87th Third Called Special Session Legislative Report

The House and Senate adjourned the third special session Sine Die early Tuesday morning.  Six out of ten of the Governor’s priority items were passed, including bills which set new districts for the Texas House, Texas Senate, the State Board of Education and Congress.  Legislation related to putting restrictions on COVID-19 vaccine mandates, bail reform, and increasing criminal penalties for illegal voting did not pass.  The Governor’s Executive Orders banning vaccine mandates for local governments and businesses are still in effect.  

The Legislature was able to pass legislation which allocates $16.3 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). $7.2 billion will be used to refill the state’s unemployment compensation fund, $2 billion will go to the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to be used for nurse staffing shortages due to the pandemic and for the purchasing and infusing of therapeutic drugs to treat COVID-19.  The legislature also allocated $500 million for broadband infrastructure and $3.3 billion to improve capital construction projects at our institutes of higher education.  $180 million will also be used for grants for the tourism, travel and hospitality industry that were harmed by the pandemic.  

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Urgent Update WIC Temporary Cash Value Benefits Extended through Dec 31

Dear WIC Vendors,

The increase of cash value benefits (CVB) has been extended for WIC participants through December 31, 2021. This means participants can continue to purchase more fruits and vegetables at authorized Texas WIC vendors.

Texas WIC announced in a September 21 Vendor News Flash that the temporary increase would expire on September 30, 2021. However, in a late-breaking development last week, the federal government extended the temporary CVB as part of the Continuing Resolution that was signed on September 30.

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New Peer Grouping Methodology for Traditional WIC (TWIC) Vendors

Beginning January 2022, the Texas WIC Program will implement the new USDA-approved Peer Grouping Methodology. As discussed in previous Vendor Quarterly Webinars, the new Peer Grouping Methodology will consist of seven unique groups instead of the previous 18. Texas WIC will begin the preparation phase now to allow vendors time to adjust to the new changes over the next few months.

Texas WIC is required to implement Peer Grouping to control costs by grouping vendors based on price regions and sales volume bands.

 

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George Kelemen Says Goodbye as TRA President/CEO

George Kelemen, Texas Retailers Association President/CEO has accepted a job offer at a national association and will be leaving TRA at the end of September. He spent the last 6 years serving the retail industry in representation of Texas retail leaders during unprecedented times. The Texas Retailers Association is grateful for his service and wish him the best of luck in his future role in Washington, D.C.  

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Temporary Increase Ends: WIC Cash Value Benefits

Effective October 1, 2021, the temporary increase of cash value benefits (CVB) ends and Texas WIC participants will receive their standard allotment of up to $11 to purchase fruits and vegetables.

The temporary increase was part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. WIC participants received an increase of $35 monthly to purchase fruits and vegetables from June 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021, at authorized Texas WIC vendors.

All WIC policies relating to approved fruits and vegetables still apply and have not changed.

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SNAP Program Changes Coming Oct 1

Click here to see the Q/A on these new SNAP changes effective Oct. 1

City, Comptroller reach agreement on sales tax rule change injunction

The City of Round Rock and the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts reached an agreement Tuesday, Aug. 31, that prohibits the state from implementing a subsection of a new sales tax sourcing rule, pending a final hearing. 

The City filed a lawsuit in July seeking to overturn portions of the Comptroller’s Rule 3.334, which would source sales tax revenue from many online purchases to the buyer’s location instead of the seller’s place of business. This change to decades-old sourcing rules would have cost Round Rock millions of dollars a year in lost local sales tax revenue, most notably from online sales made by Round Rock-based Dell Technologies. 

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NGA Applauds Hours Of Service Waiver Extension For Grocery Truckers

The National Grocers Association applauded the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s extension of its Hours of Service emergency declaration, which was set to expire Aug. 31, but is now extended through Nov. 30.

FMSCA has provided hours-of-service flexibility for commercial drivers transporting certain categories of eligible items critical to the supply chain since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency announced the extension to the waiver based on input from independent grocers.

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Texas WIC New Approved Foods FY2022

Starting October 1, 2021, the Texas WIC Program will add new WIC approved foods to and remove some WIC approved foods from the Authorized Product List (APL).

Summary of Changes for FY22 (See chart below for more details.)

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Governor Abbott, HHSC Announce $1.4 Billion In Summer Pandemic Food Benefits For Texas Families

August 24, 2021 | Austin, Texas | Press Release

Governor Greg Abbott today announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a third round of federal Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) food benefits for families with children who have temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to COVID-19.

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Reminder: Texas WIC Vendor Payment Temporary Closure Starts Tomorrow

Reminder: WIC Vendor Payment System Temporarily Closing - Starts August 25

Dear WIC Vendor Community,

It is that time of year when Texas WIC will transition to a new fiscal year (FY) in late August. Health and Human Services (HHS) will temporarily suspend the payment of WIC claims to close its accounting records for FY2021.

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Grocery Industry Update - August

P-EBT SNAP benefits continue to be a hot topic for our grocers.  A total of over $3.8 billion has been loaded to Lone Star Cards.  About 73% has been spent in grocery stores but SNAP customers still have about $1 billion left on their Lone Star Card. 

In addition to the P-EBT benefits, the USDA Food & Nutrition Services has approved for the Texas SNAP to increase the normal SNAP benefit to the maximum for family size for Aug.  These additional benefits began loading on to Lone Star Cards Aug. 10 – Aug 13.

Lastly the State SNAP agency has requested Summer P-EBT benefits.  If approved, the funds would be loaded onto Lone Star Cards late September.

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Legislative Update - August 2021

The 2nd called Special Session of the Texas Legislature began on August 7th with a total of 17 topics identified by the Governor for consideration. This consisted of the 11 issues from the previous Special Session call and an addition 6 that are new. You can find a the Governor’s announcement and proclamation HERE. Most significant for TRA’s members, Governor Abbott added one of TRA’s priority issues (local employment practices) to the call. As you know, SB14 from the regular session failed to pass in the final days of session but now has another chance to finally become law.  Following the Governor’s announcement, the Texas Senate began immediately passing many of the bills designed to fulfill the Governor’s call, including SB14 (employment practices legislation from the regular session) . Meanwhile, in the Texas House of Representatives the quorum break being forged by many Democratic members over the election integrity legislation continues to prevent that chamber from being able to conduct business or pass any legislation. While in recent days the number of total member present has risen, a quorum has not been reached. For now, it seems that there is significant pressure from all sides of the issue but no clear path forward. We do know the legislature will have to also address redistricting at some point in the near future and it is still unclear how the current status of the legislative proceedings will impact that process. TRA continues to  monitor and participate in the quickly evolving events in the capitol and will keep you up to date on news as it happens. Please feel free to reach out to the TRA team if you have any questions or need additional details on any specific issue.  

Texas Governor Issues Executive Order on July 29, 2021

Governor Greg Abbott today issued an Executive Order (GA-38) combining several existing COVID-19 executive orders to promote statewide uniformity and certainty in the state's COVID-19 response. 

“Today’s executive order will provide clarity and uniformity in the Lone Star State’s continued fight against COVID-19,” said Governor Abbott. “The new Executive Order emphasizes that the path forward relies on personal responsibility rather than government mandates. Texans have mastered the safe practices that help to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19. They have the individual right and responsibility to decide for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their businesses, and engage in leisure activities. Vaccines, which remain in abundant supply, are the most effective defense against the virus, and they will always remain voluntary – never forced – in the State of Texas.”

Click here to view Executive Order.

Grocery Industry Update - July

SNAP benefits continue to dominate the news for supermarket operators.  P-EBT funds have been loaded onto Lone Star Cards and the total is over $3.5 Billion.  A little over 50% has been spent by customers and applications for P-EBT are being approved weekly by the State Agency.  In addition, the additional benefits up to max. family size were approved for July.  These additional funds could reach $96 million.  Of note, the regular SNAP benefits are slightly less than last year and the number of families receiving regular SNAP has decreased slightly.  This is due to the fact, this time last year, we were in the middle of the pandemic and more people were unemployed.

The State Agency has made application to USDA FNS applying for summer P-EBT.  This program would compensate families who have children on free or reduced lunch during the regular school year.  If approved, these funds would be loaded onto Lone Stare Cards at the end of September.

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New WIC Approved Foods for FY22

New WIC Approved Foods for FY22

Dear Texas WIC Vendor Community,

Starting October 1, 2021, the Texas WIC Program will add new WIC approved foods to and remove some WIC approved foods from the Authorized Product List (APL).

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Texas WIC Temporary Increase: WIC Cash Value Benefits

Dear Texas WIC Vendor Community,

As part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, WIC participants will receive an increase of cash value benefits (CVB). This means participants will be able to purchase more fruits and vegetables at authorized Texas WIC vendors. 

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Kroger trades $250,000 for naming rights to UNT's food pantry

Norah Shazad, a University of North Texas sophomore, is one of two student employees working at the newly renamed UNT Food Pantry.

She was present Thursday for the official announcement that Kroger would financially support the pantry for the next five years, which included money for both student workers’ pay.

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Last Day to Register for FMI DC Virtual Fly In (Food Retailers)

Food Council Members,

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TRA Statement on Governor Abbott's announcement today - Statewide COVID restrictions to end on March 10th

TRA Members:

This afternoon, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced an Executive Order that effective March 10, 2021, ALL businesses across Texas will be allowed to be open at 100% for occupancy, as well as Ending the statewide face covering/ mask mandate. Click here to see the Executive Order.

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