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From Texas Senator Judith Zaffirini 5/7/2020

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May 08, 2020
Dear Friends:

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.

Thank You to Our Teachers
Teacher Appreciation Week is observed May 4-8 this year. Our teachers have continued to work tirelessly, transitioning impressively in using virtual classrooms and at-home lessons to ensure each child can reach his or her full potential. ¡Bravo!

Please join me in thanking our wonderful teachers for fostering a lifelong love of learning in our children and making a difference in their long-term success. Theirs is a noble profession.

Unemployment Relief in Texas
Due to the COVID-19 emergency, you may might qualify for unemployment compensation if you are in one of the following categories:
  • High Risk: You are 65 years or older, which puts you at a higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19, or have an underlying medical condition that meets the definition of "high risk" adopted by the Department of Health Services (DSHS).
  • Household member at high risk: You live with someone who is 65 years or older or otherwise meets the definition of "high risk" adopted by DSHS.
  • Diagnosed with COVID-19: You tested positive for COVID-19 by a source authorized by the State of Texas and have not recovered.
  • Family member with COVID-19: Someone in your household tested positive for COVID-19 by a source authorized by the State of Texas, has not recovered, and 14 days have not passed.
  • Quarantined: You are in a 14-day quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19.
  • Child care: Your child’s school or daycare facility is closed, and no alternatives are available.
Any other situation will be subject to a case by case review by the Texas Workforce Commission based on individual circumstances.

View the Unemployment Insurance Claimant Dashboard here.
FEMA Announces Supplemental Funding Through CARES Act
FEMA announced $200 million in supplemental funding allocations to local jurisdictions across the country to supplement local service organizations that provide critical resources to people with economic emergencies, which include our hungry and homeless populations.

Each funded jurisdiction establishes a local board that awards the grant funds to local social service organizations, both nonprofit and governmental, that can best address the identified needs of the community. With the FY 2019 and CARES Act funding, and the FY 2020 funding of $125 million that is to be allocated to jurisdictions a couple months later, the total aid disbursed in the EFSP’s 38-year history will be more than $5 billion.

Senate District 21 Awards
Jurisdiction Award
Atascosa County $11,000      
Austin/Travis $400,228      
Bee County $12,086      
Bexar County $752,195      
Caldwell County $15,943      
Guadalupe County $60,329      
Hays County $77,118      
San Patricio County $46,028      
Starr County $68,054      
Webb County $101,313      
Zapata County $14,223      
Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program locations may be found here for your area.

Relief for U.S. Agricultural Businesses
Pictured, left to right: Mason Royal, Cotton Harris, Madison Sherrer, Senator Judith Zaffirini, Brenda Beyer, Emery Robles, Reagan Moon and Tilden FFA Advisor, Jim Harris. NOEL WILKERSON HOLMES | PLEASANTON EXPRESS
Small Business Administration will begin accepting new Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance applications on a limited basis only to provide relief to U.S. agricultural businesses.

The new eligibility is made possible as a result of the latest round of funds appropriated by Congress in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Agricultural businesses includes businesses engaged in producing food and fiber, ranching, raising livestock, aquaculture, and all other farming and agricultural related industries (as defined by section 18(b) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 647(b)).

SBA encourages eligible agricultural businesses with 500 or fewer employees wishing to apply to begin preparing their business financial information needed for their application.

At this time, only agricultural business applications will be accepted, due to limitations in funding availability and the unprecedented submission of applications already received. Applicants who have submitted their applications will continue to be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Agricultural businesses that submitted EIDL applications through the streamlined application portal prior to the legislative change do not need to re-apply.

Eligible agricultural businesses may apply for the Loan Advance here.
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:
Central Texas Food Bank, serving Caldwell, Hays, Travis counties

Coastal Bend Food Bank, serving Bee, Duval, Live Oak, McMullen, and San Patricio counties
San Antonio Food Bank, serving Atascosa, Bexar, Guadalupe, Karnes, La Salle, Wilson

South Texas Food Bank, serving Jim Hogg, Starr, Webb, Zapata counties 
Executive Order GA-21
Executive Order GA-21 is effective immediately and will continue through May 19, 2020. Highlights are listed below:
  • Texans, except where necessary to provide or obtain an essential service or a reopened service, should continue to minimize social gatherings and in person contact with those who are not in the same household.
  • Persons older than 65 are encouraged to stay home as much as possible. Others are encouraged to avoid contact with them.
  • Those who leave the home, whether young or old, should implement social distancing and good hygiene.
  • Essential Services include those listed under CISA guidance as well as churches, congregations, and places of worship.
Re-opened Services consist of the following:
  • In-store retail at 25 percent occupancy (25 percent does not include employees.)
  • Dine-in at restaurants at 25 percent occupancy (There is no occupancy limit for outside seating. 25 percent does not include employees.)
  • Movie theaters at 25 percent occupancy (25 percent does not include employees.)
  • Shopping malls at 25 percent occupancy (Food court, play areas, and interactive displays must remain closed.) (25 percent does not include employees.)
  • Museums and libraries at occupancy of 25 percent (25 percent does not include employees.)
  • Golf course operations
  • Local government operations
  • Services provided by one person in an office setting (This will be expanded on Monday, May 18.)
  • Wedding venues and services required to conduct weddings, subject to either the guidelines for churches (if held in a church) or at 25 percent of indoor occupancy (if held indoors at a non-church). Outdoor weddings are encouraged.
  • Wedding receptions, subject to guidelines for restaurants (if held at a restaurant) or subject to 25 percent of indoor capacity (if held indoors). Outdoor receptions are encouraged.
Starting on Friday, May 8, 2020, the following may be opened, but subject to guidelines in The Governor’s Report to Open Texas:
  • Cosmetology salons, hair salons, barber shops, and nail salons
  • Tanning Salons
  • Swimming pools
Starting on Monday, May 18, 2020, the following may be opened:
  • Services provided in an office may operate with the greater of five persons or 25 percent of the office workforce.
  • Non-essential manufacturing services at 25 percent occupancy
  • Gyms and exercise facilities and classes, whether indoor, outdoor, individual, or group, at 25 percent occupancy
As previously was the case in GA-18, counties with five or fewer active case counts can file proper attestation forms with DSHS to allow for occupancy limits of 50 percent for facilities otherwise limited to 25 percent occupancy.

Health and Safety Guidlines:
Department of Health and Human Services Minimum Recommended Health Protocols
Checklist for Barber Shops, Hair Salons or Nail Salons

Workplace Tips

General Resources
  • 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.
  • HOME Tenant Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) funds will be available for Texans experiencing difficulties making home or rental payments due to COVID-19 from HUD via Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.
  • Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will provide a series of free online trainings to help local officials acquire and administer federal assistance funds.
  • The Frontline Child Care Effort, recently launched an online portal for essential workers to find available child care near their homes or workplaces. Impacted parents can learn more here.
  • 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.
State Links and Hotlines
Additional Resources
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
1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
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
New Computer and Petroleum Engineering Degrees Offered at
Texas A&M International University

Two new computer and petroleum degrees will be offered at Texas A&M International University. Finally!
These two undergraduate programs are critical to South Texas' economic vibrancy and diversification. I vividly recall proposing a petroleum engineering degree, beginning in the early days of the Eagle Ford Shale. I did so, for example, when I spoke to a multi-county group at Lewis Energy.
The attached photo was taken during my tour of the impressive facilities.
Congratulations to all who made this possible, and thanks to the Higher Education Coordinating Board for approving the proposals submitted by President Pablo Arenaz. Other advocates over the years include Gary Jacobs, Tony Sanchez, and Cliffe Killam. ¡Mil Gracias!
I am endlessly proud that our beloved university has grown from a desk in another college's library to a hub of learning and innovation that impacts not only South Texas, but also the rest the Texas and beyond.
Here is the link to the university's press release.
Free COVID-19 Mobile Testing Now Available

The mobile testing teams are designed to focus on both rural areas that have not had access to testing and areas where an active outbreak requires additional testing capacity. This effort is a partnership among TDEM, DSHS, Texas Military Department, and the Emergency Medical Task Force. 
The locations will be open for testing by appointment only. Persons who are interested in testing may make an appointment through: or 512-883-2400.  

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.

The map is available via this link.
View the TXDSHS COVID-19 Dashboard here.

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

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 excel in helping each other remain healthy and safe.


Judith Zaffirini, PhD
State Senator, District 21

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