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Governor Abbot Declares Disaster, Closes Schools, Bars, Gyms Statewide, Restaurants "To-Go" Only

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) took statewide action Thursday, March 19, 2020 to mirror actions taken locally in Dallas and Tarrant counties earlier this week by declaring a disaster and ordering schools, bars, clubs and gyms to close and for restaurants to offer only "to go" service.

The statewide declaration comes after more than 160 people across the state have been infected by the virus including four who have died, three of whom were in North Texas. In Dallas alone on Thursday, 20 new cases were confirmed including one death.

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Governor Abbott Issues Executive Orders

Governor Abbott Issues Executive Orders In Accordance With Federal Guidelines To Mitigate Spread Of COVID-19 In Texas

AUSTIN - Governor Greg Abbott today announced a series of Executive Orders relating to COVID-19 preparedness and mitigation. The four orders serve to limit public gatherings and help reduce exposure for people across the state. These orders are in accordance with federal guidelines issued by the President and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and will aid in the state's efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

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US-Canada Border to Close to Non-Essential Travel

On March 18, 2020 President Trump announced via twitter that there is an agreement to close the US - Canada border to "non-essential" travel. Trade will not be affected.

Source: Twitter/@realDonaldTrump 8:37AM

"We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic. Trade will not be affected. Details to follow!"

Fisher Phillips Comprehensive FAQ's for Employees

Fisher Phillips has assembled a cross-disciplinary taskforce of attorneys across the country to address the many employment-related issues facing employers in the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus – especially now that the World Health Organization has declared the outbreak as a pandemic. The COVID-19 Taskforce has created a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document, which has been continually updated since first published on March 3 and will continue to be updated as events warrant. It has been completely updated to address the many additional workplace law rights and responsibilities given the pandemic designationYou can contact your Fisher Phillips attorney or any member of the Taskforce with specific questions, and a full listing of the Taskforce members and their practice areas is at the end of this publication.

Click here for more from Fisher Phillips

Texas WIC Vendor Monitoring Suspended

Dear Texas WIC Vendor Community,

Due to the flexibilities around monitoring permitted by USDA, Texas WIC Vendor Management and Operations Unit (VMO) is immediately suspending the following activities:

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Press Release: Macys temporarily closes stores due to Coronavirus

Macy’s, Inc. Temporarily Closes Stores Nationwide in Response to COVID-19 Outbreak

NEW YORK—March 17, 2020-- In response to the widespread COVID-19 outbreak, Macy’s, Inc. (NYSE: M) today announced that it will temporarily close all stores by end of business today, March 17, 2020, through March 31, 2020. This includes all Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Bluemercury, Macy’s Backstage, Bloomingdales the Outlet and Market by Macy’s stores. Macy’s, Inc. will provide benefits and compensation to its impacted workforce.
“The health and safety of our customers, colleagues and communities is our utmost priority. As a result of the recent COVID-19 developments, we have decided to temporarily close our stores. We will work with government and health officials to assess when we will reopen our stores and safely bring our colleagues back to work,” said Jeff Gennette, chairman and chief executive officer of Macy’s, Inc. “During this closure, we will continue to serve our customers through our e-commerce sites.”
All three Macy’s, Inc. brands – Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury – will continue to serve customers through macys.com, bloomingdales.com and bluemercury.com and through its mobile apps.

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Coronavirus WIC Update

    The Texas Health & Human Services Commission will be publishing a Vendor News Flash in the near future regarding WIC purchases during this critical time due to measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

-Suspending LEB requirements.  Retailers may sell any items in the LEB category that are on the APL and on the customers’ prescription without fear of an LEB violation (the 85% policy).

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Coronavirus Federal Update

On March 17,2020, President Trump and the White House Coronavirus Task Force issued new guidelines to help protect Americans during the global Coronavirus outbreak.

The new recommendations are simple to follow and could have a resounding impact on public health. More information can be found in the attached document and the President’s and Vice President’s remarks can be found here. 

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USDA Office of Food Safety Statement to Industry

Statement to Industry
March 16, 2020

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is rising to meet the challenges associated with the new coronavirus disease, Covid-19. As leaders of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Agricultural Marketing Service, we can assure you that the agencies are committed to ensuring the health and safety of our employees while still providing the timely delivery of services to maintain the movement of America’s food supply from farm to fork.

These agencies are prepared to utilize their authority and all administrative means and flexibilities to address staffing considerations. Field personnel will be working closely with establishment management and state and local health authorities to handle situations as they arise in your community. As always, communication between industry and government will be key. We are all relying on early and frequent communication with one another to overcome challenges as they arise.

In this time of much uncertainty, we know that many of you have questions about how the department will continue to ensure that grading and inspection personnel are available. We have all seen how consumers have reacted to the evolving coronavirus situation and how important access to food is to a sense of safety and wellbeing. It is more important than ever that we assure the American public that government and industry will take all steps necessary to ensure continued access to safe and wholesome USDA-inspected products.

As we come together as a country to address this public health threat, know that USDA remains committed to working closely with industry to fulfill our mission of ensuring the safety of the U.S. food supply and protecting agricultural health.

Dr. Mindy Brashears
USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety

Greg Ibach
USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs
Click here for original article from USDA.gov

FDA Provides More Regulatory Relief

For Immediate Release:
March 16, 2020
Statement From:
Commissioner of Food and Drugs - Food and Drug Administration
Stephen M. Hahn M.D.

Today, as part of our ongoing and aggressive commitment to address the coronavirus outbreak, the FDA updated a policy originally issued on Feb. 29 on diagnostic testing for coronavirus (COVID-19) in order to achieve more rapid testing capacity in the U.S. We believe the unprecedented policy set forth in today’s updated guidance, which addresses laboratories and commercial manufacturers, will help address these urgent public health concerns by helping to expand the number and variety of diagnostic tests, as well as available testing capabilities in health care settings, and reference and commercial laboratories. 

This action demonstrates the FDA’s ability to pivot and adapt as the situation warrants in light of a public health emergency. We are taking steps to support diagnostic development considering the urgent need. We urge state authorities and commercial developers to take all necessary steps to ensure the availability of accurate tests. Inaccurate diagnoses during a pandemic can impair prevention efforts and delay appropriate treatment for sick patients.



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Coronavirus Update Dashboard Resource

As the Coronavirus outbreak continues to grow, we realize a lot of questions arise particularly about the grocery industry and retail industry as the public tries to secure supplies for themselves and their families in preparation for social distancing, closures, and anything else that might arise. Due to the rapidly changing information we have developed a Coronavirus Update Dashboard resource for everyone who wants to have a go-to place for up-to-date information from each TRA member commenting and making statements on the outbreak. We have also included the social media feeds from our national partners NRF and NGA, and other resources like the CDC and The Hill to have a good overview on any statements that may affect the Texas retail industry as these events develop. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us. Be sure to check out the Coronavirus Update Dashboard periodically for direct information from each source.

Governor Abbot Waives Certain State Trucking Regulations

Governor Greg Abbott has announced that he is waiving certain regulations related to commercial trucking in the state of Texas. The suspensions will expedite commercial vehicle delivery of more supplies in each truckload as Texas works to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) across the state.

These waivers were requested by and will be coordinated through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and are part of the actions Governor Abbott is taking under the State of Disaster he declared yesterday.

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Coronavirus Updates

Coronavirus Update  

Last night the President addressed the nation and announced some new actions regarding the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19.  This included the announcement of new travel restrictions on travel from the European Union.  Below please find the latest COVID-19 update from the White House Office of Public Liaison. 

There are a few issues we wanted to make sure to clarify for Retailers members –

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FDA New Tobacco 21 Resource Page

"This is Our Watch” launched nationally in November 2017. A full toolkit of resources is available to retailers—including posters, stickers, age verification tools, and more—to help retailers better comply with federal tobacco regulations. Click here to check out the printable materials.

TRA Advocacy Summit Registration Open

TRA’s Advocacy Summit is a great opportunity to spend a weekend networking with Texas’s most retail-friendly Members of the Texas Legislature and Members of Congress. The event will be held at the Horseshoe Bay Resort in Marble Falls, TX  on March 6-8, 2020 and feature panels with guests from various Texas agencies and the Texas Legislature.

Registration includes access to all panels, speakers, and attendees, all receptions, meals/breaks, and networking opportunities. 

2019 TRA's Year in Review

Texas Retailers Association 2019 Year in Review Video!

The USMCA is finally done. Here’s what is in it

President Trump notched his first major win on trade Tuesday after Democrats signed off on a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico.

So what exactly does the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (a.k.a. USMCA) change?

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USDA Issues Final Regulation on ABAWD SNAP Recepients

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a final rule that would make it more difficult for states to gain waivers for work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) who are beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Current SNAP statute limits adults to three months of benefits within a three-year period unless the individuals work or participate in work training for 20+ hours per week. States have had the ability to apply for waivers that would shield able-bodied adults without dependents from the time limit included in these federal work requirements. States can currently receive waivers for work requirements if their unemployment rates are at least 20 percent higher than the national rate. The final rule will retain states’ statutory flexibility to waive the time limit in high unemployment areas but will impose stricter standards for the waivers.

  • USDA is amending its regulations to provide a stricter definition of an “area in which the individuals reside,” to redefine the criteria for an area to have “an unemployment rate of over 10 percent,” and to redefine what it means for an area to “not have a sufficient number of jobs to provide employment for the individuals.”
The final rule will take effect on April 1, 2020 and is purported to remove 750,000 individuals from the SNAP program.
The final rule applies to SNAP recipients ages 18-49 who do not work or have dependents. Excluded from the rule are children, parents with children under the age of 6, those over the age of 50, individuals with a disability, and pregnant women.

Click here to view the final rule. USDA’s fact sheet outlining the final rule is available here.
For Frequently Asked Questions and Reponses from USDA, please follow this link.

Paid Sick Leave Update

Earlier today, State District Judge Sakai in San Antonio, granted our motion for temporary injunction regarding San Antonio’s “Safe and Sick Leave” Ordinance (PSL ordinance). This is great news because the ordinance was set to go into effect on Dec. 1. The Texas Retailers Association (TRA) is pleased Judge Sakai sided with the rule of law in today’s ruling.  By enjoining substantially, the same ordinance declared unconstitutional by the 3rd Court of Appeals, the Court preserves the status quo for employers during this critical time of year. 

Employers of all sizes can now focus on serving their customers instead of shouldering the burden of an unconstitutional ordinance.  Represented by Attorney Roland F. Gonzales, TRA alleges the San Antonio ordinance, not only violates The Texas Minimum Wage Act, but violates provisions of the Texas Labor Code, FLMA, and ADA. 

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HHSC Retailer Stakeholders Meeting

Texas leads the nation in technology for both SNAP & WIC.  Every quarter the State agencies hold a call to update the group on the technology. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission met September, 24, 2019 to discuss updates regarding the WIC Program, EBT system and the effects of Tropical Storm Imelda and the Southeast Texas Floods.The meeting notes from the most recent call/meeting are available.  Please review the notes and if you have comments or questions regarding SNAP/WIC technology, shelf tags, compliance, call center, or products, let us know.  Also we will be publishing the time/date of the next call early 2020. Click here to review the minutes of this meeting.