critical soft skills.
  5. Utilize your school’s curriculum and learning tools. Keep in mind that this situation is hard for our teachers, too, as they are trained to work with students in very social environments, and most really miss spending time with students in person every day. Fortunately, teachers are developing curriculum and working to facilitate learning remotely, so utilize the materials they provide. Because of their dedication to teaching our students, teachers continue to serve as a resource by holding office hours for parents, responding to parent and/or student questions by email, and hosting direct instruction via webcam.

Here are some additional resources that you may also find helpful:

At the same time that school buildings closed, many employees are told to work from home and telecommute. Many employees are able to slide into telecommuting easily, many others cannot transition as easily. The close quarters from multiple people in the same household working from home and our children being educated from home makes for very real challenges. On a routine basis, working from home has many real benefits, but can also cause a lot of stress.

There are many resources and best practices for working from home from companies that are based in North Texas. Here are a few pro-tips for setting up yourself and your workspace for telecommuting.

  1. Determine what you can do from home. Working from home focuses on completing tasks, not logging hours. You and your management team will need to determine what tasks can be completed from home and how to best complete those tasks.
  2. Evaluate your home office setup. If possible, create a place in your home that is separate from your bedroom, your kitchen, and your living area that can be dedicated for work. This physical separation helps dramatically with your mental separation from your work when you conclude finish work for the day. In the process of evaluating your home office setup, also look at your technology needs such as having a computer that can connect securely to the internet, internet that is robust enough for your uses, and a secure document sharing system for your team. Always be cognizant of cyber security threats and attacks against many of the software tools we use on a daily basis.
  3. Develop a schedule and a routine for yourself. Telecommuting, just like at the office, maintains a rhythm to ensure tasks are accomplished. Build exercises into your day.
  4. Develop your own task list and priorities. Telecommuting, as mentioned earlier, is more task oriented than time-sheet oriented. Determine your list of major things you must accomplish each day to meet the goals set for the week.
  5. Employee accountability and check-ins. Follow up with your co-workers throughout the work week. Schedule a conference call at least once a week to visit about priorities but also to check in on their well being. Call your co-workers throughout the week to check-in on getting tasks accomplished and on their well-being.

There are many company websites you may visit that can offer consulting for how best to set up your workspace and to maximize your time at home each day.

Here are some important phone numbers

National Suicide Prevention Hotline:          800-273-8255
National Domestic Violence Hotline:          800-799-7233
National Human Trafficking Hotline:         888-373-7888
Veterans Crisis Line:                                       800-273-8255
LifePath Behavioral Health Crisis Hotline: 877-422-5939

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