COVID-19 April 10 Updates: Travis County Bars Evictions, Voter Registration Down

Apr 10, 2020

We'll be updating this story throughout the day Friday with the latest local news on the coronavirus pandemic. If you'd like to go through a roundup of COVID-19 news from Thursday, read it here. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Update at 7:05 p.m. – Gov. Abbott says Travis County's trend line is "going in the right direction"

Gov. Greg Abbott said the daily trend line for the number of coronavirus cases in Travis County is “the type of line you want to see.”

During a briefing Friday at the Capitol, he highlighted the trends in the daily growth of coronavirus in the state’s largest counties. While trends are still concerning in counties like El Paso and Harris, the numbers are more encouraging in places like Bexar, Dallas and Travis. 

“It’s way too early to make pronouncements that Travis County is on the downslope, but since about April 2nd, it looks like their number of people testing positive is definitely going in the right direction,” Abbott said. 

Read more from Samuel King here.

Update at 6:17 p.m. –  Travis County prohibits landlords from issuing notices to vacate

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt issued an order Friday barring landlords from starting the eviction process until at least May 8.

While judges in the county stopped hearing cases last month, landlords in some parts of the county could continue starting the legal process, which begins when a landlord posts a "notice to vacate" on a tenant's door.

This was essentially already prohibited in Austin, when the City Council put in place a 60-day period between when a renter is late on rent and when a landlord can begin the eviction process.

Eckhardt's order also prohibits landlords from removing tenants' belongings or preventing them from gaining access to their property.

A violation is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 180 days in jail.

Update at 2:50 p.m. – Voter registration is down as Travis County residents stay home

There’s been a drop-off in voter registration in Travis County during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Travis County voter registrar’s office, the county added about 1,452 voters to its rolls in March – compared to almost 5,000 voters in February and 2,900 voters in January.

Bruce Elfant, the tax assessor and voter registrar for the county, said before a voter registration deadline there is typically a jump in registrations. Feb. 3 was the deadline to register for the March 3 primaries in Texas. 

Voter registration is “expected to pick up” shortly after in a presidential year, he said, especially during all the spring festivals.

But as the city began shutting down gatherings in March, registrations began to dwindle.

“As you can imagine, there is very little activity right now,” Elfant said.

He said his office is still mailing out registration forms to people who ask for them, but a lot of the visibility in the community is gone. Further complicating things, he said, is that there’s no online registration system to fall back on.

“This is made harder because we are one of 10 states that doesn’t allow people to register to vote online,” Elfant said.

– Ashley Lopez

Update at 10:56 a.m. — Austin ISD rolls out Wi-Fi-equipped buses

The Austin Independent School District says it has deployed 110 buses with Wi-Fi to neighborhoods and apartments where home internet access is least likely. 

Students who live near the bus locations (listed here) can access the free Wi-Fi on their school computers — not personal devices — weekdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., the district said.

AISD says students must be within 300 feet of the buses. The district says no one is allowed to board the buses and reminds students to stay 6 feet apart. If you need technical help, call 512-414-9187.

Read more about the program here.

Update at 7:33 a.m. — City of Austin, Travis County parks are now closed for the weekend

The City of Austin's greenbelts, trails and parks are now closed for the Easter weekend. They're scheduled to reopen at sunrise on Monday.

Most Austin-area city governments are closing parks this weekend to discourage gatherings and to try to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. That includes Williamson County, the City of Taylor, the City of Georgetown and Cedar Park. 

Bastrop County, as well as the cities of Bastop, Elgin and Smithville, have already closed their city parks.

Read more about the City of Austin's closure here.

Update at 4:30 a.m. — Cedar Park creates financial assistance program to aid small businesses 

The City of Cedar Park is creating a program to provide businesses in the city limits with financial assistance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The program will give a total of $200,000 to eligible businesses. City Council members approved the program's creation Thursday night. 

“During these past few weeks, we’ve seen many of these business owners rise to the occasion – not only helping one another stay afloat, but providing essential services to our community,” Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale said in a press release. “We couldn’t get through this without them. We are excited to be able to help these small businesses, for all that they have done for our community.”   

Qualifying businesses will receive a grant of up to $5,000 or a loan of up to $10,000 that can be repaid over a 24-month period with no interest, according to the city. The program, supported by sales tax funds the city uses for economic development, will be administered by the Cedar Park Chamber of Commerce.

Eligibility requirements can be found here.

Catch up on what happened yesterday

Austin City Council passes $15 million relief fund

Austin City Council members unanimously approved a $15 million relief fund Thursday to aid residents affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Council members are asking that half the $15 million be used to help nonprofits meet increased demand for current services they provide, such as help for survivors of domestic abuse, rental assistance and food access.

The remaining money will be available through nonprofits for one-time direct cash payments to residents, via either a debit or credit card.

Other local coronavirus news from Thursday:

  • Austin City leaders on Thursday approved a plan to expand the use of hotels for people who can't safely quarantine because of COVID-19.
  • Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape announced residents are required to wear fabric face coverings when out in public. 
  • More than 313,000 Texans filed for unemployment last week. That’s up by almost 38,000 people from the week before.
  • Researchers at UT Austin’s School of Pharmacy are creating 3D-printed customized face shields.
  • A federal court has again temporarily halted Texas’ ban on abortions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What's happening statewide? Check out special coverage from KERA for North Texas, Houston Public MediaTexas Public Radio in San Antonio and Marfa Public Radio.

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