Heights - River Oaks - Montrose Edition - May 2020

HEIGHTS RIVEROAKS MONTROSE EDITION

VOLUME 2, ISSUE 2  MAY 6JUNE 2, 2020

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Citywide census eort looks to boost response throughoutMontrose

Artists get creative, pull together to endure economic downturn Stuck inside, Houston arts community reaches out

BY MATT DULIN

If only 1% of the Houston population is under- counted in this year’s census, the city stands to lose as much as $250 million in federal support over the next 10 years, according to estimates by local ocials. One area where an undercount could occur is in Montrose, where renters account for 66% of residents, compared to 45% of the city as a whole, according to census estimates. Moreover, 29% of residents have moved in the past ve CONTINUED ON 18

ViolinistMayuGreenhalgh performs fromartist Allan Rodewald’s rooftop patio at a drive-by art exhibit held in FirstWard. (Courtesy Amber Slaughter. Photo Illustration by Community Impact Newspaper sta)

EVERY DOLLAR COUNTS CENSUS PARTICIPATION FUNDS PROGRAMS The census plays a role in determining how much federal funding is allocated to a range of programs. In scal year 2015-16, over $59 billion in tax dollars was returned to Texas based in part on census gures, including:

Medicaid

$23.7 BILLION

He began experimenting with publicly available mask designs and tweaking them based on feedback frommedical professionals. Since March, he estimates he has 3D-printed over 1,000 masks, face shields and mask clips, which he gives to medical workers for free. Ideally, he said he would be able to get his masks, which are built to national standards, ocially endorsed by local hospital systems, but for now he is content with occasional donations. In the meantime, he said, he could also supply rst responders and even restaurant workers. For now, this is the only gig in town, so it has his full attention.

BY MATT DULIN

$7.24 BILLION Federal student loans and Pell grants $5.31 BILLION Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Medicare $4.65 BILLION Highway planning and construction $3.3 BILLION

Please join your friends and neighbors in support of Community Impact Newspaper ’s legacy of local, reliable reporting by making a contribution. Any amount matters. Together, we can continue to ensure our citizens stay informed and keep our local businesses thriving. Become a #CommunityPatron “Watching the news and then hearing from friends who are hospital workers and hearing their horror sto- ries ... for some of them it’s a matter of not if, but when they themselves will get infected. The bravery over there, I can’t imagine,” said Ridings, a photographer by trade whose contracts with DC Comics and Warner Bros. conventions dried up as social distancing took eect. “I had to do something.” In Tré Ridings’ art studio in the restored Jeerson Davis Hospital building in First Ward, a 3D-printing side hustle has become what he said feels like a moral obligation.

SOURCE: GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

CONTINUED ON 16

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of Greater Houston-area small-business owners surveyed projected their business would survive for six weeks or less without government assistance.

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HEIGHTS - RIVER OAKS - MONTROSE EDITION • MAY 2020

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THIS ISSUE

CONTENTS

HIGHLIGHTS FROMTHISMONTH

PUBLISHERS AND FOUNDERS John and Jennifer Garrett PUBLISHERHOUSTONMETRO Jason Culpepper ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Kristina Shackelford GENERAL MANAGER Nicole Ray, nray@communityimpact.com EDITORIAL EXECUTIVE EDITOR Joe Lanane MANAGING EDITOR Marie Leonard SENIOR EDITOR Matt Dulin CITY HALL REPORTER Emma Whalen COPY CHIEF Andy Comer COPY EDITORS Ben Dickerson, Kasey Salisbury CONTRIBUTINGWRITERS Shawn Arrajj, Danica Smithwick ADVERTISING SALES DIRECTOR Tess Coverman ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Keenan Porter DESIGN CREATIVE DIRECTOR Derek Sullivan ART PRODUCTIONMANAGER Tessa Hoee SENIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER Anya Gallant STAFF DESIGNER Stephanie Torres BUSINESS GROUP PUBLISHER Traci Rodriguez CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER Claire Love ABOUT US John and Jennifer Garrett began Community Impact Newspaper in 2005 in Pugerville, Texas. The company’s mission is to build communities of informed citizens and thriving businesses through the collaboration of a passionate team. CONTACT US

FROMNICOLE: As we continue to support medical workers, rst responders, educators and local ocials, let us keep looking for opportunities to shop and dine locally. I also want to thank our loyal readers and advertising partners who make this paper possible. Stay well and take care. Nicole Ray, GENERALMANAGER

IMPACTS

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FROMMATT: This print edition is just one slice in time amid an evolving crisis. As we put our pages together, our No. 1 goal is to make sure you feel more connected to your community. At a time of separation and distance, it is even more important to treasure our neighborhoods and to stay connected. Matt Dulin, SENIOR EDITOR

Now Open, Coming Soon &more TRANSPORTATIONUPDATES 9 Loop 610/I69 interchange work & 10 Business owners face uncertain future EDUCATION 13 Houston ISD’s new grading policy CITY& COUNTY 14 News fromHouston & Harris County INSIDE INFORMATION 15 Learn how to make a face mask I45 overhaul BUSINESS

THIS ISSUE BY THE NUMBERS

Stories about helping others 10

Local sources 26

Businesses coming soon 4

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HEIGHTS  RIVER OAKS  MONTROSE EDITION • MAY 2020

IMPACTS

Businesses that have recently opened or are coming soon, relocating or expanding

Find the latest restaurant and retail updates at communityimpact.com WHAT'S OPEN, WHAT'S NOT?

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in March. Clique had planned to open in April, but plans are on hold while dining restrictions remain in place. The Joint Chiropractic and Roosters had planned to open in May but are also delayed. Legacy Community Health is slated to open by the end of July. 9 Effective May 1, Amanda M. McMil- lian is the new president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Houston , based at 50 Waugh Drive, Houston. “I’m hum- bled and thrilled by the opportunity to help amplify the tremendous work that United Way and our partner agencies are doing every day,” McMillan said in a news release. She succeeds Anna M. Babin, who announced her resignation May 23, 2019, after serving 14 years as the organization’s CEO. McMillian most recently served as executive vice president and general counsel for Anadarko Petroleum Corp. As CEO, McMillian will guide United Way’s new strategic direction, “Second Century Vision.” Babin will remain with United Way as a senior adviser. 713-685-2300. www.unitedwayhouston.org 10 The University of St. Thomas , 3800 Montrose Blvd., Houston, announced April 29 that it would resume face-to- face classes in the fall, and it is also offer- ing free tuition to the first 100 students who enroll in its newest online associates degree programs. The programs offer degrees in cybersecurity, networking technology and electronic technology and are designed to get students into the workforce. Fall classes start Aug. 24. 713-522-7911. www.stthom.edu

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6 Artisan dumpling restaurant Pling , at 223 Westheimer Road, Houston, is near- ing completion of construction on its new building and is anticipating being able to open in late May or in June, depending on progress and coronavirus restrictions. The restaurant will offer a variety of dumplings, including deep-fried, panko- coated and Korean barbecue-inspired items. www.plingusa.com RELOCATIONS 7 The Heights-area Barnaby’s Cafe relocated to 181 Heights Blvd., Houston, in early April, from its former spot on White Oak Drive, which opened in 2014. The restaurant took the former location of Pi Pizza, which closed in February. The cafe is offering curbside pickup as well as delivery through most third-party apps. 832-767-0574. www.barnabyscafe.com IN THE NEWS 8 A new 7,800-square-foot shopping center at 120 Westheimer Road in the Montrose area was fully leased as of mid- April, according to a release from leasing firm Davis Commercial. Tenants include chef Chris Paul’s French restaurant, Clique; Domino’s; The Joint Chiropractic; a Legacy Community Health clinic; and Rooster’s Barbershop. Domino’s opened

menu, is expected to open May 18 at 601 Heights Blvd., Houston—the former site of Sam’s Fried Chicken & Donuts. The concept will build on Common Bond’s current to-go efforts at its Montrose, Heights and Texas Medical Center loca- tions, offering fresh-baked baked cookies and pastries along with breakfast, lunch and dinner selections. The new loca- tion will include indoor seating and an expanded patio in anticipation of relaxed COVID-19 restrictions. The on-the-go concept could become a larger extension 4 The Original Hot Dog Factory coming to 920 Studemont St., Ste. 300, could open by early summer. The Atlanta-based chain serves done-up hot dogs, hamburg- ers, sandwiches, salads, fries, onion rings and milkshakes. The original location is owned by former Atlanta football player Dennis McKinley, known for being engaged to Porsha Williams of TV’s “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” www.theoriginalhotdogfactory.com of the Common Bond brand. www.commonbondcafe.com 5 Crawfish Cafe’s new location at 1026 N. Shepherd Drive, Houston, is planning a possible late May opening, according to the restaurant’s social media posts. The restaurant is offering curbside and deliv- ery from its original location in the Alief area in the meantime. 281-575-1746. www.crawfishcafe.com

NOWOPEN 1 Texan Bank officially opened its new River Oaks branch at 3736 Westheimer Road, Houston, in February, with a grand opening event Feb. 13. The community bank, founded in Sugar Land and owned by Friendswood Capital Corp., has four other Greater Houston-area locations. The bank is offering mobile/web-based services as well as in-person services by appointment only. 281-276-1800. www.texanbank.com 2 The national gym chain Hotworx opened its Heights location at 506 Yale St., Ste. B, Houston, on Feb. 22. The gyms normally offer 30-minute isometric work- outs or 15-minute, high-intensity interval training with infrared heating. Amid the coronavirus outbreak, the gyms are offer- ing virtual personal training to members via a mobile app until they are allowed to reopen. 832-203-5483. www.hotworx.net COMING SOON 3 Common Bond On The Go , featuring drive-thru service and a grab-and-go GOV. GREG ABBOTT ON APRIL 27 ANNOUNCED BUSINESSES AND RESTAURANTS CAN REOPEN MAY 1 AT 25% CAPACITY. THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION WAS UP TO DATE AS OF PRESS TIME.

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

COMPILED BY MATT DULIN AND EMMA WHALEN

Pitching in

FUNDING THE NEED

“OUR FOCUS IS ON FOODACCESS AND FINANCIAL ASSISTANCETHE CRITICAL AND URGENT NEEDS WE’RE SEEING ACROSS THE AREA.” STEPHEN D. MAISLIN, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE GREATER HOUSTON COMMUNITY FOUNDATION

United Way and the Greater Houston Community Foundation had raised over $11.6 million toward the Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund as of April 27. On April 15, the fund began distributing $1.5 million to 30 front-line organizations that are meeting the biggest needs, including the Christian Community Service Center, based in the River Oaks area. As of April 22, the United Way of Greater Houston’s 211 help line had received more than 50,000 calls for assistance since March 1 related to the coronavirus. The fund was launched with an initial gift of $1 million from the Houston Endowment, which also pledged to match a dollar for every $4 donated, up

BUSINESSES, NONPROFITS AND RESIDENTS DOING THEIR PART

What are you doing to help others during this time? Share your story to hrmnews@communityimpact.com.

to an additional $1 million. www.unitedwayhouston.org

COURTESY BERG HOSPITALITY

With three weekends of drive-thru barbecue fundraisers, Berg Hospital- ity Group, owner B.B. Lemon, B&B Butchers & Restaurant and other concepts, distributed over $100,000 PAYING IT FORWARD

to its unemployed staff members and maintained their health coverage through May. Berg Hospitality also worked with A+C Foundation’s Project Frontline to donate 300 meals to Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in north Houston.

COURTESY MICHAEL ANTHONY/OUZO BAY

LOOKING OUT FOR PEERS AND FIRST RESPONDERS

Three Heights-area businesses supported Houston firefighters with donations of meals and supplies in April. Yellow Rose Distilling, 1224 N. Post Oak Road, Ste. 100, Houston, donated 495 gallons of hand sanitizer. The Taylor Street location of Southwell’s Hamburger Grill, 1909 Taylor St., Houston, donated free meals to the Houston Professional Firefighters Associa- tion. Heights Restaurant Dak & Bop, 1805 W. 18th St., Houston, donated lunches to Houston Fire Station No. 6 on Washington Avenue on April 12. GIVING FIREFIGHTERS AHAND Starting April 17, River Oaks District eateries Ouzo Bay and Loch Bar , 4444 Westheimer Road, distributed over 450 care packages for restaurant industry professionals and first responders in

one week. Each kit had products and produce from Urban Harvest as well as recipes from the restaurants, providing enough food for four people. 832-588-7230. www.ouzobay.com

PUTTING SCHOOL LABS TOWORK

RAISING UP RESTAURANTS

In April, combined donations to the Hous- ton Police Officers’ Union from Heights, River Oaks and Montrose-area businesses contributed to a total of nearly 900 meals and hundreds of items of personal protective gear such as gloves, masks and hand sanitizer. Participating businesses included Brasserie19, Brennan’s of Hous- ton, El Tiempo Cantina, The Houstonian Hotel, Houston Dental Oasis, Hubcap Grill, River Oaks Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram and Willie G’s Seafood. SUPPORTING HOUSTON POLICE

The nonprofit organization The Southern Smoke Foundation, founded by Mon- trose-based chef Chris Shepherd, dis- tributed over $1 million worth of grants to restaurant owners and workers as of April 23. The majority of grants went to applicants in Houston and Harris County; however, some went to those in Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles and Denver as well. Applications are offered in English, Span- ish and Vietnamese and are processed on a first-come, first-served basis. www.southernsmoke.org

Through the organization H-Force, teachers at several Houston ISD schools, including Lamar High School, began putting their 3D printing labs to work producing face shields for first respond- ers. Other collaborators in H-Force, led by Houston Community College, include San TX/RX Labs, and Alief ISD. Starting April 8, the HISD team has been produc- ing at least 100 shields per week. www.thehforce.org

TAKING TACOS TOHEROES

HELPING IN SMALL AND BIGWAYS

PARTNERING UP

Tacos A Go Go, which has locations in the Heights area at 2912 White Oak Drive as well as in Midtown, downtown and Cinco Ranch, donated hundreds of tacos to employees at the Buffalo Heights H-E-B on April 23. The restaurant, which is open for curbside pickup and delivery, also has an option to add $5 to any order for a matching donation to local first responders. 713-864-8226. www.tacosagogo.com

The Montrose-area restaurant Cuchara, 214 Fairview St., Ste. 1, Houston, launched a variety of community partnerships in March and April, from a social distancing tailgate event raising money for musicians to including pet adoption profiles from Houston Pet Set with meal orders. The restaurant also delivers meals to doctors and health care workers. 713-942-0000. www.cuchararestaurant.com

In mid-April, Montrose’s La Guadalupana Cafe and Bakery, 2109 Dunlavy St., began providing meals for 130 Memorial Her- mann medical workers per week through the nonprofit Feeding the Front Lines. 713-522-2301

COURTESY MICHELLE KELLY

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HEIGHTS - RIVER OAKS - MONTROSE EDITION • MAY 2020

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IT’S NOT OVER YET. Stay strong, Houston. It’s working.

Social distancing, frequent handwashing and avoiding exposure is slowing the spread of COVID-19. But we can’t let up now. Hang in there—for your family, for your neighbors and for our heroes on the front lines. No one wants to celebrate with hugs and high-fives more than we do. Until then, thanks for doing your part to keep us all safer. We’re all in this TOGETHER.

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

TRANSPORTATIONUPDATES

COMPILED BY MATT DULIN AND EMMA WHALEN

UPCOMING PROJECT

Loop610/I69 interchangework moves forward

PROJECT MILESTONES

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COMING SOON: 1 The old I-69 north to Loop 610 South ramp will be demolished in the coming weeks, making way for new work. 2 Sometime in May, the Loop 610 South exit to Fournace Place and the 3 Hidalgo Street/ Westheimer Road southbound entrance ramp onto Loop 610 South are expected to open. 4 Also in May, the Fournace Place ramp to Loop 610 South will close. 5 By late summer, the I-69 north frontage road from Loop 610 to Newcastle Drive is expected to be complete. 6 After that, major work will proceed on the Loop 610 South to I-69 north ramp as well as the Loop 610 North to I-69 South ramp, which will involve intermittent main lane closures of both freeways.

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With lanes cleared of almost all trac, work is progressing on the Loop 610/I-69 interchange project. “We are making great progress and taking every opportunity to acceler- ate work where we can,” said Danny Perez, spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation. “Our goal has always been to complete this project as quickly as possible while also minimizing impacts to the traveling public.” The project marked a milestone April 19 with the opening of the new I-69 northbound ramp to Loop 610 southbound, which has its own Fournace Place exit ramp, allowing trips from southwest Houston into Bellaire without having to get on the Loop itself, Perez said. The $259 million, yearslong project is showing more visible signs of prog- ress, with more to come this spring and summer. The focuses of the

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Commonwealth Street, Waugh Drive enhancements The Montrose Tax-Increment Rein- vestment Zone is working with Harris County Precinct 1 to expedite and fund up to seven sidewalk and bikeway projects in the coming years. The rst eligible project will be the Common- wealth Street and Waugh Drive corri- dor, one of several projects identied by the Montrose Walk and Bike Study, a TIRZ-funded initiative. Targeted improvements include overlaying deteriorated roadway surfaces, restrip- ing to provide a bike lane and wider continuous sidewalks with curb ramps. The project could begin by the end of 2020 and would take nine months to complete. The project expands to West Dallas Street to the north and West Alabama Street to the south. Timeline: late 2020-summer 2021 Cost: $1.7 million Funding sources: Montrose TIRZ, Harris County Precinct 1

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project are to expand the capacity of highway connector ramps in all direc- tions from one lane to two, improve

sight lines and distances, and reduce trac weaving that occurs at ramps. Final completion is slated for 2024.

Houston’s initial I45 requests includemore transit, smaller footprint

Houston ocials want to see a smaller footprint and more transit capability built into the proposed $7 billion overhaul of I-45 north of down- town, according to recommendations shared with the Houston-Galveston Area Council on April 24. Among the recommendations are to have two transit-only lanes between downtown and Greenspoint and a study of the eects of freight train operations throughout the city.

However, the recommendations are not nal, said Jennifer Ostlind, an associate director for the Houston Planning Department. When the Texas Department of Transportation receives a record of decision, possibly by the summer, it will signal that more detailed design work can begin. “It allows us to go deeper into the study into what we want to see from the project,” she said. In the coming weeks, Mayor

Sylvester Turner and representatives of Harris County and the Metropolitan Transportation System of Harris County will put together a recommen- dation to TxDOT, Ostlind said. The city’s direction so far has given some opponents to the project hope that public input is serving its purpose. “I think it was the rst time we felt heard on this project and not told,” said Susan Onstott Graham, the founder of advocacy group Stop I-45.

ALL INFORMATION ON THIS PAGE WAS UPDATED AS OF APRIL 24. NEWS OR QUESTIONS ABOUT THESE OR OTHER LOCAL TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS? EMAIL US AT HRMNEWSCOMMUNITYIMPACT.COM.

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HEIGHTS  RIVER OAKS  MONTROSE EDITION • MAY 2020

Business owners face uncertain future as Houston economy gradually re-opens BY EMMA WHALEN BUSINESS

Small-business lifeline

56%

In a national poll of small-business owners, 56% prefer direct cash payments to every American. SOURCE: U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

They’re asking, ‘Mayor, how are you going to keep us safe?’” he said. Draftingplans Abbott’s business strike force, tasked with forming statewide reopening plans, is made up of prominent business leaders including Houston’s own Jim “Mat- tress Mack” McIngvale. The strike force is chaired by Dr. John Hellerstedt, the state’s health commissioner. Hellerstedt and a team of three medical advisers are tasked with planning the state’s testing and contact tracing eorts. Abbott’s plan includes deployment of additional contact tracers and mobile testing sites throughout May. At two-week intervals, test data is reviewed to determine whether the next phase of openings may begin or if more restrictions need to be put in place, Abbott told reporters April 27. “It’s a fact: It’s hard to get rid of this virus because it is so contagious,” Abbott said at an April 27 press conference. “So we’re not just going to open up and hope for the best.” While awaiting recommendations from state and local levels, some business owners started taking increased testing into their own hands. Taser Badar,

The state’s order to allowmore retail and restau- rant operations to resume signaled a potential path to normalcy, but how soon Houstonians will feel safe to congregate in enclosed spaces remains unclear as local leaders push for increased testing capabilities. “We all know this isn’t going to go smoothly,” Houston’s Director of Emergency Medicine Dr. David Persse said April 20 about any eorts to reopen the economy. “We expect there to be some spikes, but what we don’t want to do is overwhelm the health care system.” As of April 30, all retailers and restaurants in Texas were permitted to open at 25% capacity. Those that require close contact or shared equipment such as barber shops, salons, gyms and bars were exempt from the rst two weeks of openings. City and county leaders appointed advisers in mid-April to draft phase-in plans for various sectors of the economy. However, Gov. Greg Abbott has said his directives supersede all local orders. Mayor Sylvester Turner said he hoped the gradual plan would prevent a surge of infections, but he had concerns workers were being put at too high of a risk. “They aren’t asking when we’re going to open up.

CEO of Houston-based private equity rm ZT Corpo- rate, said he bought a supply of test kits to provide for all 1,200 of his employees for free. “Before we can require everyone to return to work, we need to give everyone the right to be tested,” he said at a city press conference April 20. “I am challenging other CEOs to do the same.” Recouping losses To cover lost revenue, business owners have been able to apply to the Small Business Administration’s two key relief programs: the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and the Paycheck Protection Program. A second round of funding, $310 billion, became available for the PPP on April 27, after the original $349 billion programwas exhausted in less than two weeks. According to the SBA and the U.S. Treasury, the rst round of the program processed 14 years’ worth of typical loan applications in less than 14 days. “There are a lot of logistics. I didn’t expect for it to take this long when legislation was being talked about

Phasing back to normal

Requirementsprior to implementingPhase 1

PHASE 1 • Vulnerable populations should continue to shelter in place. • Social settings of more than 10 people should be avoided unless social distancing is practical. • Minimize non-essential travel and work from home if possible. • Workplaces should implement special accommodations to protect vulnerable populations that must work on site. • Schools, day cares and camps should remain closed. • Senior living facilities should be closed to visitors. • Larger venues—restaurants, movie theaters, sporting venues and places of worship—can begin to operate under strict physical distancing protocols. • Elective surgeries can resume in some facilities. • Gyms that implement strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols can reopen. • Bars should remain closed.

PHASE3 • Vulnerable populations can begin to have public interactions but should practice distancing and avoid social situations where that may not be practical. • Unrestricted stang at work sites may resume. • Visits to senior care facilities can resume. • Larger venues can operate under more limited distancing protocols. • Bars may begin to operate with increased occupancy levels.

PHASE2 • Social settings of more than 50 people should be avoided unless social distancing is practical. • Nonessential travel can resume, but working from home is still encouraged. • Schools, day cares and camps can reopen. • Larger venues can begin to operate under moderate physical distancing protocols. • Bars may begin to operate with reduced occupancy levels.

Testing/tracing: States must be able to provide screening and testing sites and implement contact- tracing strategies of positive COVID-19 cases. States must also have screening and tracing for asymptomatic cases. Hospital capacity: State must ensure its health care system has a supply of personal protective equipment and other critical equipment to handle surges, including ICU bed capacity. Planning: States must protect the health and safety of critical industries, those in high-risk facilities such as senior care centers, and must protect mass transit systems. States must be able to monitor conditions and immediately respond to changes in conditions should cases spike.

COMPILED BY MATT DULIN

The federal government’s phased reopening plan leaves broad discretion to governors and local governments to manage the gradual return to normalcy. The federal plan is based on states committing to implementing a series of required resources and following a checkpoint before implementing each new phase.

Conditions to begin each newphase With a 14-day period, the following conditions must be met before a new phase is triggered: Symptoms: A reduction of new inuenza-like illnesses (ILI) and a reduction in COVID-like cases reported Cases: A slowing of documented cases or a reduction in the percentage of positive tests out of total tests, assuming a at or increasing volume of tests Hospitals: All patients can be treated without crisis care and has a testing program for at-risk workers

SOURCE: WHITE HOUSE COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

PHOTOS COURTESY ADOBE STOCK

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

Uncertain outlook

A survey of Greater Houston area small businesses with fewer than 500 employees, conducted in early and mid-April found that almost a third have worsened their outlook in recent weeks. Among the survey’s ndings: Greater Houston area small businesses

Future outlook on small business:

in March,” said Sawan Patel, a managing partner of ve downtown and Heights-area hotels. He said large event cancellations kicked o a downturn in reve- nues for hotel operators and other industries boosted by such events. Other state and local relief eorts were also inun- dated with applications in April. Texas announced a $50 million relief fund for small businesses, and Harris County set up its own $10 million program April 6. Within a week, both programs received more applications than the funding could fulll. Other private sector eorts had similar fates. The Save Small Business Fund, set up by the U.S. Cham- ber of Commerce, provided grants of up to $5,000 to small businesses in ZIP codes that were considered economically distressed before the outbreak. Within days of opening the fund April 20, the program closed, citing an “overwhelming response.” Local interventions Sallie Alcorn and Letitia Plummer, at-large Houston City Council members who were vocal about the economic challenges the city was facing early on in the outbreak, said providing immediate monetary relief to businesses is nearly impossible under the

Also, when asked how long their business could survive based on projections and without government assistance, they said:

Don’t know

?

11.4%

53.6%

6 weeks or less

41% 47.1%

3-6 months

6+ months

7-8 weeks

24.6%

50.7%

19.3%

10%

8.6%

Shut down whole or partial operations

Operations severely eected

Hiring freeze

Revenue decline

SOURCE: GREATER HOUSTON PARTNERSHIPCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

city’s budget constraints. Despite that, Alcorn started looking to other cities to see which policies, such as grace periods for commercial rent, could be enacted by the council. Plummer pushed for the formation of a committee to study such policies, something Dallas City Council had done in March, but plans had not moved forward as of press time. She said she continues to reach out to business owners for insight.

“We’re focusing on a disease right now, and I get that. There are a lot of people jumping in to help,” Plummer said. “I want to focus on the fallout.” One option Turner has oated is nding a way to allocate federal disaster recovery money, typically reserved for structural damage, to business owners as a way to recoup losses sustained during the restric- tions. As of press time, a formal agreement with the federal government had not been reached.

COMPILED BY XXXXXXXX Hanging on Stories from

"Our destiny now is going to depend on what the local government vs.

“I’ve gone through the phases of grief with it. This was going to be such a great year for us.” Sarah Godwin, owner, The Pure Parenting Shop

state vs. feds do." Richard Saad, owner, Nick's Plumbing

businessowners COMPILED BYMATT DULIN AND EMMAWHALEN

EMMA WHALENCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

COURTESY NICK'S PLUMBING

COURTESY THE PURE PARENTING SHOP

DanceHouseFitness

Nick’sPlumbing

ThePureParentingShop Sarah Godwin is no stranger to calamity. She founded her store, specializing in natural parenting products, in Pennsylvania, but brought it to the Heights four years ago after her husband was laid o and sought out new opportunities here. Despite the business suering a re and two oods, the coronavirus outbreak was a gut-check moment for her. “It was one of those moments where I had to ask myself, do I really want to deal with this any more? This is exhausting,” she said. “I’ve gone through the phases of grief with it. This was going to be such a great year for us.” The newly renovated store, now with a classroom space for rent, has been oering delivery service throughout Houston and serves some far-ung customers throughout the region. She said she is also using her supply networks to get access to products that can be hard to nd because of shortages, from N95 masks to cleaning supplies. Some of her customers are doulas and midwives who need medical-grade materials. Despite the eorts, sales are down considerably. She is not paying herself, and her two employees have agreed to pay cuts rather than take unemployment. She has applied for the Paycheck Protection Program and will be among the many waiting for new funds to become available. “I’m looking at loss of income—but not loss of life; I can’t imagine that,” she said.

The Heights-area business has been around 40 years, growing from two service trucks to 18 and covering a wider area, and owner Richard Saad said the team that has been built over the years is too important to let go. “I’m going to go down with the ship if it goes down. There’s people I can’t replace,” he said. Business has been stable so far, but it is hard to predict what could come over the next few months as the economic fallout hits more of his customers, he said. “Virus or no virus, if they don’t open in the next month, there will be a lot of issues. Our destiny now is going to depend on what the local government vs. state vs. feds do,” he said. He has received conrmation from Comerica Bank that he will be able to receive Paycheck Protection Program funding, though it’s not clear when. He said he owes this feat to his banking relationships—and his bookkeeper. “There’s no way I could’ve done this without her; it’s impossible. You have to deduct this, add this. It’s a process. Even being a nance guy myself, I could not have gotten through it,” Saad said. Even so, he recommends every owner look at applying for the SBA loan programs. “It makes sense for everyone to do it because the rate is so low, so even if you’re healthy now ... you have to really look at it month to month,” he said.

Dance House Fitness co-owners Jenny Sanchez and Christian Bianchi have extra motivation to oer classes online. “We have always considered expanding to online classes and even streaming from in the studio, and we plan on carrying that into our normal business module now,” Sanchez said “But this was denitely a push for us to take that leap.” The studio, which started in Montrose and expanded to the Heights, now oers free three-day trials and a $40 subscription for unlimited classes. Some are oered live, led by the studio’s two full-time instructors, as well as on-demand. With most of DHF’s instructors working part time as a side gig, Sanchez said they have been able to hang on to their two full-time employees but the online oerings can only do so much. “We’re not anywhere near close to where our business is at normally,” she said. Sanchez and Bianchi applied for several small business loan and grant programs but have not yet received any funds. Sanchez said she hopes a second round of federal funding will make its way to their applications and keep them aoat until clients can come back. “Obviously everyone misses the in-studio interaction, but they are thankful that they can still take the online classes and feel inspired and empowered,” she said.

11

HEIGHTS  RIVER OAKS  MONTROSE EDITION • MAY 2020

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EDUCATION

News from Houston ISD

Houston ISD’s newgrading policy takes ‘compassionate’ approach

Houston ISD ocials have been distributing equipment to area families to help implement its new at-home learning program. HISD said it is seeking out more partners to help close the gap by providing additional equipment. Closing thedigital divide SOURCES: HOUSTON ISD, U.S. CENSUS COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER $13M estimated district 9% of all households in Houston ISD lack broadband internet access 7,500 estimated number of laptops needed by investment in laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots for students and sta as of April 27

“We distributed as many as we could, and I know that many families, even if they had internet before, now they’ve lost their job or their income, they’re cutting that. They can’t pay the bill,” she said. The district said it had reached about 91% of its students by April 9, meaning sta has established two-way communication with over 186,000 students, including 92% of the district’s 17,000 special education students, about 90% of its 63,000 English-language learners, and about 84% of its 6,300 homeless students. Once connected with HISD@ HOME—home-based ongoing mobile education, the district’s remote learn- ing initiative—student experiences can vary widely depending on the school and the teacher. “You have some teachers who are very tech savvy, and so they are taking things online and holding class almost as normal,” Brower said. “But it’s very dicult for others; they are struggling to put things online, and so they’re relying more on worksheets.” Some families, meanwhile, have formed support networks to share advice, such as the HISD@HOME Survival Group on Facebook. “Initially there seemed to be a lot of dierent instructions from schools, as well as individual teachers,” said Meg McDonald, who formed the group and cares for her nephew in Lamar High School. “That appears to have died down, as HISD determined best practices for consistency and fairness. These beginning days and weeks are a time of learning and adjustment for HISD, administrators, teachers, parents and students.” The district has also established a hotline, 713-556-4636, for questions about the at-home learning process.

BY MATT DULIN

approach right now is “to be as compassionate as we possibly can.” “We can’t accurately and fairly measure performance right now. Sure, if this keeps going into the fall, you can prepare for that and put some systems in place, but right now we can’t get a good gauge,” said Samuel Brower, a researcher and pro- fessor at the UH College of Education who helps lead teacher certication training. “We’re not having online education at the moment—it’s more like crisis teaching. It’s really dicult.” “WE’RE NOT HAVING ONLINE EDUCATIONAT THEMOMENTIT’SMORE LIKE CRISIS TEACHING. IT’S REALLYDIFFICULT.” SAMUEL BROWER, RESEARCHER AND PROFESSOR AT THE UH COLLEGE OF EDUCATION Another issue is the transition to online learning has the potential to expand the digital divide, Brower said. HISD has prioritized making contact with every student to assess needs and to ensure they are in communication with teachers. “This was about making sure our families and teachers were OK and getting technology into hands that needed it,” interim Chief Academic Ocer Yolanda Rodríguez said. Rodríguez said the district had also distributed thousands of Wi-Fi hot spots.

HOUSTON ISD With the transition to a home-based learning strategy, Houston ISD ocials have adopted a grading policy in which no student will be penalized for school work after March 12 but left decisions on specic class grading practices to the schools themselves. The grading policy distributed April 9 has three key provisions: No district grades taken after March 12 can negatively aect a student’s overall average for the course; if a student’s grade in the nal grading cycle negatively aects their overall nal grade in a course, that nal cycle grade will be omitted in the calculation of the nal grade for the course; and individual schools have discretion for class assignments and grading, but they have been asked to be understanding of the burdens and limitations that COVID-19 has placed on students and families. “This is a dicult time for our community. ... We do not want to add any undue pressure,” interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan told the board of trustees April 9. “We do as a district, though, have to provide opportunities for our students to learn through an online platform or through paper-based instruction ... and we must document those eorts.” While some parents questioned whether students would be moti- vated to do any work if there is no harm to their grades, one local education researcher said the best

students in HISD 9,000

hotspots distributed and 6,000 laptops distributed as of April 25

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HEIGHTS  RIVER OAKS  MONTROSE EDITION • MAY 2020

CITY& COUNTY

News from Houston & Harris County

CORONAVIRUS INVESTMENTS

Houston receives $404million in COVID-19 aid HOUSTON City Council formally accepted $404 million in federal funding for coronavirus prevention and relief efforts on April 29. The funding, allocated by the and hiring contact tracers to assist in mitigating community spread of the virus’s infections as statewide closures begin to ease. “We need more contact tracing, and BY EMMA WHALEN $404M CAN be used for: police, fire, municipal overtime testing and contact tracing quarantine sites and medical shelter

CITY HIGHLIGHTS APRIL 16 Greater Houston- area airports received $201 million in federal coronavirus relief funds, negating an earlier agreement that Hobby Airport and George Bush Intercontinental Airport could defer up to three months’ worth of payments to the Houston Airport System. APRIL 21 Houston launched a partnership with the Houston Food Bank to deliver food to people with disabilities. Requests can be filed at www.houstontx. gov/disabilities/emergency or by calling 832-394-0814. APRIL 22 Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued an order requiring residents to wear masks in public through May 26. Gov. Greg Abbott said the order could not be enforced with a fine. APRIL 22 Houston announced a pledge to become carbon neutral by 2050. Houston City Council and Harris County have approved millions of dollars’ worth of spending on coronavirus prevention and response measures. Most of the expenses are reimbursable with federal funding. Below are some of the most significant expenditures to date. HOUSTON $4million for personal protective equipment and face masks for first responders $360,000 for hotel room quarantine sites $64,000 for hand sanitizer HARRIS COUNTY $17million spent on an emergency medical shelter at NRG Stadium, out of $60 million authorized April 11 Sign up to receive these and other news items in our daily newsletter at communityimpact.com/ newsletter.

that is a very labor intensive effort. … That is going to be a major, major item,” Turner said. The funding cannot be used to fill the budgetary gap the city faces ahead of fiscal year 2020-21 that begins in June, which could range anywhere from $170 million to $300 million, according to current projections. While under stay-home orders in March, the city lost $23 million in sales tax revenue, according to April financial reports.

Coronavirus Economic Relief Plan, also known as the CARES Act, can be used only on expenses that were not previously budgeted, Mayor Sylvester Turner said. A rental assistance program for Houston residents struggling from wage losses due to the coronavirus pandemic is one of the first spending priorities, Turner said. The city also plans to use the funds for new coronavirus testing sites

CANNOT be used for:

recovering lost sales tax revenue

SOURCE: CITY OF HOUSTON/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

Unbudgeted expenses include leases on hotel rooms for quarantine sites and unanticipated police, fire and other municipal department overtime related to coronavirus efforts, Turner said. Federal judge denies release of up to 4,000 inmates

Houston becomes secondUS city to adopt anti-human trafficking requirement for hotels

BY EMMA WHALEN

The programwill cost the city $40,611 upfront and $12,750 annually to pay for a portion of the salary for an administration and regulatory affairs department employee tasked with enforcement. Under the ordinance, operators will be fined $100 for failing to train employees, failing to hang signage about trafficking and ways to report it, and failing to turn over training records to the city within 72 hours of a request. Second offenses would carry a $500 fine, and, in certain circum- stances, citations can be reissued daily, according to the ordinance. It also prohibits retaliation against employees who report tips. Justin Bragel, general counsel for the Texas Hospitality and Lodging Association, said it is in support of the ordinance and its ability to enforce the same standards across hotel and motel operators in Houston. “This will be broader and hopefully wider in terms of the hotels that will come into the scope of the ordinance,” Bragel said.

HOUSTON Hotel and motel oper- ators within the city of Houston are now required to train all employees how to spot and report signs of human trafficking. Houston City Council authorized the new ordinance April 15. After over four years of negotiations between hotel operator representa- tives, the city received their support, including the Small Independent Motel Owners Association and the local branch of the American Hospital- ity and Lodging Association. Although negotiating with these organizations slowed the process, the mayor’s special adviser for human trafficking, Minal Patel Davis, said it helped the city gain insight into operations and secure votes from City Council members. While some hotels already offer this training, by setting minimum stan- dards, including ensuring trainings are not skipped and creating fines for noncompliance, the ordinance allows the city to better track training throughout the city, Patel Davis said. “[The Houston Department of Administration and Regulatory Affairs] is saying this is a good train- ing, this is a good sign, this is a good number to call, and this is the right way to record this. That third-party check is extremely important,” Patel Davis said.

BY SHAWN ARRAJJ

HARRIS COUNTY As the number of positive coronavirus cases among both Harris County Jail inmates and employees continues to climb, U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal rejected a petition April 14 for the emergency release of up to 4,000 inmates. In her ruling, Rosenthal wrote it would be risky for a federal district court to “wade into policy and political disagreements among state and county elected officials.” She also argued the plaintiffs failed to prove the release would be in the public interest. The motion—filed by plaintiffs in Russell v. Harris County, a lawsuit regarding felony bail practices— asked for a 14-day emergency order from Rosenthal in light of the coronavirus that would require Harris County not to enforce pretrial detention orders for felony detain- ees who were being held because they could not afford bail. The decision came after a month of legal battles over the county’s authority to release inmates. As of April 15, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office reported 85 jail employees and 68 inmates had tested positive for the coronavirus.

MEETINGSWE COVER

Houston City Council Watch online at

houstontx.swagit.com/live Next meetings: May 8, 15, 22 and 29 at 9 a.m.

NUMBER TO KNOW

277,000 total advertisements for illegal commercial sex were identified in Houston between May 1, 2019, and Feb. 13, 2020.

Harris County Commissioners Court Watch online at harriscountytx.gov Next meetings: May 12 and 26 at 10 a.m.

14

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