Category Archives: COVID-19

First-time Texas voters: Here’s what to expect

Ahead of the Nov. 3 general election, which experts said may garner one of the highest voter turnout rates of any election in recent years, many Texans will likely be voting for the first time this fall.

While the actual voting method can vary based on the polling location and type of election, voters in Texas can expect the in-person voting process to follow the same basic steps.

According to VoteTexas.gov, upon arrival at the polling location, the voter will be asked to present one of the seven acceptable forms of photo identification unless the voter has a permanent exemption on the voter’s registration certificate.

Read more from Community Impact…

Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo canceled due to COVID-19

Originally set to take place Jan. 15-Feb. 6, the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo will not be held in 2021.

Members of FWSSR executive committee voted Oct. 6 to cancel next year’s show after consulting with infectious disease experts and public health professionals. According to an organizational release, the stock show and rodeo draws more than 1.2 million guests annually and would create a high risk for further community spread of COVID-19.

“This is a heartbreaking decision for our leadership and was not made lightly,” FWSSR President Brad Barnes said in the release.

Read more from Community Impact…

Neighborhood Medical Center to offer free drive-thru COVID-19 testing in Frisco

A new option for free drive-thru COVID-19 testing will be available over the next few Sundays in Frisco.

Neighborhood Medical Center is offering free testing for those with or without insurance. The insured will be required to present an insurance card. Those without insurance will need to provide a state identification to allow Neighborhood Medical Center to submit for federal reimbursement for the test.

Both rapid antigen testing and polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, testing will be offered from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 20, Sept. 27 and Oct. 4 at M.T.O. Shahmaghsoudi, School of Islamic Sufism, 8455 Stonebrook Parkway, Frisco.

Read more from Community Impact…

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott: Retail stores, restaurants, office buildings, gyms can reopen at 75% capacity as early as Sept. 21

“Data from the state’s 22 hospital regions will dictate the rate at which Texas reopens its retail stores, restaurants, office buildings and gyms, among other businesses,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said during a Sept. 17 press conference.

“[COVID-19] hasn’t suddenly disappeared in Texas,” Abbott said during the press conference, “but we are now armed with the personal safety standard and some medical advancements that can ensure we can continue to tame [COVID-19] until more treatments and vaccines become available.”

“Relying most heavily on hospitalization data will help distinguish the severity of the coronavirus pandemic between regions of Texas, since not all parts of the state are being impacted the same way by COVID-19,” Abbott said Sept. 17.

Read more from Community Impact…

Tarrant County extends COVID-19 mask mandate, disaster declaration until Nov. 30

By Ian Pribanic 

CoronavirusBall_red_CDChighrezTarrant County Commissioners Court voted unanimously Aug. 25 to extend the county’s disaster declaration and face mask mandate related to the COVID-19 pandemic until Nov. 30.

The county has seen a 10% decrease in hospitalizations related to COVID-19 since July, according to Vinny Taneja, director of Tarrant County Public Health. The downward trend indicates that the face mask mandate is working, Taneja said.

“We want people wearing masks,” Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said. “This is an inconvenience that can help us get past this.”

Read more from Community Impact…

Texas A&M Webinar Series takes some confusion out of legal matters after the CARES Act expires

By Stacey Doud

The Texas A&M School of Law hosted a webinar on July 16, which provided information and answers about legal options regarding landlord-tenant law, mortgage and housing law when the US government’s CARES Act expired on July 31, though its original expiration date was set for July 25.

This Webinar is part of a series of free presentations on topics that the CARES Act covers, but may or may not be useful after its expiration date. Other topics included in this series are: Business bankruptcy; employment issues; legal ethics; private equity concerns; Human Rights at the Border; and Changing Technology in Immigration Court during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For information on future Webinars and their topics, visit the Texas A&M School of Law’s website.

The presenters, who are all considered to be experts in their individual law specialties, addressed these concerns and answered some popular pre-submitted questions.

The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act was created as an economic stimulus bill, which was signed into law In March by President Trump. This law allocated $2.2 trillion in response to the financial and economic hardships that the COVID-19 pandemic caused in the US.

Part of the CARES Act temporarily suspended the process of foreclosures, which was called a foreclosure moratorium, for 60 days (from March 18 until May 18). This part of the CARES Act protected residents with federally backed mortgages from losing their homes to foreclosure. Some entities that qualified for federally backed mortgages were: Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; Federal Housing Administration (FHA); US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); Veterans Administration (VA); and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“As the moratorium expired on May 18, homeowners with federally-backed mortgages could request, from their lenders, a forbearance of 108 days, and then they could ask for an extension for up to 360 days,” explained Lisa Alexander, who is a Professor of Law at Texas A&M, as well as the Co-Director for the Program of Real Estate and Community Development Law.

“The eviction moratorium was another thing the CARES Act provided for renters. So, for 120 days, from March 27 to July 31, renters cannot not be evicted from their homes. So, that protection is basically going to end on July 31. There are local and state moratoria on eviction, but this was the federal moratorium, and it’s going to be ending in a few days. What’s true is that landlords of covered properties, without 30 days’ notice, may not evict tenants after the moratorium period expires,” Alexander said.

To qualify as a “covered property,” one of the following conditions must be met: Participation in a covered housing program as defined by the Violence Against Women Act; participation in the rural housing voucher program under section 542 of the Housing Act of 1949; the mortgage loan is federally backed; or the mortgage terms fall under a federally backed multifamily mortgage loan.

“In Dallas County, the eviction moratorium ended on May 18, but they extended it to June 15,” said Stuart Campbell, who represented Legal Aid of Northwest Texas. Unfortunately, they started allowing eviction hearings to start in June and they were heard up until the beginning of July. Though now, on a county level, there are no new hearings scheduled, and there won’t be until after August 5.

“That’s a lot of weird dates with a bunch of sliding scales. But basically, what’s going on is that the ones that were filed during the moratorium are going to be heard by the courts as usual cases. The new filings as of this month are going to be postponed until after August. So, if you’re in that window between June 15 and the beginning of July, unfortunately your eviction hearing is most likely to be heard.

“On a city level in Dallas, City Council passed their Emergency Eviction Ordinance, which only affects folks in the city limits of Dallas, but not the whole of Dallas County. It is for non-payment of rent evictions only and it requires that the landlord give a 21-day notice of proposed evictions, which gives the tenant some time to respond,” Campbell explained.

Even though the CARES Act expired on July 31, renters and mortgagees still have options to keep them away from eviction or foreclosure.

Dallas Area Attorney Takes the Stigma Out of Bankruptcy

By Stacey Doud, M.A.

With so many individuals, families and businesses feeling the crunch of the COVID pandemic, many are looking at bankruptcy as an option just to stay afloat in this economy. “Bankruptcy” has become a word that can cause shame and embarrassment in today’s society, but it can actually be a palpable, and even a favorable, option.

quote-thumbDallas resident and attorney Reed Allmand is Board-Certified in Consumer Bankruptcy and has been in this field for the last 20 years. This unique time in history has society confused, unemployed and, most likely, broke. Filing for bankruptcy is just one of several ways of dealing with overwhelming debt.

“We see people all over the Metroplex. We mainly work with individuals who are going to be filing for bankruptcy, but we also help small businesses as well,” Allmand said.

“For Chapter 11s, we are able to recognize when bankruptcy is appropriate and I have referral networks where I send those 11s because they’re a different animal, as far as a business model to service them. One big Chapter 11 can keep a law firm busy for months, said Allmand.

“About a year ago, we developed a portal on our website, so since [COVID] happened in March, we were able to have people just go to our website and log on through that portal, where we can videoconference with them, exchange documents securely and file bankruptcy schedules using electronic signatures. So, we’ve been able to file cases for people without them ever leaving their homes.

“Some other jurisdictions across the U.S. had the judges to sign this order, so I wrote a letter to our judges and said, ‘I met this lady with COVID who can’t leave her house. Her car is about to be repossessed, so we need her to ‘DocuSign’ her petition so we can get this going. A couple of days later, several other jurisdictions jumped on board, and so we were able to take care of this matter with no outside risk to the client,” Allmand explained.

According to Allmand, bankruptcy filings are slightly down overall, but bankruptcy consultations and bankruptcy questions are going up. “Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of an emergency, a lot of times people will do the bankruptcy to kind of clean up the aftermath. If they lost their job and they are on unemployment, those extra benefits kind of helped people to stay afloat. But all of that is coming to an end in July.

“July is going to be the perfect storm because you have the CARES Act Eviction Moratorium expiring on July 25 so they can give the 30-day notice. At the end of the month is when the extra $600 per month ends. Even the Dallas Moratorium has expired. You’d usually see 700 to 1,000 people in Dallas County up for eviction per week, but it’s been hardly anything these last couple of months. There’s a groundswell building up and when it’s released, it’s going to be big.

“Many people are already taking advantage of the Mortgage Forbearance Program. And then you have the CARES Act, which I think that around 75% of mortgages fall under. These programs are supposed to get with the borrower so they can set up a payment plan, which may or may not happen.

“From my experience, it just seems like people are shocked and ashamed. They don’t want to even talk about bankruptcy, so they do everything in their power to avoid it. They liquidate their retirement accounts. This is sad, because you have those funds there for your retirement, but if you had talked to me, I could file the bankruptcy case and the retirement accounts won’t be lost.

“The equity in your house is protected, so you go get a home equity loan and pay off credit cards. When they can’t pay back the loan, the bank takes their house. That’s what I am trying to get across to people,” Allmand warned.

“Most people call me when the repo man is looking for the car and it’s in foreclosure or they’re getting sued and somebody is garnishing their wages. However, in Texas, judgement creditors can’t garnish your wages. Only the IRS or the Attorney General can do that. But if we file a bankruptcy case, all of those entities have to stop all garnishment of wages. These actions acknowledge an individual’s power, and people need to get to get the information they need so they can make informed decisions.

“I’ve dealt with people in all kinds of situations. I’ve had a suicidal person come in. This gentleman was up for foreclosure and had gotten my letter in the mail. He came in and he was really quiet. I talked to him, going over what his options were and then put a plan together for him. He started crying and said, ‘I’m so glad I called you. I was sitting in my car thinking that I’m just going to kill myself.’

“What kind of pressure is that? It really brought home just how on the edge people are getting. Medical expenses are the number one reason for filing, along with job loss and divorce. And, while some folks don‘t have cable or WIFI, they usually have a phone. But that may go on and off, depending on where they are with their bill. I had a client named Michele a few years back. Her husband had just lost his job, along with their medical insurance. Her son had diabetes. His insulin alone cost over $2,000 per month. So yes, these folks are hitting hard times. It can happen to anyone.

“We know that basically, people want to pay these debts. They don’t like owing money. More people file bankruptcy in the wake of divorce or cancer or whatever, and it’s a call already included in risk-assessment. When it is the best choice, there’s no need to put off filing bankruptcy because there’s really no shame in it. It’s not like people are going to be put in debtor’s prison forever. It’s actually getting people back into society with a fresh start quicker.

“It’s true that filing bankruptcy will affect your credit score, but the score is based on other factors that, after filing, the score easily goes up. We subscribe to a service called Credit Experts, and we pull from them the current score, and it gives us the predicted score after one year, which is usually one year after filing, and we’ve found that if the client does all the things they need to do, the credit score is between 50-100 points higher than it was when they first filed. Bankruptcy does not ‘erase’ your credit report, but it takes all of the derogatories and negative things and replaces them with ‘Discharged in Bankruptcy on X day.’

“Typically, the way you get that score to skyrocket after bankruptcy is to get a secured [credit] card, maybe reaffirm on your vehicle and keep making the payments and your mortgage and things. It’s kind of like when you first started with no credit history.

“A lot of our clients file for bankruptcy [Chapter 7], and then turn around the next day and qualify to purchase a car. This is because they are often able to get a better car deal after they’ve turned in the old one and wiped out all of the debt because the car lender knows that [the individual] can’t file another Chapter 7 for another eight years and all their other debt is wiped out, and that car will never be discharged and that loan will never be discharged because they’re going to make you pay it off in five [years].

“When a client comes to the office, they are immediately put into our educational program called, ‘Seven Steps to 720 [credit score],’ which is a credit education course. In this, we are looking at any loans that are going to carry through the bankruptcy, and we give them our advice about whether or not to keep those loans. Then, they are set up on a budget to know how they are going to go forward. Most of the time, they’ve gotten familiar with living on a cash basis.

“Most people just want to know how much the payment is going to be per month. They’re not thinking about the interest they have to pay or if the car breaks down and things like that. Even if they’re being responsible, people just live up to their income. They’re not going over, and whatever debt they get, they can afford to pay. But if they lose a job, if COVID happens, if they get laid off, they have zero safety net.

“It’s very humbling when you do this job to see that it can happen to anybody. I put savings aside, but if lost my source of income for a year, I’m going to be in trouble, too.

“There’s a perception in society that the people who are in these situations brought it on themselves. I may tell someone what I do, and they say things like, ‘I hope I never have to come see you,’ and ‘How can they afford you if they’re so broke? They must be going on trips and using up their credit cards.’ But there are so many reasons not to be so judgmental. You see the pain in someone’s eyes and all the things that they have tried to avoid [bankruptcy], often putting it off way too long.

“A pro bono client, who was legally blind, was in my office filing for bankruptcy a few months back. She had three car repossessions. I asked her about that, and she said that her abusive ex-husband shot her point-blank in the head, which made her go blind. Then he signed for all of the cars in her name. Then they got repossessed. That’s an extreme case, but it goes to show you that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

“The hardest cases for me to take on are the elderly people that have a child or other family member/caregiver taking advantage of them. These people sometimes work two or three jobs just to make ends meet while the child or ‘caregiver’ is off spending all of the money.

“I do a lot of pro bono cases through the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (DVAP). I grew up in Abilene and went to Abilene Christian University, and I feel really blessed with what I do for a living. It feels like it’s my mission in life,” Allmand concluded.

If you or someone you know could benefit from Allmand’s advice and programs, call for a FREE consultation at (214) 884-4020 or visit AllmandLaw.com.

22008171_1849695918404640_323694961141738975_n

A Message from Grapevine Mayor William D. Tate

Dear Friends,

108950414_10164233766805268_8008274536047627185_nThese times are trying the souls of all humankind. We are dealing with an unknown enemy that is threatening our health, our economy, and our way of life. Our knowledge of ways to defeat this virus is limited. Short of a cure or a vaccine, which now is beyond our reach, we must come together. Many projections have been incorrect and the data has been inconsistent. People are not sure what to do and do not know what to believe. However, it is clear that we are all in this together and we need every citizen to join our army to defeat it. The medical community nor public officials cannot defeat it alone. You are the best weapon that we now have.

Efforts across Texas must be unified, so we depend on County and State orders to ensure all Texans are working together in combatting this disease. We have been ordered by the Governor and the Tarrant County Judge to practice social distancing, to wear a mask when out in public, to use good hygiene, and stay at home as much as possible. I realize people are tired of staying home and many do not want to wear a mask, especially in this Texas summer heat.

I have heard the arguments made by those against wearing a mask and I believe they all pale compared to the devastating consequences we will all suffer if we do not comply. Additionally, I have seen much of the scientific evidence, which has convinced me that masks do effectively reduce the community spread of COVID-19. The requirement to wear a mask is only temporary, so to comply does not give up any civil rights in my opinion.

It remains unknown which of us will get the disease and which of us will die from it. Therefore, we need to protect ourselves and those we love. If you feel invincible to the virus and feel you do not need to wear a mask, then I ask you to do so for the following reasons:

  • Do it for the elderly and those who have underlying health conditions whose lives are most at risk.
  • Do it for the medical personnel that have treated the sick until they are exhausted.
  • Do it for the teachers who soon will be at risk and have to work twice as hard to teach in the classroom and online.
  • Do it for the schoolchildren so they will have a chance to get back in the classroom this fall.
  • Do it for those who have lost their jobs and are unemployed, to give them a chance to get back to work and support their families.
  • Do it for the millions of Americans in danger of their homes being foreclosed on in the next few months.
  • Do it so you can look back when this period is behind us and feel proud that you did your part in defeating COVID-19.
  • Do it to set a good example.

If for no other reason, do it because it is the polite thing to do.

Not wearing a face-covering could result in civil penalties. However, even more harmful would be for our economy to be shut down again. We cannot afford this alternative, so I ask that everyone voluntarily comply.

I appreciate the majority of our citizens who have already joined the fight and are doing everything they can to conquer this virus. Please encourage others to do the same.

Be blessed and stay encouraged, Grapevine.

Mayor William D. Tate

Editor’s Corner – World Weary and Confused: The Crazy Times We Live In

Well, crap. Just when the “ordinary world” was emerging again, my county (Tarrant) has made it (basically) a law that people who go into any business must wear face masks.

Of course, it’s up to the store owners/managers to ask patrons to leave if they don’t have protection, but from what I have seen, most folks have been cognizant about the state order and have complied, whether it be a bandana or a cute Pikachu face mask. And I have also seen some pretty offensive masks. We can’t leave out the rebels! Fortunately, most of their messages are directed toward the virus, as in, “F*ck COVID.” But I have also seen political messages on some masks that make me sigh with exhaustion.

Where do these people get their energy to keep this constant stream of hate going? Whether it’s COVID or race relations, people have to be tired. I volunteer for the local NAACP and they are saying, “We are just tired.” So am I.

I call it, “world weary.” Even keeping my parameters (no voluntarily watched TV news) has lost its luster; it seems that I’ll hear about news one way or another, whether I want to or not. Yes, I am depressed.

I do have a couple of college degrees in psychology, but it’s rather hard to diagnose or help yourself. We are too close to our thoughts, feelings, biases, etc. to point out to ourselves what the heck is up. The best giveaway for me personally is isolating myself, not doing anything I used to like to do and sleeping a lot, as an escape. No, it’s NOT my first rodeo. I experienced suicidal depression after the birth of my daughter (postpartum depression). Obviously, I didn’t carry out my plan (or did I? I could be a ghost writer! Haha…total Dad joke).

With basically zero income right now, getting constant calls from, “I’m determined to get blood from you, Turnip,” and a depressed spouse, I’m not surprised I’ve gotten back into that black pit o’ depression.

Confusion also adds to these feelings. Who to believe? Expert X is saying one thing and Expert Y is saying another. I hate to disrespect our Federal Government, but….WHAAAAAT? One thing on Monday morning, the opposite on Monday night. I wish people would quit lying (or twisting the truth) to us. I feel like Austin Powers in that scene where he gets stuck in a golf cart, trying to turn around in a narrow hallway. Bump, bump, bump.

It IS in my control as to how long I stay down here in the pit.. Hopefully, I will start to feel more balanced soon, after walking the local track every day, eating healthier, blah, blah. I don’t feel like doing any of it. And I can’t help but wonder if there is more to the story that the general public is not privy to. I just read that 90-something percent of the COVID tests are giving false positives. But is that true? And if it IS true, what does that mean for the general population?

How are you feeling about this stage of the pandemic? What are your coping mechanisms?

Face Masks To Be Required in Tarrant County Businesses Beginning Friday

61M4dTyfhHL._AC_SX425_Face coverings will be required in all Tarrant County businesses, the county judge announced Thursday, mirroring measures taken across the state amid a “massive” spike in COVID-19 infections.

Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said the countywide executive order will go into effect at 6 p.m. Friday. The order will be in effect through 6 a.m. Aug. 3 and also applies to outdoor gatherings of 100 people or more.

Read the Executive Order in its entirety HERE.

Read more and see videos at NBCDFW…

[Editor’s Note: Yes, it’s basically a law for all citizens and store owners in Tarrant County to wear masks in public. Businesses have been encouraged to refuse service to patrons who are not wearing face protection.]