by Texas Senator Jane Nelson, Flower Mound
Texas is ramping up our efforts to confront COVID-19 while taking a major step forward in the effort to safely reopen the economy.
Schools are to remain closed through the end of the school year to protect our students, teachers and support staff. My heart aches for all the seniors who will not get to walk across the stage to receive their diploma, but as a former teacher and PTA mom I have no doubt we are going to see creative ways to honor the achievement of our graduates amid this crisis.
While social distancing policies remain in place, plans are in the works to re-open businesses in close consultation with medical experts. Starting April 24th, select stores and services can return under a “retail-to-go” model. Restrictions on surgeries will be loosened starting April 21st. A plan for future re-openings will be released on April 27th.
Having operated a business, I recognize the hardships on industries and am working on several fronts to help struggling businesses. LiftFund is partnering with financial institutions to provide $50 million in loans to small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19. More information can be found at www.liftfund.com. A new webinar series has been launched to keep small business owners updated on COVID-19 resources that are available. One webinar has already taken place, and future events will be posted at gov.texas.gov/business/events.
State parks will re-open Monday, April 20th, with strict guidelines that individuals wear face coverings, maintain a six-foot distance from those outside of your party, and avoid gathering in groups larger than five.
Over $2 billion in federal relief is currently making its way to over 24,000 Texas healthcare providers — as the first $30 billion has been disbursed from the $100 billion Public Health and Emergency Fund created by the federal CARES Act.
Due to business closures and layoffs, more people than ever before are filing for unemployment. This has put a strain on our systems, and unfortunately has resulted in Texans waiting to receive benefits. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has expanded its call centers, operating seven days a week, from 7 am to 7 pm. The Legislature is doing everything possible to reduce wait times and deliver benefits to Texans. Thanks to Lt. Gov. Patrick’s leadership, senators have committed 200 staffers, including members of my staff, to assist TWC in answering calls. The Texas House has also dedicated 120 staffers to join the cause.
As chair of the Senate Finance Committee, I am working to ensure that Texas has the resources necessary to protect the public health and safety. I am confident we can do that while making strides to get Texans back to work and make our economy roar again.
Together, we will get through this. Stay safe!