Council Report: COVID-19 committees on economy, small business impact

Courtesy of Fort Worth City Hall Facebook page

    At Tuesday’s work session, the Fort Worth City Council received an update on the work of certain ad hoc advisory committees the council appointed to address urgent issues associated with the COVID-19 public health emergency.
    These advisory committees, each co-chaired by two council members, are dealing with reopening the economy, small business and economic recovery, education and childcare, and community services.
    “All four of the city council’s COVID-19 advisory committees have been making good progress,” Assistant City Manager Fernando Costa said. “The Education and Childcare Advisory Committee has been facilitating much-needed coordination among city departments, the Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD), and major childcare providers. As an example of our progress, Tarrant County’s participation rate in subsidized childcare services for the families of essential workers has been the highest among all urban counties in Texas.  
    “The discussion at last week’s committee meeting focused heavily upon whether, when, and how various agencies will be able to provide summer programs. This week, the committee’s agenda will feature discussion about the impact of COVID-19 upon child abuse and neglect in our community.”
    Here is a summary of their most recent progress:

    Co-chaired by District 3 Councilman Brian Byrd and District 7 Councilman Dennis Shingleton.
    The committee has divided into several subcommittees organized around business/organization categories, including:
    *Places of worship.
    *Salons/massage parlors/etc.
    *Movie theaters.
    *Bars (establishments deriving 50 percent or more of their revenue from alcohol sales).
    *Mass gatherings.
    These subcommittees have worked to prepare reopening recommendations for their respective topics. The Code Compliance Department has compiled these documents, incorporated Governor Greg Abbott’s guidelines, and added its own edits to create an initial Guide to Re-Opening that will be distributed by the end of the week.

    Co-chaired by District 4 Councilman Cary Moon and District 9 Councilwoman Ann Zadeh.
    *Financial assistance: Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley joined a call to outline the current situation from the county’s perspective, particularly as it relates to the status of testing and modeling. The county is looking at some opportunities to partner with CVS and Walgreen’s for testing centers, and is also working with the North Texas Commission on safe options to reopen some businesses. A report is expected next week.
    “Obviously, our committee has been focused more on the immediate financial needs of small businesses, but we are beginning to shift the discussion to recovery efforts and what that may look like over the next few years,” Fort Worth Economic Development Director Robert Sturns said.
    The key takeaway, the committee reported, is ensuring that the county’s older population and those with pre-existing conditions should continue to shelter in place, regardless of any amended declarations. There were also several questions regarding statements from the state of Texas and what can be done locally about businesses reopening.
    *Communication: Visit Fort Worth has been working on a shop-local campaign called “Support the Fort,” which is live on social media. The committee is working on expanding this program over the next few weeks.
    It was recommended that they consider tapping into the Comptroller’s database of registered businesses to communicate more directly with them about the resources available. It was also suggested that they utilize NextDoor, as many residents are sharing information on that platform.
    *Employment/Recovery: The sub-committee to focus on entrepreneurial opportunity will hold its first meeting next week to begin discussions about the best way to support the ecosystem and which partners to engage. Cameron Cushman of the University of North Texas Health Science Center is leading this effort.