WINTER STORM: News, Resources for Small Business

Date: February 24, 2021

Deadline for Disaster Unemployment Assistance

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is accepting applications for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) as a result of the February winter storm. Under Presidential Disaster Declaration dated Feb. 19, workers who lost their jobs and self-employed individuals who have been unable to work due to damage sustained from the winter storm may be eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance benefits.

Applications must be submitted by March 26. Click here to learn more. 

 

DWC offices to reopen Feb. 22

All Division of Workers’ Compensation offices will reopen Monday, Feb. 22, and proceedings will be happening as scheduled. DWC will be flexible should there be parties who are still having power and internet issues. For issues related to hearings, call Hearings at 512-804-4010.

DWC is aware of the impact this weather event has had across the state and will be issuing additional guidance related to tolling certain deadlines and other measures. Please visit the TDI website for operational updates.

SNAP Clients May Purchase Hot Foods

Governor Abbott said on Sunday, Feb. 21, that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) received federal approval to allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to use their food benefits to purchase hot foods and ready-to-eat meals due to impacts from the severe winter storm.

SNAP recipients can now use their benefits for hot foods and ready-to-eat foods, such as rotisserie chicken or grocery store deli foods, at retailers that accept SNAP anywhere in the state.

HHSC received federal approval today from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service. The waiver allows SNAP recipients to purchase these ready-made foods with their Lone Star Cards through the end of March. Click here for details.

Abbott Waives Regulations on Grocery Deliveries, Repairs

Gov. Greg Abbott on Saturday, Feb. 20, waived regulations to enable trucks from the alcohol industry to deliver non-alcoholic grocery supplies, including bottled water and other necessities, to grocery stores.

These waivers will help expedite the delivery and replenishment of products in grocery stores across the state.

The governor also waived certain regulations for certain registered and qualified plumber’s apprentices in Texas. These waivers let a plumber’s apprentice, who has met all other qualifications, to temporarily perform plumbing repairs without ‘direct’ supervision by a licensed plumber so long as the qualified plumber’s apprentice works under the general supervision of a responsible master plumber.

Governor Holds Emergency Meeting on Spike in TX Energy Bills

On Saturday, Feb. 20, Gov. Greg Abbott met with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Speaker Dade Phelan, and members of the Legislature to discuss the spike in energy bills affecting many Texans following the recent power outages throughout the state.

“We have a responsibility to protect Texans from spikes in their energy bills that are a result of the severe winter weather and power outages,” the governor said. “I applaud Republican and Democrat members of the Legislature for putting aside partisan politics to work together on this challenge.” Click here to read the governor’s readout on the meeting.

EPA Approves Waivers To Expedite Fuel Delivery

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued waivers to increase access to gasoline and diesel fuel in certain Texas communities impacted by winter weather. These waivers temporarily allow for the use of an additional or alternate type of fuel for Texas Low Emissions Diesel and oxygenated gasoline fuels. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality submitted a request for these waivers yesterday.

White House Partially Approves Disaster Declaration

On Saturday, Feb. 20, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that President Biden has partially approved Texas’ request for a Major Disaster Declaration.

The governor requested the Major Disaster Declaration on Thursday for Individual Assistance and Public Assistance in all 254 counties. The Biden administration approved the request for Individual Assistance in 77 counties and for Public Assistance (Emergency Protective Measures Only) in all 254 counties.

Abbot said the governor’s office and the Texas Division of Emergency Management will continue to work to ensure the federal government provides appropriate assistance to individual Texans as well as to the state and local governments. Learn more here.

Dealing with insurance claims on storm-related damages

If your home or business was damaged due to a broken water pipe, downed tree limbs, or other winter damage, contact your insurance company or agent to file a claim as soon as possible. The state Department of Insurance has released these tips will help make the process go smoother:

  • Make a list of damaged property. Take pictures or video of the damage. Don’t throw anything away until your insurance company tells you to.
  • Take steps to protect your home from further damage. Turn off the water and cover broken windows and holes in your roof if possible. Save all receipts. Your policy may cover these costs.
  • Try to be there when the insurance company comes to inspects the damage. If you can’t stay in your home, leave a note with information on where you can be reached.
  • Keep a list of everyone you talk to at your insurance company. Be ready to answer questions about the damage.
  • Ask about additional living expenses. If you’re can’t live in your home due to the damage, your insurance policy may pay for some of those expenses.

State officials also released the following advance for avoiding fraud when it comes to repairs:

  • Get more than one bid. That will help you decide which offers are too high or too good to be true.
  • Check references and phone numbers. Call the Better Business Bureau to see if a contractor has complaints.
  • Don’t pay up front and don’t make your final payment until the job is finished. In a disaster, contractors from outside your area can’t ask for payment before they start work.
  • Avoid contractors who offer to waive your deductible or promise a rebate for it. That’s illegal under state law and your insurance company may ask for proof that you paid it.
  • Never sign a contract with blank spaces.
  • Report possible price gouging to the Office of the Attorney General.
Deadline for fees, taxes extended

Because of the winter storm and widespread power outages, the Feb. 22 due date for state taxes and fees to be reported and paid will be extended by one week, to March 1, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced today.

The due date extension applies to all state taxpayers. It is automatic, and taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms. A list of the affected taxes and fees can be found on the Comptroller’s website.

For more information, call the Comptroller’s toll-free tax assistance line at 800-252-5555.

Related Content: Small Business News | Texas

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