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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Gov. Abbott announces funds to aid victim service organizations, suspends in-person contact with public officers


Gov. Greg Abbott sits in a conference room, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in the Texas Department of Emergency Management Command Center.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the Victims of Crime Act and STOP Violence Against Women Act grant funds will receive an emergency waiver of federally-required cash amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The waiver from the governor’s Public Safety Office gives financial relief to 600 grant recipient organizations in Texas required to contribute up to 25% of their funds or donated services toward a project. It comes after the implementation of another waiver process put in place for states by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Our VOCA and VAWA grant recipients provide critical services to victims of crime in Texas, and we are committed to removing potential financial burdens caused by COVID-19 that might otherwise hinder their important work,” Abbott said.

The waiver allows grant recipients to use cash matches budgeted toward their grant project for other needs and concerns, such as maintaining volunteer services while complying with federal guidelines for social distancing.

Recipients will also use the funds to provide direct services to victims of crime, speed up recovery and use multi-disciplinary approaches to improve the justice system’s response to violence. Among agencies that benefit from the waiver are domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, child sex trafficking shelters and more.

“COVID-19 has disrupted every sector of our society further exacerbating the complex dynamics and escalation of family violence,” said Gloria A. Terry, CEO of the Texas Council on Family Violence. “Domestic violence agencies can now move forward with confidence that their life-saving services do not hinge on this administrative requirement.”

Abbott also suspended certain statutes regarding appearances before a notary public to avoid in-person contact during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The suspension allows appearances via videoconference when completing documents. Documents include a self-proved will, a durable power of attorney, a medical power of attorney, a directive to a physician, or an oath of an executor, administrator or guardian.

A press release states that the following conditions will apply when the suspension is implemented:

  • A notary public shall verify the identity of a person signing a document at the time the signature is taken by using two-way video and audio conference technology
  • A notary public may verify identity by personal knowledge of the signing person, or by analysis based on the signing person’s remote presentation of a government-issued identification credential, including a passport or driver’s license, that contains the signature and a photograph of the person
  • The signing person shall transmit by fax or electronic means a legible copy of the signed document to the notary public, who may notarize the transmitted copy and then transmit the notarized copy back to the signing person by fax or electronic means, at which point the notarization is valid

The suspension remains in effect until terminated by the state government or until the March 13 disaster declaration is lifted. Documents completed while the suspension is in effect remain valid after the suspension.
Individuals concerned about possible exposure to COVID-19 are encouraged to contact their healthcare provider or the Hays County Local Health Department at 512.393.5520. For additional information about COVID-19, visit the Texas Department of State Health Services or the Centers for Disease Control website.
The University Star’s COVID-19 coverage can be found here.

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