*Special to the Progress Times*
As the coronavirus crisis threatens the lives and livelihoods of South Texans, we must work every day to support the health care workers who are saving lives and the families, workers, and small businesses who make our economy work.
Last week, Congress passed our third bipartisan response to this crisis – $2.2 trillion for hospitals, health care systems, workers, small businesses, students, and state and local leaders who are on the frontlines.
It builds on two bipartisan bills already signed into law to boost prevention and preparedness in order to protect families.
Most South Texans will get immediate direct cash payments in the next few weeks. All individuals earning less than $75,000 and households earning less than $150,000 will get $1,200 for each adult and $500 for each child.
I worked hard to secure $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses across the nation, so they can pay their employees and keep them on the payroll. I also helped secure $17 billion for debt relief for current and new SBA borrowers and $10 billion in immediate disaster grants.
This bipartisan stimulus package also increased unemployment benefits so that the average laid-off worker will get four months of full pay; these benefits will also include self-employed workers, independent contractors, and gig economy workers. South Texans are eligible for up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits, about 3 months longer than before this bill was passed.
The bill included $200 billion for hospitals, health care workers, and research, including ventilators, n95 masks, gowns, gloves, and more personal protective equipment desperately needed by health care workers.
I worked hard to secure funding for a number of initiatives that will benefit the Lone Star State. I helped secured $11.243 billion for Texas state and local governments that are on the front lines, $1.182 billion for Texas transit systems that have been hit hard, and $144 million for Texas to address homelessness.
For Texas students, I helped secure billions in emergency education funding and eliminated income tax on student loan repayment assistance by an employer.
For accountability and oversight, Congress prevented secret bailouts and added special oversight requirements, including banning stock buybacks for any company receiving a government loan from the bill for the term of the government assistance plus 1 year, as well as establishing robust worker protections attached to all federal loans for businesses.
These are just some of the supports you may be eligible for under this emergency package. If you need assistance applying for relief, my staff and I are here to help. Please see my office’s COVID-19 Handbook, which will help you better understand all the financial resources available for our community, such as critical federal funding sources to assist small businesses and local governments.
While this relief package will provide critical emergency assistance our state needs, I know we still have more work to do, and I will be working for you every day as Congress crafts the next package.
Thank you to South Texas health care workers who are risking their lives to care for others. Thank you to grocery store clerks, garbage truck drivers, postal workers and all essential workers for keeping our state going. Thank you to families who are sacrificing, following social distancing guidelines and showing kindness to your neighbors. Thank you to small business owners who are doing everything they can to keep going for the workers and communities who depend on them.
You are the heroes in this story. And it is because of you that I know we will get through this.