Apr 13, 2020

Governor Greg Abbott Texas Coronavirus Briefing Transcript April 13

Greg Abbott Texas Briefing April 13
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsGovernor Greg Abbott Texas Coronavirus Briefing Transcript April 13

Governor Greg Abbott of Texas held a virtual meeting and press conference on coronavirus today, April 13. He described seeing “glimmers of hope” in regards to the virus and he announced the state $50 million in small business loans will be offered to Texans. Read the full transcript here.

 

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Gov. Greg Abbott: (05:39)
How you all doing good morning.

Janie Bererra: (05:39)
Great governor good morning.

John Waldron: (05:39)
Hey, governor how are you?

Gov. Greg Abbott: (06:43)
I am doing terrific. Great to see all of you. Let me move over so we can I guess show great seal of the great state of Texas. As I sit here today. What I need to ask is my staff are we good to go on this? So welcome everybody the way that we are doing meetings these days is way to see the way that not everybody in Texas and everybody across the entire space is able to adapt to the new strategies that are required as we work our way through dealing with the coronavirus. But I want to start out with some very important points to make and we have so many qualified people on this meeting here today that I want to make sure that the press and the public, I guess to hear about everything that you all are doing [inaudible 00:07:39] to the press in our room here.

Gov. Greg Abbott: (07:43)
So those on this video conference will understand out there on the other side [inaudible 00:07:50] out there. So I’m going to be in part talking to you all while at the same time talking to the press out here who are involved in [inaudible 00:07:58] this to the public across the entire state of Texas, as we’re talking. So let me explain first that today I’m so proud to be joined by people who are injecting new strings into the great Texas economy. They include John Waldron, the president [inaudible 00:08:18] officer for Goldman Sachs, Janie Barrera, the founding president and CEO of the LiftFund. They Include Brent Reaves, owner of Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que in Dallas. They include owners of [inaudible 00:08:36] in San Antonio. As well as Michelle Allen owners of iRun Texas specialty running stores in San Antonio.

Gov. Greg Abbott: (08:45)
I want you to know that they… As Texas begins the process of taking steps forward from the economic devastation that has been called COVID-19. In Texas I want you to know in foremost priorities slowing the spread of the coronavirus, protecting and saving lives. That said, we understand at the very same time. We cannot ignore the impact economically. The coronavirus has caused job losses, small business shutdown or otherwise limited operations. People suffering economically. Texans need relief so that they can provide for the families and meet their families daily needs. We must continue to do all possible to the health and safety of our fellow Texans. As well at the very same time working to restore the livelihoods of our fellow Texans. Now later this week I will outline both safe and healthy strategies where we can begin the process of going about reopening businesses in Texas and revitalizing our economy.

Gov. Greg Abbott: (10:14)
Today, however, we are announcing a vital step to provide much needed relief. Relief to Texan workers and relief to small businesses in Texas. As so many people know [inaudible 00:10:31] the heartbeat of our [inaudible 00:10:32]. They are leading job creators in our state, but they have been sidelined by COVID-19. There are ongoing existence has been threatened. What they need most at this time is an economic lifeline and infusion of capital as they prepare to return to business as usual in that context. I want you to know that we are so grateful that Goldman Sachs is providing that lifeline with $50 million in loans to small businesses and the SBAs paycheck protection program. 25 million of that is through a collaboration between Goldman Sachs and the LiftFund. Now for those who don’t know, Texas [inaudible 00:11:25] with the LiftFund to help small businesses rebuild after hurricane. Now we are collaborating with them once again to helps small businesses rebuild from COVID-19.

Gov. Greg Abbott: (11:38)
I want to thank John Waldron and Goldman Sachs. For the role you all play to provide capital that our businesses [inaudible 00:11:47]. I want to thank Janie Barrera and the LiftFund for [inaudible 00:11:51] our small business community [inaudible 00:11:56] assisting them with their capital needs. We all agree that we want Texans on payroll not laid off and these PPP loans will ensure that rather than having employees fired those employees in Texas will remain. Now it’s my pleasure to introduce one of our participants here and that is Brent Reaves. Brent owns and operates Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que. Family business started by his father, Smokey John Reaves. Proud graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small businesses in Dallas. Brent, the floor is yours.

Brent Reaves: (12:43)
[inaudible 00:12:43] My name is Brent Reaves, co-owner of Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que in Dallas, Texas. My late father, John Reeves, better known as Smokey John, opened our restaurant in 1976. I grew up in the business and now probably run it alongside with my brother and wife. We work day in and day out to keep my father’s legacy alive and bring quality food and quality service to our customers. It goes without saying that the last few weeks have been a surreal time for business owners. I’m trying to pivot, be agile, and find new ways to bring our [inaudible 00:13:23] . Over the years, I’ve witnessed and benefited from Goldman Sachs investment in small businesses. In 2011, they brought the 10,000 small businesses program to Texas, first in Houston [inaudible 00:13:36] by way of Dallas County community college district [inaudible 00:13:40] in 2014. As a program graduate. I can tell you firsthand that 10K SB changed how I run Smokey John’s. When small businesses in Texas needed training to grow [inaudible 00:13:55] in this time of uncertain, they’re stepping up again to provide capital in this hour of great need and I know this commitment comes from the top. With that I want to thank John Waldron president, chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs. John.

John Waldron: (14:19)
Thank you so much Brent for the introduction. Good morning to you all. It is my privilege to be speaking with you today. I want to thank the governor for organizing this event. I know what the great state of Texas means to Goldman Sachs and to this country. So I readily accepted when my friend governor Abbott invited me to say a few words today. I want to start by applauding governor Abbott for his leadership and ambitious economic development strategy and the LiftFund, a leading community development financial institution that we are pleased to work with on this program for its tireless work and supporting small businesses across Texas. The intersection of the public and private sector as is always important. That coordination is even more critical now as we deal with this COVID-19 crisis. Thanks to your collective leadership. Texas is well positioned to develop a partnership such as this and help support small businesses in the state.

John Waldron: (15:14)
Goldman Sachs has long recognized that small businesses are the catalyst of economic growth and job creation across our country. These businesses employ nearly half the American workforce. Their health is critical to the health of our economy. That is why we launched our 10,000 small business program in 2009. 10,000 small businesses is a nationwide program to help entrepreneurs create jobs and economic opportunity by providing access to education, capital, and business support services. The program has always been guided by a single mission to give entrepreneurs the tools that they need to succeed. We brought the program to Texas in 2011 and are thrilled at over 1, 200 Texans have graduated to date and we look forward to seeing that number continue to grow in the years to come.

John Waldron: (16:08)
Through our near decade work with entrepreneurs here we have seen firsthand the determination and the resilience of small business owners across Texas. These businesses are the foundation of the Texan economy and the bedrock of your communities, but in a crisis of this magnitude, this foundation is clearly at risk. That is why today we’ve announced a commitment of $50 million for loans to small businesses across Texas to continue our long standing support of this vital engine of Texan economic growth and employment. This is an important component of a $550 million national commitment that Goldman Sachs recently announced to aid small businesses and communities suffering through the coronavirus crisis. Package includes $500 million in emergency, small business loans, and $25 million in grants to CDFIs like the LiftFund and other missions…

John Waldron: (17:03)
$10 in grants to CDFIs like the lift fund and other mission-driven lenders around the country as well as a $25 million grant to support those communities most effected by the virus including frontline workers. In Texas these emergency loans will be made available by lift fund and other CDFIs through the paycheck protection program under the Cares Act. They will provide urgent cashflow assistance and are designed to be partially or wholly forgiven if necessary criteria are met. We know that business owners like Brent as well as Patricia, Michelle and Mitch, whom we will hear from in a moment, are in need of capital. We also know that the lift fund and other CDFIs around the United States have the expertise and the reach that is needed to deploy this capital efficiently and effectively.

John Waldron: (17:52)
Texas is focused on its neighborhood businesses and wants to ensure that they receive the capital they need from the big cities all the way through to the rural areas. I am heartened by the stories I am hearing about what small businesses in Texas are doing to keep their people employed and to help their communities during this pandemic. It is my hope that this capital commitment from Goldman Sachs will help them in this critical effort. On behalf of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small business community I want to thank Governor Abbott and Janie Brear of the lift fund. Thank you both for your leadership and for inviting Goldman Sachs to join you today.

Janie Bererra: (18:32)
Thank you, John. Thank you, Governor. Thank you for wanting to help the small businesses here in our state of Texas. As you know, they’re hardworking men and women who make our world a better place and lift fund is a not for profit organization. We are a community development financial institution and so what that means is that we’re not a bank. We do rely on investments and donations to be able to do the work that we’ve been doing here in the state of Texas for over 26 years and so I’m happy to report that we will be going live today with the support of Goldman Sachs and the state of Texas with our application for the PPP program. We hope that this program will keep businesses alive in the state of Texas. Our website is www.liftfund.com.

Janie Bererra: (19:29)
And behind me, I’d like to introduce a couple of our customers, borrowers that lift fund will be helping in this PPP program. They include on my left is Michelle and Mitch Allen and they’re the owners of I Run Texas and on my right is Patricia and Clinton Butler. They are the owners of Coffee Fionado Community Roasters and they’re going to be able to share with us what plan to do with [inaudible 00:20:01] from the PPP program. So Michelle, would you please come up here, share with John and the governor the use of the funds?

Michelle Allen: (20:09)
Thank you. My name is Michelle Allen. My husband Mitch and I own I Run Texas, a run specialty store in San Antonio with three locations and ever since all this happened, our biggest concern has been how we’ll be able to keep and pay our employees. It’s been very heavy on our heart and knowing that any decision we make directly impacts how the provides for themselves and their families. Being approved for this loan is huge and it’ll make all the difference in the world to us, our staff and our business and keep us hopefully in business.

Janie Bererra: (20:44)
Thank you, Michelle. And Patricia, would you share with us the plans that you and Clinton have for your coffee company?

Patricia Butler: (20:54)
My name is Patricia Butler and my husband Clinton Butler and I own Coffee Fionado Community Roasters. We are a coffee shop and roasting facility where we teach people how to roast your own coffee beans and we are a 90% female operated company. Most of the women that work at our shop are the breadwinners of their homes and this loan is going to allow us to lit up, provide the sustenance for these women. They’re going to be able to support their families, to support their children while the pandemic is going and hopefully it’ll give us a lifeline that is going to allow us to reopen when this is all back to normal. Hopefully to reopen and keep our staff and be able to go on with our lives hopefully as best as we can.

Janie Bererra: (21:44)
Thank you, Patricia. So John, thank you. Thank you, Goldman Sachs for all that you’ve done for us and Governor Abbott, thank you so much for the support that you have given our small businesses here in Texas, and we continue to work together in this great state of ours. Thank you so much, Governor.

Gov. Greg Abbott: (22:08)
Well, listen, I want to thank everybody on this call right now because of the role that you all are playing in the great state of Texas. One thing we all know before the virus ever happened is that Texas ranked number one in the United States for the most new jobs created for the best [inaudible 00:22:27]. The reason for that is because of our entrepreneurs, because of our small businesses, because of our banking facilities and because of organizations like the lift fund. What I know is that we are going through a tremendous challenge right now, but I’ll also know that Texans all respond to challenges like this and ways in which we turn out even better after going [inaudible 00:05:47]. I can tell by the people who are operating these small businesses. Janie, I can tell by what you’ve done and John, listen, we couldn’t do this without you and the capital you’re providing.

Gov. Greg Abbott: (22:56)
So is a quintessential team where everybody is coming together to respond. But most importantly, doing everything we can during these very challenging times to first make sure we continue to protect the health and safety of all Texans, but second, make sure we’re doing all we can to keep our employees employed, a paycheck. Make sure that our small businesses will be up and running as Texas once again takes the lead in the United States of America as being the best state in the country. Thank you all.

John Waldron: (23:34)
Thank you very much.

Gov. Greg Abbott: (23:34)
Are we doing it here? Okay, got it. So obviously you all heard all of that and that is part of what is happening today is getting small businesses up and running by giving them access to capital that they need to maintain their payrolls. We want to make sure that these small businesses are not going to have to shut down and more importantly they’re not going to have to eliminate payrolls for the employees simply because business is required to either be closed or drastically limited as a result of our efforts to prevent the spread of the Corona virus in the state of Texas. What does capital will do will provide these companies the resources they need to keep employees on the payroll for the remaining few weeks or so until businesses can begin that process of opening back up. And so I’m very proud of Goldman Sachs, of the lift fund, of all of these entrepreneurs that we had on this call right here to make sure that they continue to stimulate the Texas economy.

Gov. Greg Abbott: (24:58)
That said, I cannot emphasize enough, our primary goal in the state of Texas right now is to ensure we’re doing everything we can to reduce the spread of the Corona virus, contain it, make sure that the state is a safe place for all Texans. And along those lines I have some good news. I will call it glimmers of hope with a whole bunch of red flags attached to those glimmers of hope. The glimmers come from what the numbers are beginning to show. The numbers are these and that is as of earlier today, there have now been more than 133,000 Texans who have been tested for Covid 19. Of that number 13,827 tested positive. Currently there are 1,106 Texans who are hospitalized because of Covid 19.

Gov. Greg Abbott: (25:59)
There are now a high watermark number of 286 Texans who have lost their lives because of Covid 19. Very importantly, there are 2,269 Texans who had tested positive for Covid 19 but who are now categorized as recovered. Those are the numbers. Let me present to you the context. The context is this and that is first if you look at the numbers provided across the entire country, meaning the numbers for the entire United States of America, their numbers show that what came out late yesterday was the lowest number of people who tested positive in America in a week showing that the curve in the United States of America truly is beginning to flatten. Similarly in Texas, the number of people have tested positive as of the close of business yesterday was the lowest in an entire week and the second lowest since late March.

Gov. Greg Abbott: (27:05)
Now those are good numbers, but let me get into the red flags. One thing that I have seen is it seems as though every Sunday is the lowest day in the week for the number of people who test positive. I don’t know if it’s because testing occurs less on a Sunday or if the reports come in less on a Sunday, but so Sunday yesterday was lower and the number of people testing positive. However, it still says a good trend in that it was the second lowest number of people who tested positive since late March. If those trends continue, it truly will mean that Texas is moving in the right direction of flattening the curve and lowering the number of people who will be testing positive. I highly caution you, however, it’s too early to decisively make that call. Similarly, with regard to hospitalizations, the number I mentioned about 1,176 people being hospitalized because of Covid 19, that also is the lowest number of people hospitalized in a week, so it shows that our hospitalizations are declining.

Gov. Greg Abbott: (28:21)
The same is true with regard to deaths. Even though tragically we lost more Texas because of Covid 19 the good news coming from that would be this and that is the number of deaths reported yesterday was a three day low in Texas in the number of deaths. Similarly, if you look at the growth trend line of cumulative cases that have been reported in the state of Texas, over the past three days, that cumulative case trend line has a decrease in what’s called the percentage rate of increase. As of Friday, the percentage rate of increase was 12%. Over the weekend, it was 11%. As of this morning, that trend line is showing a 10% in the growth of cumulative cases. Those are exactly the kinds of numbers that we need to see if we’re going to show that we are bending the curve of Covid 19 in the state of Texas.

Gov. Greg Abbott: (29:20)
And once again, I’m very, very proud of the fact that as it concerns recoveries, Texas ranks second highest in the United States in the number of recoveries reported. We continue to see very good news with regard to our ability to provide even more PPE to facilities across the entire state of Texas. This past week, more than 4,459,000 masks had been shipped. Almost 175,000 face shields had been shipped. More than 2,575,000 gloves have been shipped and more than 11,000 gowns have been shipped. So those are numbers showing that our ability to deliver PPE continues to increase. And again, considering what we believe is our incoming supply chain, those numbers should continue to improve going forward. Another issue that is asked about by so many Texans, so many Texans have lost jobs because of the impact of the Corona virus. Because of those who’ve lost jobs, there has been a record number of Texans who have applied for unemployment benefits.

Gov. Greg Abbott: (30:39)
The good news is with the additional hours working seven days a week, the workforce commission has processed even more claims. My recollection when I last spoke to the public about this on Friday was about a number less than 400,000 claims have been processed. As of today, there are now 1,130,000 claims that have been paid. The total amount paid out now amounts to well over $400 million. I know that there’s still Texans who have not yet received their unemployment benefits, but with the increased amount of resources that the workforce commission is providing to this process and with the results that we are seeing, we are expecting a heightened ability to very quickly be able to process the remaining unemployment claims and get Texans the unemployment benefits they deserve. With that said, I’m going to open it up for Dr. Hellerstet. Say that again, questions, for questions at this time.

Speaker 4: (31:52)
I know you said that this will be coming later on, but can you give any indication of as for a timeline for reopening the economy?

Gov. Greg Abbott: (32:00)
Sure, so what we’re going to be doing later on this week is we’re going to be introducing Texas to this comprehensive team that we have put together that will very comprehensively, carefully, strategically evaluate what must be done for Texas to open back up ensuring that what we’re doing is consistent with data, with medical analysis, as well as strategies about which type of businesses will be able to open up. This is not going to be a rush the gates, everybody is able to suddenly reopen all at once. We have to understand that we must reopen in a way in which we are able to stimulate the economy while at the very same time ensuring that we contain the spread of Covid 19.

Speaker 5: (32:54)
To that, Dr. Fowchee has talked about a stage to re-entry, but he says you need to have the testing capacity to identify and then isolate people who are positive. Do you have that capacity at this point and what’s your optimism about being able to manage that?

Gov. Greg Abbott: (33:09)
So importantly because of the medical advice that we will be getting for the team that will be involved in the slow process of reopening Texas backup for business, we will ensure that a component of that will include adequate testing. Right before I came in here today, I was on an hour long conference call with the Vice President, with Dr. Burks going over the very issue that you were talking about and that is the strategic and necessary testing that’s needed in order for us to safely reopen the state for doing business. And they were talking about the amount of testing supplies and testing strategies that would be best to use for that process. And those will be issues that we will go over in more detail later on this week.

Speaker 5: (34:03)
Are you-

Greg Abbott: (34:03)
… in more detail later on this week.

Speaker 6: (34:04)
The president tweeted yesterday, “Governors get your state’s testing programs and apparatus perfected, be ready, big things are happening. No excuses.” How much are you being guided by what’s coming from the White House in terms of your own time table, or is that really your own discretion?

Greg Abbott: (34:20)
This is all done in collaboration. We maintain constant contact with the White House. So you’ll know over the weekend, I spoke with both the president and the vice president about these and other strategies. This is something where there’s not something unusual or new to governors coming from the White House, this is something where the White House and the White House team has been communicating with governors for weeks now. They’ve been preparing us for what to expect, what to anticipate and talking about the way in which we will all be working in collaboration to ensure that we will be able to slowly, strategically, smartly and safely begin to open up the expansion of economic development in the United States.

Speaker 6: (35:10)
But was the president offering you counsel, or was he asking your advice about how to proceed?

Greg Abbott: (35:16)
Well, it’s both. This is a two-way street, both the president, the vice president, the doctors who advise them, were talking about certain strategies that would be most effective, but they always ask questions. They always want to know what the governors think are best. They understand this, and that is the states are so varied in the United States. What may work for Nebraska may be different than works for New York, et cetera. I think that there will be a level of flexibility for states and maybe even within a state about what type of strategy will work best, knowing that even within the state of Texas, there are certain areas that are harder hit by the coronavirus still right now then there are others. These are all issues that we will continue to work out in the coming days before the announcement is made; but also even once the announcement is made, we will need to maintain flexibility based upon the data showing the level of containment of COVID-19

Speaker 7: (36:18)
Again, how will you enforce? I know that we don’t know all the details yet, but just in terms of if there is, we haven’t seen our peak yet and if we get to a point where it gets worse again and just trying to maintain the level of social distancing even with some of these businesses opening back up and the concerns there that people may just start going out and not social distancing themselves from others.

Greg Abbott: (36:41)
We will be going over all of that is as we roll out our plan. But, again, because our ability to open business in the state of Texas will be tied to our ability to continue to contain the spread of COVID-19, for one only businesses that will have minimal or zero impact on the spread of COVID-19 will be the first ones to be able to open up. Then, secondarily, others will be able to open up based upon certain strategies that will be contained in my executive order.

Greg Abbott: (37:11)
There are multiple reasons why an executive order will be used to begin this process and that is to ensure that it has the effect of law so that only those that can open up are allowed by the executive order, basically by a rule of law. But we want to continue that process and continue to be able to expand those that are able to open as we continue to show we are capable of containing the spread or the coronavirus in Texas.

Speaker 7: (37:39)
Can I ask you about schools real quick?

Greg Abbott: (37:41)
Sure. Sure.

Speaker 7: (37:41)
Just the idea of whether or not there’ll be any further guidiance given on that in a timely manner as districts are trying to figure out if they’re going to open back up at all before the end of the year and where things stand there?

Greg Abbott: (37:53)
Sure. You should expect an announcement on that this week.

Speaker 7: (37:58)
Oh.

Speaker 8: (37:58)
In a case that’s now probably headed to the Supreme Court, and I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to offer your judgment on it, but Attorney General Paxton has interpreted your ban on non-essential surgery to include abortions except in the case where the life or health of the mother is at risk. Do you think that was a sound interpretation or did it go too far?

Greg Abbott: (38:20)
First, I haven’t had a chance to keep up with what may be going on at the United States Supreme Court. The last I saw is that it seems like the Fifth Circuit agreed with the decision that I made.

Speaker 8: (38:33)
But do you think that the judgment that it includes abortion, even though that doesn’t necessarily involve hospitalization or the use of the kind of equipment you’re trying to conserve, does that make sense to you?

Greg Abbott: (38:47)
First, I mean, there’s two ways you can view whether or not it was sound. One is whether or not it was legally sound, and according to the Fifth Circuit, it was legally sound. The second is whether or not it was medically sound, and that would be up to doctors.