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Officials warn of unemployment identity fraud

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NEWS Graphic for Unemployment ientity theftFILE PHOTO

By Chris Edwards

Officials and the Texas Workforce Commission are warning the public about a rise in identity theft tied to unemployment benefits.

Last week Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a news release highlighting the wave of fraudulent unemployment claims using stolen identities, statewide. “Unscrupulous criminals are victimizing Texans by stealing their identities and filing false unemployment claims,” Paxton said.

Paxton urged Texans who have received documents from TWC regarding benefit claims they have not made to report the claims and to “take appropriate steps to protect your identity.”

According to TWC, identity theft is one of the fastest-growing internet crimes in the country, with cases happening at record rates. The TWC unemployment insurance division’s primary goal is to pay benefits to recipients as soon as possible, according to its website, but to also implement and maintain rigorous measures to identify and prevent fraud.

Unemployment benefits identity theft occurs when a fraudulent claimant uses another person’s personal information, such as their name and Social Security number to file a claim in order to collect unemployment benefits.

“A growing cybercrime community on the Dark Web traffics in these stolen identities, passing them from hackers to fraudsters seeking to monetize your information,” a TWC news release stated.

According to TWC, when a claim is submitted for unemployment benefits, letters are sent out to both the employer as well as the claimant in order to confirm the application.

When someone receives a letter from TWC asking to verify an identity when a claim was not filed should report the incident to TWC, via its identity theft portal, located at https://www.twc.texas.gov.

From the period of March of last year to April of this year, of the 4.48 million UI claims received by TWC, more than 611,000 were tagged as suspicious.

The AG’s website also has resources explaining what identity theft is and what to do if one’s identity is stolen.

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Covid-19 regional update

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N2103P48004CFILE PHOTO Covid-19

By ETxN Staff

Polk, San Jacinto, and Tyler Counties

In the Trauma Service Area designated H, which includes Polk, San Jacinto and Tyler counties, the amount of hospital bed usage by COVID-19 patients is down to 10% as of Wednesday, April 21, according to figures from the state department of health services. 

Of the ICU beds available, 14% are being used as of Wednesday by COVID-19 patients. 

The figure for daily cases reported as of Wednesday was 13 and the cumulative totals for the trauma region are 11,591 cases reported since reporting began in 2020, and 698 total COVID-related fatalities.

Since reporting of active cases ceased in early March, concurrent with the lifting of Gov. Greg Abbott’s mandate, Tyler County reported 1,213 total cases and 34 deaths since March of 2020 when the county’s first confirmed case was reported."

Houston County

According to emergency management coordinator Heath Murff, as of April 30, the total number of Covid vaccination doses that had been administered in the county was 10,431.

He added, “6,500 of those have been first doses; 4,633 of those are fully vaccinated people.

“Houston County Emergency Management has hosted three vaccinations clinics, and we have vaccinated 600 citizens.”

Murff said DSHS staff members “used to give us information daily, as far as, how many cases we had, how many active cases we had, how many recoveries we had, all that kind of specific (information) for Houston County, and they quit doing that.”

ET COVID CHART

**More information for up-to-date numbers can be found at:

https://txdshs.maps.arcgis.com/apps/dashboards/ed483ecd702b4298ab01e8b9cafc8b83

 

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Sales Tax Holiday for Emergency Supplies, April 24-26

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bre02FILE PHOTO Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar Releasing Biennial Estimate on Jan. 7, 2019

From the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

AUSTIN - Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar reminds Texans they can purchase certain items tax-free during the state’s sales tax holiday for emergency preparation supplies, which begins at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, April 24, and ends at midnight on Monday, April 26.

There’s no limit on the number of qualifying items you can purchase. These include:

  • household batteries, fuel containers and flashlights priced at less than $75;
  • hurricane shutters and emergency ladders priced at less than $300; and
  • portable generators priced at less than $3,000.

For purchases made online, note that delivery, shipping, handling and transportation charges are part of the sales price. If the emergency preparation supply being purchased is taxable, the delivery charge is also taxable. Consider these charges when determining whether an emergency preparation supply can be purchased tax-free during the holiday.

For example, if you purchase a rescue ladder for $299 with a $10 delivery charge, the total sales price is $309. Because the total sales price of the ladder is more than $300, tax is due on the $309 sales price.

Several over-the-counter self-care items, such as antibacterial hand sanitizer, soap, spray and wipes, are always exempt from sales tax if they are labeled with a “Drug Facts” panel in accordance with federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.

Purchases that do not qualify include:

  • batteries for automobiles, boats and other motorized vehicles;
  • camping stoves and camping supplies;
  • chainsaws;
  • plywood;
  • extension ladders and stepladders; and
  • tents.

A list of emergency preparation supplies that may be purchased tax-free can be found on the Comptroller’s website.

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White bills address firearms, ballots, and cannabis

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Jas WhiteFILE PHOTO State Representative James White (R-Hillister)

By Chris Edwards

AUSTIN – It has been a week of legislative triumphs for State Rep. James White (R-Hillister.) A bill that White had a hand in writing pertaining to Constitutional Carry of firearms passed out of the House of Representatives. Another White bill, which would require electronic voting machines to produce a traceable paper ballot also passed to go to the Committee on Calendars.

White’s House Bill 1927, if passed into law, will allow Texans to carry handguns without requiring a license to carry. That bill gained initial approval from the House on Thursday with a vote of 84-56, with most of the House GOP voting in favor and seven Democrats voting for it.

White issued a joint statement with the bill’s co-author Rep. Matt Schaefer on HB 1927, which featured comments from several LTC instructors in support of the bill. According to White’s statement, opponents of the bill “are pushing a false narrative that these bills would ‘dismantle’ Texas’ License to Carry law,” which White says is untrue.

“Experience shows that residents will continue to voluntarily seek out training and licenses in permitless carry states, recognizing the benefits of instruction as well as acquiring and maintaining a license,” White said.

The bill will allow Texas residents, aged 21 and up, to carry without a permit as long as they are not otherwise prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a firearm.

HB 1708, which is the bill White penned pertaining to electronic voting machines, passed out of a House Committee on Elections with a vote of 8-1 on Wednesday. If the bill is passed into law, starting on Sept. 1 of this year, electronic voting machines that do not produce a paper ballot record cannot be purchased in Texas.

Another bill that White had a hand in writing would reduce the penalties for the possession of cannabis. HB 3772 is scheduled for a hearing on Monday, April 19 before the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.

The bill would reduce criminal penalties for low-level possession of cannabis flower and THC concentrates. It would classify the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana as a Class C misdemeanor and allow for the expunction of a paraphernalia charge if it is dismissed.

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GOP chair receives award

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041521 wrightCOURTESY PHOTO The first-ever Greg Abbott Leadership Award was presented to Dwayne Wright, chairman of the Republican Party of San Jacinto County.

Special to the News-Times

AUSTIN — Dwayne Wright, chairman of the Republican Party of San Jacinto County, was recently recognized by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for his contributions to conservative principles in the state.

This is the first leadership award given by the governor, which from now on will be annually awarded.

Wright promotes strong core values in the state, and contributes his time and effort across the area to champion conservatism and strong Texas principles.

Wright is not only head of the Republican Party of San Jacinto county, but also is executive director of the Texas Republican County Chair Association. He has worked on various campaigns to help spread conservative values throughout the state.

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