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COVID-19 Resources

 

Texas Rural Water Association is committed to supporting rural water utilities across the state during this time of uncertainty.  Water systems play a vital role in public health and Texas Rural Water Association is here to help systems put measures in place that ensure seaml­­ess operations during the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

 

 

 

PUC Order on Disconnections Expires
June 22, 2020

As previously reported, the PUC issued an order in March putting a stop to water utility disconnections for customers of investor-owned utilities, which TRWA advised its WSC, district, and city members to voluntarily follow as a best practice.  The PUC initially intended the order to coincide with the governor’s statewide disaster declaration, but the commissioners recently changed course by letting the order lapse last week.  This means that utilities may resume disconnections for nonpayment of water bills.  However, TRWA recommends that utilities implement a transition policy for resuming disconnections rather than an abrupt return to business as usual.  Here are some tips for reinstituting service disconnections for nonpayment:

  •  Give your customers advance notice of the date on which you will resume disconnecting service for nonpayment.  We recommend a date around July 15, though the specific date may vary depending on your system’s billing cycle.
  • Clearly communicate with your customers that they should contact you before your new disconnection date if they are unable to pay their bill, and let them know that you are willing to work out a payment plan with them. This can be done on a water bill, in a separate mailing, or as an announcement on your utility’s website or social media.
  • Continue to negotiate payment plans with each customer based on their ability to pay and their specific circumstances rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all payment plan.
  • If you have customers who have not paid their bills or established a payment plan while the PUC’s order was in effect, reach out to them personally to let them know that the PUC’s order has expired and you will begin reinstituting  disconnections on a specific date if they do not make arrangements for a payment plan.
  • Document attempts to reach out to nonpaying customers so you can support the disconnection should they file a complaint with the PUC.

    Once your disconnection date passes, you may fully resume your usual disconnection policy as specified in your tariff unless the PUC implements new restrictions in the future in response to COVID-19.  TRWA will notify its members immediately if that happens.


 

 

 

Coronavirus/COVID-19 discussion forum

Log in with your username and password to connect with each other, share ideas, protocols and response to the Coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak.

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  1. We ask that all participants remain respectful to other members at all times and that all posts should be professional and courteous. You have the right to disagree with your fellow community members and explain your perspective; however, you may not attack, insult or belittle fellow participants.
  2. Keep the discussion on topic. Messages posted in the wrong topic area will be removed by moderators and placed into a correct thread if necessary.
  3. No spam or advertisements. Any automated messages or promotions will be deleted by moderators.
  4. Don't post any sensitive information in the forum. If you would like to share personal information, do it with another user directly, not in the forum.
  5. Please remember that this is a resource and information sharing group created so our member systems can help and support each other during this trying time. If you have any questions, please reach out to a moderator.




 

All new resources will be posted here.
Please send new, relevant information to editor@trwa.org

 

This page was last updated on July 17, 2020. 

 

Legal Resources

 

Operational  Resources

 

Regulatory Resources

Mandatory Employee Rights Poster for Sick and Family Leave due to COVID-19: 

June 26, 2020:

As cases of COVID-19 continue to increase across Texas, all employers, including TRWA members, should be aware that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) passed by Congress earlier this year requires them to post notice of employees’ right to emergency paid sick leave.  This notice can be downloaded here, and should be placed in a conspicuous location at your office.  For most employers, this will be the same location where they post other required notices, such as those relating to minimum wage and other employment issues. 
 

Essential Worker Letters for Your Employees

Updated 4/3/20: Water utilities should be proactive in providing their essential employees with documentation of employment in the event they are stopped on their way to or from work by officials enforcing shelter-in-place orders.  The EPA has developed this template letter that systems can customize for each essential staff person.
 

 

COVID-19 and Water Utilities: FAQ


Updated: April 21, 2020
Funding for water systems, how best to conduct business, elections, and annual meetings during these uncertain times; relaxation of the Texas Open Meetings Act to allow for telephone/videoconference meetings.

 


Employee Rights: Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave

 

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. These provisions will apply from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020. 

 

Coronavirus Legal Update for Members


Governor Paves Way for Districts and Cities to Postpone Elections; Coronavirus Economic Relief Bill Heads to President Trump’s Desk for Signature

 

Employment Law and COVID-19
A helpful guide for employers striving to maintain a healthy workplace while conducting their vital business operations + an analysis of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.


New Federal Paid Leave Laws
Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, Emergency FMLA for School Closures or Lack of Paid Childcare, Tax Issues Relating to Both New Types of Paid Leave

 

FEMA Personal Protective Equipment Preservation Best Practices

Updated 4/12/20: This guidance summarizes best practices for national implementation to sustain personal protective equipment (PPE) while ensuring workers are protected during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic response. You can also visit FEMA's Coronavirus Rumor Control webpage to stay informed.

 

Mutual Aid Assistance

 

TRWA's partner the Texas Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (TXWARN) is compiling a pool of certified water and wastewater operators who might be available to provide emergency on-site assistance to other systems.

 

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that water utilities need a plan to ensure their continued operation during a crisis.  One way to do that is to partner with neighboring systems to assist each other if staffing or infrastructure are impacted by a major event.  This mutual aid agreement template addresses the issues that should be thought about before disaster strikes, such as types of assistance to be provided, who manages crisis response activities, and how employees are to be paid and utilized during the response.  The template can be amended as needed to fit your system’s specific needs.

 

Cyber Awareness: COVID-19 Exploited by Malicious Cyber Actors

 

This alert provides information on exploitation by cybercriminal and advanced persistent threat (APT) groups of the current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic. It includes a non-exhaustive list of indicators of compromise (IOCs) for detection as well as mitigation advice.


The Power of Partnership for Public Water Systems

During this uncertain time, it is especially important to consider the power of partnership to aid in your daily scope of work. Please consider what resources you could share with a neighboring system, and vice-versa (chemicals, operators, knowledge). Read our latest blog post to learn more!

 

NRWA Rural Water Issues Advisory

  • Senate Fails to Pass Initial Procedural Vote on $1.6 Trillion Economic Stimulus Legislation
  • State Rural Water Associations Coordinating Temporary Water Operator Resources for
    Communities Experiencing Personal Shortages and Coordinating Mutual Aid Agreements with
    Neighboring Communities
  • Federalism’s Limits Tested During the National Emergency
  • Americans Coping With the Coronavirus Are Clogging Sewage Systems
  • and more!


Coronavirus Readiness for Water Utilities


Water systems play a vital role in public health and Texas Rural Water Association is here to help systems put measures in place that ensure seaml­­ess operations during the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.


American Water Works Association Recommendations

Information on postponing water shutoffs

 

 

AWWA Webinar
Utility Actions to Sustain Operations During COVID-19

 

TCEQ Occupational Licensing Update

Expiration of Occupational Licenses
With the onset of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and the Governor’s Proclamation of a state of disaster in Texas, TCEQ is extending the expiration dates of all occupational licenses expiring in March, April, May, June and July of 2020 by 30 days. In addition, TCEQ is aware that occupational license holders may be having difficulty completing their continuing education requirements for renewal of their licenses. All license holders are encouraged to seek online training opportunities, when possible.
BPAT license holders whose licenses expire in March, April, May, June, or July of 2020 are still required to obtain 24 continuing education hours through online courses; however, the TCEQ is temporarily waiving the requirement that eight (8) of the CE hours must be hands-on, practical skills training in order to renew their license.

Exams
In the interest of safety, paper exams have been cancelled through July 2020. However, some CBT Centers are open or planning to reopen soon for limited testing under additional safety guidelines. Please contact your local CBT center to find out their operational status. TCEQ will continue to extend the validity of new applications until testing is more widely and consistently available. Approved applicants who have not taken their allotted four exam attempts will not be required to reapply and pay the application fee again.


If your approved application expired in March, April, May, June, or July and you have not attempted the exam four times with that application, once you have registered to take an exam at a CBT center, TCEQ will extend your application expiration date. You must contact TCEQ at licenses@tceq.texas.gov once you have scheduled your exam at an approved CBT center.
Be sure to include the following in your email: full name, customer number & the date you are schedule to test. We will update your application expiration date for up to six months to allow you to test. If you do not contact us after scheduling your exam, your expired application will cause the CBT system to prevent you from taking the exam at a CBT center.
The application expiration date extension, to be granted under this policy, would be equivalent to the period of time TCEQ paper exams were unavailable due to the pandemic.
This policy will remain in place until exams are more widely and consistently available.


For other questions or concerns, please email licenses@tceq.texas.gov.

 

USDA COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide

This resource matrix organizes funding opportunities identified in the CARES Act and other federal resources that can help support rural America. Opportunities are categorized by customer and assistance type.  

 

3/25/2020: USDA Implements Immediate Measures to Help Rural Residents, Businesses and Communities Affected by COVID-19

 

EPA Updates/Resources
The agency is taking these important considerations into account as we all continue our work to protect human health and the environment. Accordingly, EPA has issued a temporary policy regarding EPA enforcement of environmental legal obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic:

 

TCEQ Guidance for Public Water Systems

Information to assist public water systems to minimize impacts due to the COVID-19 outbreak.


EPA: Coronavirus and Drinking Water and Wastewater
EPA is providing this important information about COVID-19 as it relates to drinking water and wastewater to provide clarity to the public.

 

CDC: Water Transmission and COVID-19

Drinking Water, Recreational Water and Wastewater: What You Need to Know


 

 

   



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