AUSTIN — August 25 marked one year since Hurricane Harvey's battering winds and torrential rains brought death and destruction to coastal and inland counties of Texas.
Repairs and rebuilding in the region continue to this day, and the U.S. Office of Coastal Management has estimated the cost of the storm at $125 billion.
Gov. Greg Abbott and a host of other government officials spoke on Aug. 22 at the First Baptist Church in the hard-hit city of Rockport on the Coastal Bend. “I know there are miles to go before this race is finished. Our goal is to do far more than just rebuild. Our goal is to ensure that we rebuild all of these communities even better than they were before Hurricane Harvey hit,” Abbott said.
Vice President Mike Pence said he had come on President Trump’s behalf “to reaffirm to all of the people — not just to Rockport, but to all across this region — that this administration is going to work with this governor, with all of the wonderful, outstanding volunteers and faith communities across this region until we rebuild Rockport and all of Texas bigger and better than ever before.”
Also at the church to deliver their perspectives and words of encouragement were Commissioner John Sharp of the governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, Texas Division of Emergency Management Director Nim Kidd, and Land Commissioner George P. Bush.
Schools rated for readiness
State Education Commissioner Mike Morath on Aug. 21 announced 61 Texas school districts and district charters received a distinction designation for postsecondary readiness as part of their 2018 state accountability rating.
Postsecondary readiness is the only distinction designation at the district level under the state accountability system.
The distinction takes into account factors such as graduation rates, ACT/SAT participation and performance, Career and Technical Education graduates and dual-credit course completion rates.
Earlier in August, all multi-campus school districts and charters — for the first time ever — received an accountability rating based on an A–F scale.
Mortality, morbidity studied
The Texas Department of State Health Services on Aug. 21 announced the release of case reviews by its Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force.
The task force recently completed its first full year of case reviews by studying medical, autopsy and other confidential records for 89 maternal deaths that occurred in 2012, DSHS reported. Four out of five pregnancy-related deaths in 2012 would have had at least some chance of being prevented with the proper intervention, DSHS said.
“The report provides us with more evidence to guide our activities to address maternal mortality and morbidity in Texas,” said DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt. “It shows where interventions like TexasAIM can have the greatest impact.”
Launched earlier this year, TexasAIM is a partnership with more than 180 hospitals to implement maternal safety “bundles” — sets of practices that help hospital staff prevent and respond to pregnancy complications. Hospitals are first implementing the bundle on maternal hemorrhage. Future will address opioid use and high blood pressure, the DSHS said.
Demand for notes is high
State Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced the Aug. 22 sale of $7.2 billion in Texas Tax and Revenue Anticipation Notes received a net interest rate of 1.84 percent.
Hegar said his office received 65 bids worth $27.4 billion, or 3.8 times the amount offered for sale. The state of Texas uses money from the sale of the notes to help fund expenditures such as public-school payments made early in the fiscal year before the arrival of tax revenues later in the year.
Hegar said the fact that bids totaled nearly four times the amount offered demonstrates “the market is confident that Texas remains a solid investment.”
Notes sold on Aug. 22 will be repaid on Aug. 29, 2019, Hegar added.
Jobless rate stays same
Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 4.0 percent in July, unchanged from June 2018, the Texas Workforce Commission announced.
Even though the June and July percentages were the same, the state economy added 23,500 seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs in July and marked 25 consecutive months of employment growth.
Counting July’s figures, Texas has added 377,100 jobs for an annual employment growth rate of 3.1 percent.
The Midland Metropolitan Statistical Area recorded the month’s lowest unemployment rate among Texas metropolitan statistical areas with a not-seasonally adjusted rate of 2.2 percent, followed by the Amarillo and Odessa MSAs with rates of 2.9 percent. The Austin-Round Rock MSA recorded the fourth-lowest rate of 3.1 percent for July.
Ed Sterling is director of member services for the Texas Press Association.