Law in the Time of Corona
The World Health Organization recently declared Coronavirus a pandemic.
Businesses, governmental agencies, and other organizations are moving quickly to reduce the frequently with which people need to gather, to help slow the spread of the disease. Social distancing will save lives.
The Austin Community Law Center has joined this effort: we shifted all staff meetings and client meetings to telephone calls and video-conferences until further notice. All employees are currently working remotely. We are meeting this week to determine the best way to move forward with our clinics and Academy of Civic Engagement classes while practicing social distancing.
Advocacy groups urge local officials for a holistic COVID-19 response
On Friday, ACLC joined many advocates writing local officials to "stress the importance of providing effective solutions that help the most vulnerable populations, from people in prison, the elderly, and unsheltered people, to people with disabilities." Read the letter here.
Meanwhile, on March 13, the Supreme Court of Texas and Court of Criminal Appeals issued a joint "First Emergency Order Regarding Covid-19 State of Disaster" authorizing local courts to suspend all deadlines and procedures until 30 days after the Governor's state of disaster has been lifted, and in the mean time, expand opportunities for parties to participate in proceedings remotely. The Travis County Civil and Family Courts issued an emergency order, effective March 16, suspending in-person non-emergency hearings until April 13, 2020. In that time, they will only hear emergency orders such as family-violence protective orders, writs, etc. Each of Travis County's Justices of the Peace has announced all cases scheduled from March 13 to April 1 will be reset until after April 1, and no writs of possession (which force a person to move after an eviction) will be granted until 60 days after March 13. Similarly, all court appears in Austin's Municipal Court from March 13 to before April 1 will also be extended, and warrants will not be issued for failure to appear for 60 days.
Worried about lay offs?
Coronavirus is going to hurt the local economy and cost jobs. If you or a loved-one is affected, don't forget public resources that are available, such as:
Emergency financial assistance with rent and mortgage payments
For people in Travis County who are uninsured or don't have a doctor, and are experiencing coronavirus-like symptoms (e.g. fever, cough, shortness of breath), call CommUnityCare at 512-978-9015.
Local officials are taking steps to soften the economic blow
..including Austin Energy's decision to indefinitely suspend service disconnections. "Casar also said he is looking at ways the city can speed up construction projects to help create jobs for people who lose work due to economic downturn."