Dallas City Hall Responds to Abbott's Plan to ‘Open' Texas

City officials hope to set reopening example for others to follow

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Dallas City Hall is scrambling to adjust to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's Monday executive order that allows some businesses to reopen Friday at limited capacity, while city officials pursue programs with federal money to help the local economy recover.

Dallas city and county leaders have said they felt the governor’s plan reopens some businesses too soon.

Gov. Greg Abbott joined NBC 5 to answer questions about what’s next for the state during the coronavirus pandemic. Julie Fine asks Gov. Abbott why he thinks it’s safe to re-open some businesses on Friday, April 28, 2020.

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Dallas City Council members at an Economic Recovery Committee meeting Tuesday said they hoped the city would set a cautious example in the way it handled the orders.

Dallas libraries may be allowed to reopen under the governor’s rules, but it may require additional workers to enforce social distancing. The city is facing a sudden $25 million shortfall in the current year’s budget because of plummeting sales tax revenue from so many closed businesses. The city may only be able to afford curbside library service if libraries reopen.

“One of the challenges that we're dealing with is, I don't think anyone foresaw the order that the governor made yesterday,” committee chairman, Councilman Casey Thomas said.

His special focus on the committee is helping people who have lost jobs because of the pandemic. He mentioned two websites where available jobs are posted.

Restaurants may have trouble reopening with only 25% of their space allowed for customers.

One option the committee heard Tuesday was to allow restaurants to expand patio seating into parking spaces.

“There will be a need for more space for seating, and possibly a less need for parking spaces,” council member Chad West said.

Council members said business people have called with questions.

“They’re ready to get working and they’re ready to be responsible and they want to follow the laws and the rules, and they’re looking to us for guidance,” council member Paula Blackmon said.

The city of Dallas is reviewing the order to decide how it will reopen city facilities.

Council member Lee Kleinman said the city should lead by example.

“And hopefully set an example for a lot of these businesses how to be open safety in a way that works profitably for them,” he said.

At the same time, city officials are rushing to launch small business and housing payment assistance programs on Monday with federal money. Workers from several departments were called in for the task.

“Our team has grown exponentially to stand up this program overnight. Staff are working day and night,” Dallas Housing Director David Noguera said.

The city staff is also working to find much bigger ways to get Dallas booming again.

“Everything we can bring to bear that's going to help us generate new investment, new taxes, to help us recover the losses,” Economic Development Director Anthony Johnson said.

Officials said a website and phone numbers for the assistance programs would be ready by Monday.

It’s not clear yet when city libraries and other closed services will resume.

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