The Senate Jobs and Reopening the Economy Work Group will make informal recommendations related to the economic difficulties brought on by COVID-19, assess the effectiveness of our response to this crisis, and consider means by which we can re-open Texas safely. As a member of this group, I welcome your ideas.
Appointed by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, the group comprises Senator Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, chair; and Senators Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe; Pat Fallon, R-Prosper; Nathan Johnson, D-Dallas; Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville; Charles Perry, R-Lubbock; and myself.
Thanks to the lieutenant governor for this opportunity. It truly is my pleasure to collaborate with colleagues to address the challenges faced by Texas families, businesses, and communities during the coronavirus outbreak.
His press release announcing the formation and makeup of the Senate working groups is linked here.
My Capitol and district office staff members and I continue to work remotely, with office calls forwarded to cell phones, and to prioritize disseminating timely and useful information. We are doing our best to reach as many persons as possible, including via emails like this and social media, particularly my Facebook page. Some of my updates are gathered below for your convenience.
COVID-19 Test Collection Site Map
Collection sites for COVID-19 tests are identified on an online map developed by the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Department of State Health Services.
At least 340 locations are included and more will be added as additional sites are opened.
The map is available via this link.
Emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits were approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at the request of Governor Greg Abbott.
SNAP recipients in Texas will receive the maximum allowable amount of assistance for their family size. Enrolled Texans received the additional benefits for this month by April 15 and should receive them for next month by May 15.
HHSC will receive $54 million in federal funds to support the state's 28 Area Agencies on Aging with home delivered meals, household chores, assistance with groceries and respite care for family caregivers.
The COVID-19 test collection online map is now live and available here.
The Texas Workforce Commission has information about unemployment insurance eligibility, programs, and job opportunities. Persons who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19 can sign-up to receive updates here.
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides monthly cash payments for food, housing and other necessities to families and persons caring for children 18-years-old and younger.
The Women, Infant, and Children’s (WIC) program temporarily has expanded approved foods for clients who cannot find items typically on the program’s list. For more information or to apply, visit the Central Texas WIC Facebook page or the Texas WIC website.
Public Utilities Commission Offers Relief in Response to COVID-19
Lights won't be turned off suddenly for those experiencing economic hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to an electricity relief program created by the Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUC).
The PUC ordered retail electric providers in competitive parts of the state (those not covered only by municipal utilities or cooperatives) to offer deferred payment plans to any residential customers who request them and to suspend disconnections for nonpayment for anyone on the state's unemployed and low-income list due to COVID-19.
Struggling customers in competitive areas who qualify for unemployment benefits may request enrollment via 866/454-8387. The call center is open 24/7.
Enrolled customers are encouraged to continue paying the amount of their bills that they are able.
More information, including answers to frequently asked questions, is available here.
Lockhart ISD Provides High-Speed Internet to Students
LISD trustees, Superintendent Mark Estrada, and other administrators, teachers, and staff clearly understand that improving broadband access in rural communities is imperative during the coronavirus pandemic. ¡Bravo!
Partnering with a local provider, the district expects to provide service for 700 families by July. Costs to the district would be limited to a modest $30 per year per household.
According to Superintendent Estrada, free high-speed Internet access will be provided to every home that needs it in this 300-square-mile district in Caldwell County, which is in my senatorial district.
If successful, the plan could be transformative not only for Lockhart ISD's 6,000 students, but also for learners in rural communities across Texas.
As a member of the Senate Committee on Education, count on me to help make this important and ambitious endeavor successful and to continue to seek bipartisan solutions that help Texas students and teachers excel.
Lockhart ISD's plan is detailed in a recent National Public Radio article, linked here.
Small Business Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Funding Status Update
The Paycheck Protection Program signed into law last week includes $60 billion for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs), community banks, credit unions, certified development companies and microlenders whose small business customers are often minority-owned businesses.
This includes $30 billion for institutions with less than $10 billion in assets and $30 billion for those with between $10 billion and $50 billion in assets. The bill also will direct $75 billion to hospitals and $25 billion to a new coronavirus testing program.
The Small Business Administration has committed to providing long-term, low interest loans to qualifying businesses across Texas.
To apply for a disaster loan through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, click here.
Shopping for Food During the COVID-19 Pandemic Information for Consumers
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has published best practices for persons to use when they go grocery shopping and after they return home. They can be found here.
Discounted Telecommunications Services
Click on your mobile phone service provider below for information about how to apply for the Lifeline Program for low income customers, or visit the Federal Communications Commission website to learn more.
To learn about stimulus financial assistance or Economic Impact Payments visit IRS.gov. You can use the Get My Payment option to check the status of your payment, or use Non-filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool to request your payment if you are not required to file an income tax document.
Texas Child Abuse Hotline:
Or dial 1-800-252-5400
to reach an advocate.
National Domestic Abuse Hotline:
Our advocates are available 24/7 at
in more than 200 languages.
All calls are free and confidential.
Crisis Text Line:
Text HOME to 741741 when going through any kind of emotional crisis and a counselor will respond via text.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones,and best practices for professionals
Stuck at home and touched by the challenges faced by families in their community, these fourth graders resolved to make a difference by raising money for the Central Texas Food Bank. Despite an ambitious initial goal to raise $1,250, the girls have greatly exceeded it, raising $11,119 so far—almost 50,000 meals! ¡Bravo!
They also created the video below, using their own research, to explain the food bank's mission and the benefits of contributing. Although they reference the Central Texas Food Bank, which serves Caldwell, Hays and Travis counties in Senate District 21, much of their information holds true for food banks across Texas and the nation.
Such a sincere and selfless display of kindness and generosity is as moving as it is inspiring. It exemplifies the virtues we hope for in all children.
Equally important, however, is the mission defined by the "Giving Girls." All of us should embrace it. Click here or on the photo above to watch the video.
I hope all who can will contribute time and money to help neighbors in need during this crisis, including by donating to local food banks.
Our Senate District 21 has four major food banks and many smaller neighborhood partners and pantries. The four and the SD 21 counties they serve are listed below:
I will continue to send updates as we monitor and respond to this crisis. If you have additional helpful information not included here, please contact my staff or me via
512/463-0121, 956/722-2293 or email@example.com.
My prayer continues to be that the Lord will bless, strengthen, and heal Texas families affected by COVID-19 and inspire all of us to do what we can to help each other remain healthy and safe.