Tax holiday for safety supplies is still a go

HARLINGEN — Things are going to be a little bit different this go-round for emergency supplies tax-free holiday weekend April 25-27.

Call it the new abnormal.

As Texans continue to shelter-at-home and practice social-distancing, we may look at the emergency supplies weekend as a reminder that, coronavirus or no coronavirus, hurricanes, tornadoes and other disasters aren’t necessarily going to give anybody a break during hard times.

The list of supplies one can buy tax-free is long, including batteries, weather radios, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, first-aid kits and generators under $3,000.

Toilet paper and facemasks are not, unfortunately, on the tax-free list.

At McCoy’s Lumber Supply at 3601 W. Expressway 83 in Harlingen, manager Bo Ortiz said his store is open and employees are adapting to the new requirements for retail sales.

“Like everybody else we have where the line starts, we have a big sign saying the line starts here, we’ve got six-foot markers, we do have Plexiglass around the registers, we do have a person at the door who’s only allowing 10 people in at a time and even outside the sidewalk is marked at a distance of six feet,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz said McCoy’s isn’t stinting on the hand sanitizer available at the door for employees and customers as they come and go, and a special effort is being made to sanitize shopping carts, hand baskets and restrooms.

“And of course all of the employees inside and out have some sort of a mask over their faces and of course we’re all wearing latex gloves inside as well,” Ortiz said.

Another change in the usual order of things is hours. McCoy’s is open these days from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

At Rio Hondo Lumber and Supply, owner Jason White says his store is up and running as an essential business during the coronavirus pandemic.

His building supply and hardware store is open 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

“Obviously we’re keeping everybody back from the counter and we don’t normally get more than 10 in the store anyway,” White said. “The floors are all marked on spacing when they do come up to the counter and we’re doing open door and not even using the air-conditioning and that keeps the air moving through there a lot faster.”

The primary intent of the law that established the tax-free emergency supplies holiday, which begins at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, April 25, and ends at midnight on Monday, April 27, is to help Texans prepare for events like hurricanes and violent spring storms.

“Unfortunately, strong spring storms, wildfires and the upcoming hurricane season will still threaten Texans in the months ahead, and so it’s important that homes and businesses have the supplies they need to face these emergencies,” Texas State Comptroller Glenn Hegar said.

At McCoy’s in Harlingen, customers also have the option of ordering online at https://www.mccoys.com/stores/harlingen-tx

“You can go online and place your orders online and of course we do have some signs outside for curbside pickups, or if they’re yard items, an employee out there will approach them and will get their item, scan it, and have their materials ready to pick up,” Ortiz said. “Usually we’ll have everything ready, gosh, we’re doing about 30 minutes turnaround time from when the order is placed until we respond to the customer, and it’s ready to go.

“We’re doing our part to protect ourselves and to protect the community as they’re coming in,” Ortiz added. “We can pray for the best and move forward.”

Emergency supplies tax-free weekend

WHEN: April 25-27
WHAT: No sales tax on emergency supplies, with some stipulations
WHERE: All Texas stores as well as online retailers

Qualifying products

  • Household batteries, fuel containers and flashlights priced less than $75
  • Hurricane shutters and emergency ladders priced at less than $300
  • Portable generators priced at less than $3,000

Non-qualifying products

  • Batteries for automobiles, boats and other motorized vehicles
  • Camping stoves and camping supplies
  • Chainsaws
  • Plywood
  • Extension ladders and stepladders
  • Tents

Complete list here: https://comptroller.texas.gov/taxes/publications/98-1017.php