Coronavirus in Texas 4/1: Tenants and landlords worried about the rent; Texans seeking abortions caught in limbo

With businesses closed across the state, some Texans have found themselves out of work.
With businesses closed across the state, some Texans have found themselves out of work.
Angela Piazza for The Texas Tribune

Wednesday’s biggest developments

  • Paying rent a challenge for out-of-work Texans
  • Texans seeking abortions caught in limbo during legal fight over state officials’ attempt to ban the procedure
  • Harris County judges stick with federal agreement on bail — not Abbott’s order

Paying rent another challenge for out-of-work Texans — and their landlords

[5 a.m.] It’s the first of the month, which means that for millions of Texans, the rent is due.

But much has changed since a month ago. Thousands of people have lost their jobs as the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down businesses across the state. Many more have taken pay cuts. Now, renters who can’t pay and landlords who are losing rent money are both worried about how they’ll make ends meet.

Most evictions are halted across the state until at least April 20, thanks to a Texas Supreme Court order, but an eviction moratorium isn’t a cure-all. Tenants are still worried about racking up late fees in the meantime and having to back pay several months of rent when the state and city orders lift.

Landlords say they’re hurting, too. They have bills of their own to pay, which are jeopardized when people don’t pay rent on time. And both renters and landlords are waiting on help from the federal government. — Naomi Andu and Stacy Fernández

Texans seeking abortions caught in legal tussle between providers and state officials

[5 a.m.] Potentially hundreds of Texans have had their reproductive health decisions cast into uncertainty as state officials attempt to ban abortion in order to shore up medical resources needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order March 22 barring any procedures that are not “immediately medically necessary.” Attorney General Ken Paxton subsequently declared that the order applies to any abortions not considered critical to protect the life or health of the parent, prompting a lawsuit from a group of abortion providers that’s already landed before a federal appeals court.

The state can still enforce its ban, according to the latest ruling. That’s left many Texans seeking an abortion in limbo about what to do next. — Alana Rocha

Harris County sticks with federal court agreement on bail, which conflicts with Abbott’s executive order

[5 a.m.] Instead of following Gov. Greg Abbott‘s recent executive order about state bail practices, a lawyer for the 16 criminal court judges that preside over low-level offenses in Harris County said says judges will continue to comply with practices solidified in a federal court agreement. That will allow for the automatic release of most misdemeanor defendants without collecting bail payment.

Abbott’s order, issued Sunday, suspended much of the state’s bail laws and prohibited the release of people in jail accused or previously convicted of violent crimes from being released on these personal bonds.

A law professor overseeing the Harris County decree advised county officials this week that the federal court order supersedes the governor’s. And he also doubted the constitutionality of Abbott’s order. — Jolie McCullough