HBA Updates on COVID-19
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The health and safety of our members, our employees and the public is of paramount importance to the Houston Bar Association. The HBA is following the lead of the State Bar of Texas to address concerns over a rapidly developing situation involving the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).
The HBA staff is currently working remotely to continue serving our members and the public. Our phone line, (713) 759-1133, will be answered from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. At this time, the HBA office at 1111 Bagby Street is not accepting in-person visitors. If you would like to contact a specific member of the HBA staff, see the email addresses at hba.org/staff.
If you cannot afford to hire an attorney for your civil legal matter and would like to apply for legal aid, call the Houston Volunteer Lawyers at (713) 228-0732 or visit makejusticehappen.org.
The HBA is monitoring local, state and federal agencies, as well as local, state and federal courts, and will post daily updates on the website and calendar as they develop.
CLE Seminars: The HBA/CLE Friday afternoon seminars are taking place as webinars. Visit the HBA/CLE Webpage for the virtual seminar schedule.
Section meetings: HBA sections are currently being held virtually. For updates on section events, see the HBA web calendar. Please contact Ashley Gagnon Steininger at email@example.com for more information.
Committee meetings: For the health and safety of our members and our staff, all committee meetings and events scheduled that cannot be conducted by teleconference or videoconference are canceled until further notice. Please contact the HBA office with any questions. We will update regarding rescheduling of cancelled events as information becomes available.
For committee meetings, we hope that committee chairs can provide a call-in number through their law office or firm. If that is not an option, a free teleconference number may be available. Please contact Bonnie Simmons at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Veterans Legal Initiative clinics: The Veterans Administration is currently not allowing in-person legal clinics. However, veterans can receive free legal advice and services virtually through Houston Volunteer Lawyers online clinics. For further information, visit makejusticehappen.org or contact Tara Shockley at email@example.com.
Different courts have different policies: while some courts are operating remotely, others may require in-person appointments or may have suspended certain activities. For details on a specific court, use the links below, or look up your court's contact information on the HBA's Directory of Courts.
December 22, 2020
EMERGENCY ORDER EXTENDS
EVICTION-DIVERSION PROGRAM DEADLINES
In an emergency order posted Tuesday, the Texas Supreme Court has extended deadlines for procedures for tenants and landlords under a statewide housing-assistance program intended to avoid evictions for tenants behind on rent.
The Texas Eviction Diversion Program, announced in October, is supported by Gov. Greg Abbott's commitment of federal money for landlords to provide an eviction alternative. Eligibility for rental assistance under the program will be administered by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.
The revised order, the 31st the Court has issued to answer issues prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, is effective immediately for certain “pilot” counties determined by the Office of Court Administration and, for all other counties designated as pilots in the program, the effective date will be set by the Office of Court Administration. For all other Texas counties the effective date will be announced later by the Office of Court Administration.
Under the order establishing the program an eviction proceeding may be abated by agreement for 60 days. Courts will provide tenants with information about the program and court records for participants will be confidential while eviction cases are delayed.
The order specifies that eviction pleadings must include notice to tenants that they may be eligible for as much as six months past-due rent paid if they and their landlords agree to participation in the program.
The continuing order also outlines procedures for reinstating evictions. Without such reinstatement, eviction cases will be subject to dismissal.
The order expires March 15 unless extended by the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
Texas Supreme Court Advisory: 26th Emergency Order, regarding jury trials (Sept. 18, 2020)
Federal Courts in Houston and Galveston are closed effective June 26 - July 10, 2020. Read the special order.
The Harris County District Courts have published the results of the COVID Response Judicial Task Force survey for attorneys. Click here to read.
- Texas Office of Court Administration - Closures throughout the state
- U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas
- Texas Supreme Court & Texas Courts of Appeals - June 29 Emergency Order
- Harris County District Courts
- Harris County Courts at Law
- Harris County Probate Courts
- Harris County Justice of the Peace Courts
- Houston Municipal Courts
- Houston Emergency Operations Center
- City of Houston
- Harris County
- Harris County Law Library
- Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo
- Harris County Attorney's Office
- Harris County District Attorney's Office
- Harris County Clerk's Office
- Harris County District Clerk's Office
- Harris County Public Defender's Office
- Texas Governor's Office
- Texas Workforce Commission
- IRS Economic Impact Payments Information - Warning About Scams
- Texas Governor Executive Orders
- Houston Federal Courthouse Guidelines
- Harris County Judge Announces Framework to Guide County Containment Efforts COVID-19 Amid Statewide Orders to Reopen Economy
- Governor suspends physical presence requirement for notaries in certain matters [State Bar of Texas]
- Office of Court Administration announces travel authorization for Texas attorneys and staff under stay-at-home orders [State Bar of Texas]
- U.S. Department of Labor Guides on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act
- Living Document of Resources for Immigrant Advocates in Greater Houston [Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative]
- Trump Signs 2nd COVID-19 Relief Bill Into Law [Law360]
- The New Employer Obligations Under the Slightly Revised Families First Coronavirus Act [Jackson Lewis]
- Coronavirus Crisis Response Group [Baker Botts L.L.P.]
- COVID-19 Updates [Bracewell LLP]
- COVID-19 Resource Center [Gray Reed & McGraw LLP]
- Coronavirus Resource Center [Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP]
- COVID-19 Resource Center [Locke Lord LLP]
- Coronavirus: Legal implications of a global pandemic [Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP]
- Monitoring the Legal Implications of COVID-19 [Vinson & Elkins LLP]
- City of Houston Emergency Operations Center: COVID-19 Vaccines
- May Employers Mandate COVID-19 Vaccinations?
- Supreme Court of Texas Emergency Order on Bar Exams, released July 3
- HLRS Legal Information Videos on Bankruptcy and Education
- Need help paying April or May rent? / ¿Necesita ayuda para pagar la renta de abril o mayo?
- Houston Volunteer Lawyers - DIY Guide to Handwritten "Holographic" Wills
- City of Houston Disaster Recovery
- Harris County Emergency Readiness
- Harris County Public Health Resources
- Texas State Law Library
- State Bar of Texas - texasbar.com/coronavirus
- Texas Law Help
- Texas Department of State Health Services
- Center for Disease Control - Information for Businesses
- EEOC Guidelines
- U.S. Small Business Administration
- World Health Organization
Wellness, Technology & Practice Management
- City of Houston Emergency Operations Center: COVID-19 Vaccines
- Association of Legal Administrators: How to Handle the Threat of Coronavirus in the Workplace
- 1st & 14th Courts of Appeals En Banc Order Extending Time to File Briefs
- Office of Court Administration announces travel authorization for Texas attorneys and staff under stay-at-home orders / OCA: Attorneys are ‘essential’ but should work remotely if possible [State Bar of Texas]
- Texas Lawyers Assistance Program
- Virus Poses Latest Test to Supporting Attorneys' Mental Health [Law360]
- Coronavirus Resources [LawSites]
- Beware of coronavirus scams [Carbonite]
- A Bar Leader's Resources for COVID-19 Response [National Conference of Bar Presidents]
- 15 Questions About Remote Work, Answered [Harvard Business Review]
- 4 ways to manage remote workers when you don’t know how long they’ll be working from home [Fast Company]
- #WFQ: Work From Quarantine [Medium]
- How Businesses Should Handle the Coronavirus Outbreak [Entrepreneur Asia Pacific]
- Big Law Goes Remote: Updates on Law Firm Closures During the Coronavirus Crisis [American Lawyer]
- The high demand for lawyers amid the coronavirus pandemic [ABA Journal]
- Coronavirus and Law Firm Event Marketing: Cancelled, Postponed or Just Different? [National Law Review]
Visit hba.org/wellness for original content on staying well in the legal profession.
Justice Requires Jurors. As the Harris County District Courts begin to resume jury trials, it is important for citizens appearing before our courts to understand the process during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit the District Courts' new jury service website, harriscountyjuryservice.com.
Legal Resources & Guides
Answers to common legal questions and resources to help you navigate legal issues related to COVID-19. Special thanks to Baker Botts L.L.P., Vinson & Elkins LLP, and our Family Law Section for developing these materials.
- Frequent Legal Questions During COVID-19 [Word]
- Family Law FAQs [PDF]
- LegalLine Resource & Referral Guide [Word]
COVID-19 Resource Guides
- Houston Family Law Handbook [PDF]
- Houston Elder Law Handbook [PDF]
- Houston Consumer Law Handbook [PDF]
- Harris County Law Library's Pro Se Litigant Handbook [PDF]
- Houston Volunteer Lawyers' Guide to Handwritten "Holographic" Wills [PDF]
C.A.R.E.S. Act Analysis
The CARES Act provides significant funding for governments, businesses, hospitals, schools, and social support programs, among many other things. Click here for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Guide and Checklist on emergency loans.
The following information is excerpted from the National Council of Nonprofits’ analysis of the CARES Act. These elements of the Act may be of particular interest to HBA members.
Paycheck Protection Program Loans (emergency SBA 7(a) loans): Creates an emergency loan program providing loans of up to $10 million for eligible nonprofits and small businesses, permitting them to cover costs of payroll, operations, and debt service, and provides that the loans will be forgiven in whole or in part under certain circumstances. Section 1102.
- General Eligibility: Available to entities that existed on February 15, 2020 and had paid employees or paid independent contractors.
- No Personal Guarantee: No personal guarantee or collateral will be required in securing a loan.
- Loan Amount: The lesser of $10 million or 2.5 times the average total monthly payroll (including benefits) costs from the one-year period prior to the date of application.
- Loan Use: Loan funds can be used to make payroll and associated costs, including health and retirement benefits, facilities costs, and debt service.
- Loan Forgiveness: Employers that maintain employment for the eight weeks after the origination of the loan, or rehire employees by June 30, would be eligible to have their loans forgiven, essentially turning the loan into a grant. Section 1106.
Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL): Creates emergency grants for eligible nonprofits and other applicants with 500 or fewer employees enabling them to receive checks for $10,000 within three days. Section 1110.
Employee Retention Payroll Tax Credit: Creates a refundable payroll tax credit of up to $5,000 for each employee on the payroll when certain conditions are met. The entity had to be an ongoing concern at the beginning of 2020, experienced a whole or partial shutdown, and had seen a drop in revenue of at least 50 percent in the first quarter compared to the first quarter of 2019. The availability of the credit would continue each quarter until the organization’s revenue exceeds 80 percent of the same quarter in 2019. For tax-exempt organizations, the entity’s whole operations must be taken into account when determining eligibility. Notably, employers receiving Paycheck Protection Program loans would not be eligible for these credits. Section 2301.
Delayed Payment of Payroll Taxes: Allows employers to delay payment of the employer portion payroll taxes in 2020; payable in equal halves at the end of 2021 and 2022. Section 2301.
- Breakdown of the CARES Act 2020 [Andrews Myers]
- The Coronavirus Small Business Loan Program: What You Need To Know [NPR]
- How small law firms in Texas can benefit from the $2T stimulus package [Texas Bar Blog]
- This webinar presented by Baker Botts includes information helpful to small businesses and law firms, in addition to nonprofits.
Questions or concerns about this page? Would you like to report an error or an update? Contact Carly Wood at firstname.lastname@example.org.