The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus has taken a tremendous toll on the physical and financial health of the American people.
As the number of cases has soared, medical professionals and leaders at every level have made a single, critical request: stay home.
Social distancing is key to flattening the curve to avoid overwhelming our health care system. While it’s the most important thing Texans can do right now, that doesn’t mean this shift in our daily routines is without consequence.
Small businesses and schools have closed their doors, restaurants have switched to takeout-only operations, and families have canceled travel plans.
As a result, millions of workers have lost their jobs and our economic engine has slowed to a sputter.
Think about the waiter at your favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, the person who cuts your hair, the housekeeper who cleans rooms at a nearby hotel — a few weeks ago, each of these men and women had a reliable source of income, and today, many have either been laid off or forced to work fewer hours.
Texas workers and small businesses have been burdened by this crisis at no fault of their own, and the U.S. Senate just delivered serious assistance. On Wednesday, we unanimously passed a bill which will send direct financial help to the Texans who need it. A family of four can receive up to $3,400 because of this legislation, with no piles of paperwork to sort through. It also expands unemployment insurance eligibility, and provides an extra $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits. When it comes to covering bills and navigating this uncertainly, that money is a lifeline.
This bill also provides serious relief for small businesses. It creates new loans to help these businesses cover everything from mortgage payments to payroll expenses, and helps ensure employees at businesses of all sizes will have the support they need now, and jobs to come back to later.
Of course, this bill also gets to the heart of this crisis — the virus itself. It provides $100 billion for hospitals that are struggling to manage the influx of patients, and it helps fight the shortage of critical medical devices, such as respirators. It also cuts red tape to speed up the process of making vaccines and treatments widely available, and helps get doctors and nurses to the hardest-hit areas.
This legislation builds on two bills President Donald Trump signed earlier this month.
The first invested $8.3 billion in the early stages of our fight against the coronavirus. It provided funding for masks and other personal protective equipment for our health care professionals and first responders, and supported our community health centers and state and local health departments. It also bolstered our resources in the race to develop a vaccine, possible treatments and more diagnostics.
Shortly after that, we passed a second bill to support the workers and small businesses hit hardest by this pandemic. It improved paid sick leave for those impacted by the coronavirus, made unemployment insurance more accessible, and strengthened food security for Americans of all ages. It also made coronavirus testing free for all Americans — no one should ever be in a position of sacrificing health and safety because of cost.
Amid all this uncertainty, one thing is abundantly clear: There’s no time for politics as usual. Each of these bills received broad bipartisan support in both the Senate and House, and each was quickly signed by the president. I’m proud to have joined both Republicans and Democrats in swiftly passing these bills to bolster our nation’s response to the coronavirus.
As millions of Texans hunker down at home, there’s an entire network of people who have continued working. Our incredible health care professionals and first responders are fighting this virus on the front lines. Farmers, ranchers and producers are growing our food, truckers are delivering it, and store employees and food bank volunteers are stocking shelves.
I’m incredibly grateful for the work these men and women are doing, day in and day out, to support their neighbors during this difficult time for our country. As this crisis continues to evolve in the days and weeks ahead, I promise to do the same.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column first appeared in The Dallas Morning News on March 27, 2020. Click here to view the original posting of the column. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with the permission of the author.