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March 20, 2020

Office hours requirement temporarily suspended for mortgage lenders

AUSTIN (Texas Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending) – The Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending was authorized today to temporarily suspend any requirement that a mortgage lender's office be open to the public during posted normal business hours.

Additionally, licensed mortgage loan originators may work from home or another remote location, whether in Texas or another state, even if the home or remote location is not a licensed branch.

These allowances do not amend Texas Finance Code, Chapters 156 and/or 157 and are being allowed strictly due to the COVID-19 situation.

If a licensed residential mortgage loan originator or mortgage loan staff works remotely, licensed mortgage entities must ensure that:

·   strict security of information is maintained;

·  all physical business records are kept at a licensed office, not at the mortgage loan originator’s home, a remote location or in any unlicensed branch office; and

·  that consumers are not allowed to go to the mortgage loan originator’s home.

These allowances will be effective until terminated by the Office of the Governor or until the March 13, 2020 disaster declaration is lifted or expires, whichever is earlier.

 

*Article from RECON

Posted in Market News
March 17, 2020

Irish Blessing......

May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields.

Posted in General
March 16, 2020

Many Texas schools could be closed through academic year due to coronavirus, education commissioner warns

In separate calls with superintendents and lawmakers Sunday, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said decisions on extended school closures would be left up to locals.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath told school superintendents and lawmakers Sunday to be prepared for long-term school district closures, potentially through the end of the school year, especially in areas where the new coronavirus has spread.

According to individuals who participated in two separate conference calls with the commissioner, Morath said he would still leave the decision up to local superintendents. This comes as hundreds of school districts announced they would suspend classes for at least a week, with concerns about COVID-19 spreading through their communities.

Morath suggested superintendents consider telling parents sooner rather than later that closures would stretch beyond a few weeks. The extended school closures would be a burden for low-income and working parents, who would more likely struggle to keep their children home for long periods of time.

The state has already said school districts with prolonged school closures due to coronavirus concerns may avoid financial penalties, as long as they can prove they are teaching students remotely. But not all school districts have the experience or resources needed to offer remote instruction, and many students lack access to consistent internet at home.

 Especially if schools close through the end of the year, many students would be at home during the administration of the state standardized test, known as STAAR, planned in April. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has called for the state to cancel the test, since school districts have limited classroom instruction.

The federal government plans to offer waivers from testing requirements for areas heavily impacted by the disease. Morath said on Sunday's call that he would put out more specific guidance earlier than this Thursday.

As of noon on Sunday, there are 68 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Texas, including 12 reported cases from the federal quarantine area at Lackland Air Force Base — though the number of actual cases could be much higher since only a small number of tests have been available.

Sunday night, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a guidance suggesting that organizers cancel or postpone any in-person events that include 50 people or more scheduled for the next eight weeks. That guidance was only a recommendation, however, and did not pertain to schools.

*Info from Texas Tribune

 

 

 

Posted in Austin Events
March 13, 2020

How Austin’s Restaurant Industry Is Taking Precautions Against Coronavirus

Local food and drink establishments are increasing the number of cleanings and adding paid sick leave policies, among other approaches.

 

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In light of the global novel coronavirus pandemic, Austin restaurants are taking as many precautions as possible in order to help mitigate the spread of the virus. Now there are two presumptive positive COVID-19 cases in Austin so far. Currently, the risk level for the virus is considered elevated in Texas, according to Austin Public Health (APH).

On top of what is already required by APH, local health and drink establishments have been taking additional steps in order to help ensure the safety of their customers and staffers. This includes scheduling additional cleanings of dining/kitchen/bathroom spaces and regularly and heavily cleaning surfaces such as seats, tables, and doors. Other venues have taken specific additional measures, such as adding extra hand-washing and hand-sanitizing stations at Radio Coffee, posting safety flyers at Black Star Co-op, and installing hands-free paper towel dispensers at Salt & Time.

El Chilito nixed its self-serve salsa stations as a precaution. Likewise, Veracruz All Natural replaced its self-serve salsa bottles and buckets with already-filled miniature containers. Nitxa Taqueria co-owner Sara Mardanbigi has even noticed that guests are bringing their own hand sanitizers into the restaurant. Peached Tortilla/Bar Peached employees are being asked to use antibacterial sanitizing wipes on their phones before service begins.

Casual operations, like coffee mini-chain Epoch and South Congress hotel cafe Mananahave stopped allowing customers to bring in their own reusable mugs for coffee. Greater Goods Coffee is only using to-go cups for now.

APH recommends those exhibiting potential symptoms of the disease should stay home, which is easier said than done for service industry employees, especially in Texas, which doesn’t require employers to offer paid sick leave.

“This is a great time to talk about paid sick leave,” said Adam Orman. The co-owner and manager of L’Oca d’Oro (which offers paid sick leave) has been vocal about his support of the policy in Austin, which be believes “is in the interest of public health and also the interest of our industry.”

Without guaranteed income, service industry workers tend to work if they’re sick, even in the face of a health crisis, such as this. “If folks knew that our employees were paid a proper wage and paid to stay home when they’re sick, there would be a lot more confidence that going out wasn’t an assault on your personal hygiene,” Orman said.

As a result of the outbreak, Texas French Bread owner Murph Willcott is adding a paid sick leave policy. “I’ve decided we can’t wait,” he said. “We need to act immediately, regardless of the expense.”

Likewise, Garbo’s is doubling the number of paid sick days afforded to its employees from seven to 14 during this period, owner Heidi Garbo tells Eater. While Veracruz workers are hourly, a rep for the restaurant told Eater they’re considering offering bonuses to potentially sick staffers who remain at home.

Certain restaurants that don’t currently offer paid sick leave are being understanding due to the circumstances. Salt & Time will offer assistance to those who need to stay at home for an extended amount of time. Taco truck Discada already offers one work week of paid-time-off, but it will be flexible with this policy during this time. Previously, when employees of (Kome, Ni-Kome, Daruma, and Sa-Ten have been sick for a long period of time, the restaurant group helped assist financially.

If more than two employees of Foreign & Domestic are sick at the same time, co-owner and chef Sarah Heard says she will consider limiting reservations or closing down a section of the dining room.

In order to share best safety practices regarding the spread of novel coronavirus, The Chameleon Hospitality restaurateur Stuart Thomajan put together a last-minute information session. Local restaurant and bar owners and managers gathered at Swift’s Attic to learn more about best practices to minimize the spread of the virus with Doctor Thomas Herold of the Austin Emergency Center earlier this week.

The goal of the session was to share “what are we all doing individually, that is going to help us weather stave off protect ourselves, our teams and our customers from what is undoubtedly coming,” prefaced Chameleon COO Ben Fordham. Dr. Herold talked about the basics: hand-washing, not touching faces, the regular cleaning of surfaces, allowing sick employees to stay home.

Inspired by the session, all three Chameleon Group restaurants — Swift’s, Wu Chow, Rosedale Kitchen — will implement ultraviolet light sterilization trays for pens used by guests and staffers, among other precautions. In order to make sure other restaurants are aware of this information, he will start a Facebook group to decimate these best practices with other industry service people.

Relatedly, Austin Mayor Steve Adler declared a local disaster for the city last week because of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Several days later, the city banned mass gatherings of 2,500 people or more through the end of April, which is one of Austin’s busiest event months. So far, the biggest effect of the novel coronavirus has been the cancellation of the city’s international festival South by Southwest last week.

The novel coronavirus situation is ongoing. If you know of other restaurants implementing specific preventative measures, let Eater Austin know via austin@eater.com or through the tipline.

Update, March 13, 10:08 a.m.: This article has been included to add that there have been two presumptive positive coronavirus cases in Austin as of today.

 

*Article from Austin Eater 

Posted in New Life Styles
March 11, 2020

Furnishing a Small Space?

This Space-Saving Coffee Table on Amazon Is Only $150, So No Wonder People Love It

 

 

 

Furnishing a small living room can be stressful, especially when it comes to finding the right coffee table. This piece is the centerpiece of the room, so you'll want one that's both useful and stylish. Having the help of space-saving furniture pieces can make all the difference, so we went on a mission to help you find the best and most versatile option on the internet.

We did a little digging into our data and saw that our readers love buying furniture online, and this TANGKULA Coffee Table Lift Top Storage Coffee ($150) is a bestseller we're seeing customers purchasing again and again from Amazon.

It's easy to see why people love it. Not only does it offer a bookshelf-like style on the bottom, which is ideal for books or magazines, but it also offers another hidden compartment for storage on top. The main sell, though, is the lift-top surface, which is great for someone who works from home, because it doubles as a desk. The table is great quality, too: it's both scratch and water resistant, so you know you'll have it for years to come. It's also available in two different wood finishes, so you can get the one that best fits your style. Plus, at just $150, how can you say no? Keep reading to shop both options, and finally get a functional piece you love.

 

*Article from PopSugar

 

 

Posted in New Life Styles
March 10, 2020

Six Texas cities among most affordable places for veterans

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (Veterans United Home Loans) – Six Texas cities have landed on Veterans United Home Loans' list of the top ten most affordable places for military veterans to live in.

Laredo ranked first nationwide. It has a cost-of-living index (based on a U.S. average of 100) of 90.7. 

The border city has a veteran population of 5,080 and an unemployment rate of 5.4 percent. The median annual salary is $37,890.

​Corpus Christi ranked second with a veteran population of 25,153 and a cost-of-living index of 94.3. The unemployment rate is 5.6 percent and median annual salary is $43,325.  

No. 3 Lubbock has a cost-of-living index of 93.7, 12,018 veterans, a 4.8 percent unemployment rate, and a median annual salary of $36,653. 

El Paso and San Antonio rounded out the top five. The Far West Texas city has a cost-of-living index of 87.4, a veteran population of 44,580, and a 6.9 percent unemployment rate. San Antonio, with a cost-of-living index of 88.7, has 107,359 veterans and a 6.4 percent unemployment rate. 

Fort Worth-Arlington ranked seventh and was the only city on the list with a cost-of-living index above 100. It has 19,153 veterans and a 5.5 percent unemployment rate. 

​Veterans United supplemented their information with data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Council for Community and Economic Research, and Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For more on veterans' impact on the state economy, read "Home Front: How the Military Influences Texas Housing Markets."

 

      *Article from RECON

Posted in Market News
March 9, 2020

'Rally Austin' coalition formed in response to SXSW getting canceled

The coalition is for startups and small businesses to work together and figure out how to minimize the economic impact from the canceled festival.

AUSTIN, Texas — Local business leaders who had both official and unofficial events planned have banded together to create rallyaustin.com.

It's called "Rally Austin."

“I have been worried for the past week and my heart just totally sunk," said Kristen Carson, the founder of Inn Cahoots, which is an Air BnB-styled hotel and event space in Austin. “We’ve started a coalition of small businesses and we’re trying to work together to figure out how to make this economic impact much more minimalized.”

Over 20 local business owners, corporate executives and influencers met Friday, Saturday and Sunday to discuss strategy. According to a press release, the website will leverage data and technology compiled by a local company, Logictry, which was was built over the weekend following the official announcement by SXSW. 

“The number one question we wanted to answer was, 'What can we do right now to support the hundreds of small business owners in Austin who rely on SXSW, or are personally invested in helping our ATX community thrive?',” said co-organizer and president of MediaTech Ventures John Zozzaro.

According to a press release, there will be an event on March 16 inviting business owners of Austin for a gathering of the business and tech community. That event starts at 6 p.m. at Inn Cahoots. 

“… for business owners to talk about ways that we can support each other over the next – not only during this time of South By but also over the next couple of months,” Carson added.

Inn Cahoots was initially going to host a SXSW event called "Funded House."

"It’s an experience dedicated to venture capitalists," said John Zozzaro, president of Media Tech Ventures, who was going to host the event. "Nobody wanted to hear that, right? There's a lot that goes into South By. There's a lot of people that are going to be affected negatively from this, but it also presents an extraordinary opportunity for those of us that are local."

Carson said they've been working with a few other larger corporations that are helping them figure out how to support smaller businesses. 

*Article from KVUE

 

Posted in General
March 6, 2020

Weekend plans ahead.....

 

Here's a list of the top concerts and events happening in Austin this weekend! 

Friday, March 6, 2020

GT World Challenge America @ Circuit of the Americas

Nine Banded Whiskey: Bourbon Launch Party w/ Blackillac @ Central Machine Works Brewery & Beer Hall 

Plant Nite at Mimi's Cafe Round Rock @ Mimi's Cafe Round Rock 

Gabriel "Fluffy" Iglesias @ Frank Erwin Center 

Ross Matthews "Name Drop" Book Tour @ Paramount and Stateside Theatres 

“KILROY” Album Release Party @ Empire Control Room & Garage 

emma (1996) @ Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz

canned beets @ Oskar Blues Brewery 

Star Parks Album Release w/ The Deer, Berkshire Hounds @ Barracuda 

Funk Yeah Friday @ The Brewtorium Brewery & Kitchen 

First Friday Ghost Tours @ The Williamson Museum 

Rattlesnake Milk, Mean Jolene, Half Dream [Single Release], Tyler Jordan @ Hotel Vegas 

TC Superstar, Indoor Creature, LeTrainiump, Flora & Fawna @ Cheer Up Charlies 

Number 1 Hits: p1nkstar's EP Party & Multimedia Performance @ Coconut Club 

Crashin In w/ King Louie @ The Volstead Lounge

 

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Onward Family Party @ Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane 

Brewery Brunch with Waffle Love @ Hops and Grain Brewing 

Crawfish Boil w/ SXSE Food Co @ 4th Tap Brewing Co-Op 

Maison Haus Pop Up Shop @ Reina 

Hyde Park Storytelling - Lucky @ 7213 Eastcrest Dr 

3rd Annual Texas Whiskey Festival @ Star Hill Ranch 

Dan Deacon @ Historic Scoot Inn 

Knuckle Puck with Heart Attack Man, Better Love @ Barracuda 

Austin Bold FC 2020 Season Opener @ Bold Stadium 

Smile More: An All-Female Standup Showcase @ The Institution Theater 

VÉRITÉ - The New Skin Tour @ Antone's 

Ley Line at The Far Out Lounge @ The Far Out Lounge & Stage  

Electric Feels: Indie Rock + Indie Dance Party @ Emo's 

Desert Noises w/ PR Newman @ Stubb's 

The Vapor Caves w/ Lolita Lynne and Jane Claire @ The North Door

 

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Onward Family Party @ Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline 

Dino + Donuts @ Plant Party 

Mini CraftHER Market by BossBabesATX @ Dean's One Trick Pony  

In Brunch We Trust: The Great Gatsby @ Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz

Draught House Pub & Brewery Crawfish Boil @ Draught House Pub & Brewery  

Music Moves Mountains Foundation Benefit @ One 2 One Bar 

Hiking with Dogs @ REI (Gateway) 

Whose Leander is it Anyway @ Way Off Broadway Community Players Theater  

Coffee Roasting 101: Sample roasting basics @ Trianon Coffee 

Skatenigs Free Show w/ Paulie Think, Worm Suicide @ Mohawk Austin  

The Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival 1 @ Paramount and Stateside Theatres  

Kamasi Washington @ Empire Control Room & Garage 

My Dad Wrote A Porno @ ACL Live at the Moody Theater 

Trippie Redd @ Stubb's 

Fertility House, North by North (CHI), Flora & Fawna @ Hotel Vegas

 

*Info from Do512

 

Posted in Austin Events
March 5, 2020

Fed cuts benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points?

​WASHINGTON (Associated Press) –The Federal Reserve has cut its benchmark interest rate by half a percentage point in an effort to support the economy in the face of the spreading coronavirus.

With the change, the Fed’s benchmark funds rate will now be targeted in a range between 1 and 1.25 percent. 

This is the Fed's first rate cut since last year, when it reduced its key short-term rate three times for a total of 75 basis points.​

It is also the first time the bank has cut its key rate between policy meetings since the 2008 financial crisis and the largest rate cut since then.

 

  *Article from RECON

Posted in Market News
March 4, 2020

The potential mind-altering, life-extending benefits of spring cleaning

(CNN)"I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair," sings Nellie, the female lead in the 1958 film version of the classic musical "South Pacific," as she showers her hair squeaky clean.

Today, Lizzo has updated the theme with "Shampoo, press, get you out of my hair."

There's a theme here, and it applies to more than just shedding a bad relationship. "Spring cleaning" your mind, body, even your home can be liberating -- a "fresh" start, so to speak.

Science agrees. There's something about a deep clean and purge of dust, dirt and clutter that inspires a sense of rebirth, which must be why we traditionally tackle our clutter in the spring, as new buds bloom and newborn creatures scurry.

And by starting anew in less cluttered space, we reduce our stress, improve our moods, and get more energy -- which in turn could give us the boost we need to eat healthy, exercise and get more sleep -- which in turn, could lengthen our lives.

Do you 'KonMari'?

Marie Kondo popularized the benefits of simplifying and organizing your home with her best-selling book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up."

Her method, which she calls "KonMari," suggests tackling your clutter by asking each item: "Do you bring joy to my life?" If the answer isn't "yes," it's time to toss.

By clearing space we do more than just save time and money, according to professional organizer Regina Leeds, author of the 2008 New York Times bestseller, "One Year to an Organized Life."

"We create in the physical world the pattern of how we think and experience the world," Leeds said. Or, put more succinctly, "Your crap and your clutter is what's going on inside of you."

Boosts self-esteem

Clearing out "our crap" raises our self-esteem and shifts energy, Leeds explained. We open ourselves up to change and are in a better position to reach our potential.

Leeds knows as well as anyone the power of decluttering. She was seeing transformed clients decades before Americans began drinking the Kondo Kool-Aid and buzzing about "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo," the Japanese organizing consultant's Netflix series.

Organizing was Leeds' "side hustle" starting in January 1988, what she did to get by while hoping to become a full-time actress. People at Los Angeles parties raised their eyebrows or looked confused when Leeds told them what she was doing.

Today Leeds, who spent a year roaming LA with a feng shui master and views organizing as a spiritual activity, is known as the "Zen Organizer."

Her company slogan: "Inner peace through outer order."

Endorsed by psychologists

One doesn't have to be a professional organizer, or be schooled in feng shui, to understand the value of decluttering. There's a psychological upside, according to PhDs.

Michael Tompkins is a licensed psychologist and co-director of the San Francisco Bay Area Center for Cognitive Therapy. He's written two books on hoarding and, fun fact, has even appeared in several episodes of the show "Hoarders."

And while hoarding is a whole different level of stuff, not to mention a disorder diagnosed as a mental illness, Tompkins can speak to why tidying up makes people feel so good.

We live in "an acquiring culture," Tompkins said, "and perhaps there are some of us, myself included, that long for the serenity that can come with less stuff."

Our moods can be boosted by "pleasant activities and mastery activities," he explained. Hanging out with friends, spending a day on the beach, watching a comedy: These are "pleasant activities" that naturally lift us up.

The "mastery activities" Tompkins referred to, on the other hand, are tasks we take on that may not be as fun in the moment but elevate us with an enormous sense of accomplishment once we're done.

It's what Ellen Delap, a certified professional organizer (there's a board for that), sees time and again. People she's helped are left with a new sense of hope.

"Right away, people see change in their environment," said Delap, of Houston, Texas, the current president of the nearly 3,500-member National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals. "They feel their space is lighter."

The clutter continuum

The tolerance for clutter varies from person to person, said Tompkins. A pile that makes one person's skin crawl can be completely overlooked by another.

There's also a continuum when it comes to our propensity for acquiring and holding onto stuff, said Craig Sawchuk, a Mayo Clinic psychologist and co-chair of the Division of Integrated Behavioral Health.

Putting people like Kondo aside, on one end, you have people who try to get rid of things with some regularity, during, say, spring cleaning. Next, Sawchuk said, you've got the collectors who accumulate a growing amount of certain items: clothes, mugs, snow globes from around the world. The pack rat might fill a storage space or overwhelm an attic. And the hoarder, on the extreme far end, sits in a functionally impaired and often unsafe living space.

Most all of us, no matter where we are on the continuum, "have good intentions but don't know where to start," he said. The "flittering effect" might send us from room to room, taking on one mess only to dart off to try another -- so we don't see tangible results. The "bumping phenomenon" let's us push that decluttering off for another day, week, month or, gulp, year.

That's why experts like Leeds, Delap, Kondo can be so helpful. They offer us roadmaps, Sawchuk said, strategies to inform problem solving and decision making -- what to keep, toss or donate -- as we face our clutter.

They offer an approach "to help simplify your life and reduce that kind of visual distress," he said. "Once you get into the groove of decision making, it starts to feel good. ... All those reasons to retain things, those retention beliefs, they start to weaken and fade."

We become more relaxed because our environment is clearer, he said. We process information differently because visually there's "less noise to your brain." And when we recycle items by donating them to people who need and will use them, that sort of altruism "psychologically can have a really, really good impact on us."

Being our best selves

To do right by yourself, don't set out to be perfect, experts say. You are not Marie Kondo and, newsflash, you never will be.

Don't be too critical of yourself and, when taking on decluttering, don't surround yourself with anyone who will shame you or -- equally bad -- reprimand you for not keeping certain items.

Create the right decluttering environment by surrounding yourself with good lighting, fun music, healthy snacks, plenty of water, a supportive friend or family member.

Take breaks and allow yourself a stopping point, said Leeds, who can tell when clients are done because their eyes start to glaze over.

Organizing is a skill, one we have to learn how to do correctly, she said. Furthermore, it's something that needs to be maintained.

"You don't go to the dentist, find out you don't have cavities, and say, 'Thank God I don't have to go to the dentist again,' " or floss and brush anymore, Leeds said.

By opening ourselves up to a decluttered life, we can be our best selves, the Zen Organizer said.

"We can calm the inside by bringing order to the outer," Leeds said.

"The average person lives in an environment that sabotages his or her best efforts at every turn," she continued. "You can accomplish more, quicker and with ease, if your environment literally nurtures and supports you."

 

 

*Article from CNN

 

Posted in New Life Styles