UPDATE (5:15 p.m. 4/16): President Trump released a three-phase plan to “re-open” the economy. The AP has more here.
Texas’s back-to-work plan did not become clear this morning at a press conference by Gov. Greg Abbott, but a key element to help keep small businesses afloat was unveiled, and a “glimmer of hope” was offered.
Appearing via a video conference at 11:30 a.m., Abbott announced $50 million in private sector-backed loans for the state’s end of the Paycheck Protection Program. He was accompanied by representatives from three Texas businesses.
Taking media questions, Abbott said he will be announcing a task force later this week. He warned that any plan to jump start the economy “won’t be everyone reopening all at once,” he said, preferring a phase-in approach that is implemented “slowly, strategically, and smartly.”
“I think there will be a level of flexibility for states …” Abbott said, based on discussions with federal authorities.
On Easter Sunday, Abbott issued a proclamation extending the disaster declaration for an additional month, with more details to come. The original month-long disaster declaration expires today as it was issued on March 13.
Earlier, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick introduce a task force of his own, a subset of his Business Advisory Council, to begin work on ” a set of recommendations for re-starting the economy” as soon as Gov. Abbott and President Donald Trump give the greenlight. Patrick tapped businessman Brint Ryan, chairman of Patrick’s Advisory Board on Tax Policy, to head the new task force
Back to Abbott’s press conference/call today: John Waldron, president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs, announced a multi-state program called 10,000 Small Businesses to fund the loans. Janie Barrera, president of the LiftFund, announced their cooperation in distributing the loans along with other community development groups. Abbott introduced Brent Reaves from Dallas’s Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que as a representative of the small business community, along with Patricia and Clint Butler, owners of Coffeecionado Community Roasters in San Antonio, and Michele and Mitch Allen, owners of iRun Texas in San Antonio. The Butlers and Allens were announced to be the first to benefit from this partnership to provide paycheck loans in Texas.
Abbott said today’s announcement is one of many “glimmers of hope” among “several red flags.” Positive COVID-19 tests are down (out of 133,000 tests there were 13,827 positive results, which is under projections), and at 1,176 current hospitalizations in Texas, we are seeing a downtrend. Deaths reached a three-day low, he noted, with 286 fatalities 2,259 recoveries. In order to keep these numbers down, he said Texans will have to continue maintaining social distancing guidelines and other precautions.
Abbott noted the Texas Workforce Commission has issued $400 million in recent unemployment claims.
“Small businesses and their employees are at the heart of the Texas economy, and they need support during these difficult times,” said Abbott in a related press release. “These loans will help us revitalize our economy and restore Texans’ livelihoods as we respond to COVID-19. I thank Goldman Sachs and the LiftFund for providing this lifeline to Texas small businesses and their employees by providing them with the support they need to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19. This partnership is an important first step in our journey to economic recovery in the state of Texas.”
As to rehabbing the economy:
“We know it will take us much longer to start the economy back up than it did to shut it down for the coronavirus pandemic emergency,” Patrick said, announcing his task force on Tuesday, April 7. “I have spoken to hundreds of business leaders across the state since the pandemic began, and I know they are already thinking about steps that will need to be taken to put the economy back together when the time comes. I am confident Texas can lead a strong economic recovery both in our state and nationwide and I want to make sure we are ready to go as soon as possible.”
From the hip: If we learned anything this morning it’s that there’s a lot being discussed behind the scenes. Abbott’s press conference this morning was not the announcement of a get-back-to-work deadline as some had suspected, but it appears that something similar to that (e.g. phase-in deadlines) may be brewing this week in cooperation with federal entities. On Friday, Patrick appeared to be moderating his message somewhat, which may or may not indicate some negotiation is taking place between the various actors at the state and federal level. Stay tuned, and if you’re a small business owner in need of assistance get that application in soon.