It has been another eventful week. As we continue to navigate the challenges of COVID-19 and other matters of importance, my team and I are continuing to work with our neighbors on all kinds of issues. Below is this week’s update.
Congress continued its work to conclude essential legislation at the end of the year, and we passed several important year-end bills. House and the Senate leaders have been working to reach an agreement on a year-end government appropriations bill and to include much-needed COVID-19 relief provisions in the annual spending bill. An agreement has been announced just this evening. It does not meet all needs, and there is more work to be done, but here are some of the key provisions of this stabilization bill:
- Economic Impact Payments: $600 per adult and child.
- Enhanced Unemployment Insurance Benefits: averts expiration of Unemployment Insurance benefits for millions and added a $300 per week UI enhancement for Americans who are out of work.
- Paycheck Protection Funding: $284 billion for first and second forgivable PPP loans, expanded PPP eligibility for nonprofits, key modifications to PPP to serve the smallest businesses and struggling non-profits and better assist independent restaurants, including $15 billion in dedicated funding for entertainment venues and cultural institutions.
- Small Business Grants: $20 billion for targeted EIDL grants.
- Nutrition Assistance: $13 billion in increased SNAP and child nutrition benefits to help relieve the hunger crisis.
- Rental Assistance: $25 billion for rental assistance and an extension of the eviction moratorium.
- Education and Child Care: $82 billion in funding for colleges and schools, including support for HVAC repair and replacement to mitigate virus transmission and reopen classrooms, and $10 billion for child care assistance to help get parents back to work and keep child care providers open.
- Broadband Access: $7 billion to increase access to broadband, including a new Emergency Broadband Benefit to help millions of students, families and unemployed workers afford the broadband they need during the pandemic.
- Vaccine Distribution: Billions in funding to accelerate vaccine distribution and to implement a strong national testing and tracing strategy.
In addition to this coronavirus aid, the year-end package of coronavirus support and spending provisions includes the following important provisions for our community:
- Bipartisan legislation to end surprise billing for emergency and scheduled care;
- The Water Resources Development Act of 2020, authorizing the widening of the Houston Ship Channel and investing in its maintenance; and
- Energy provisions for research and development programs that increase federal support necessary to develop energy technology for the next century that our region is well-positioned to utilize.
We expect to vote on this legislation tomorrow. I will review the text of the legislation to ensure that the bill includes the priorities of our community – and I look forward to providing you with an update.
I’m glad to share with you that this week I was appointed to the Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee during the 117th Congress!
The E&C Committee has the broadest jurisdiction of any authorizing committee in the House of Representatives and it is also the oldest continuous standing committee in the House. It oversees legislation on many issues, including health care, medical research, energy policy, the environment, and telecommunications.
The matters of jurisdiction on the Energy and Commerce Committee define so much of what we do in our district. As the representative for the energy capital of the world, and the home to some of the finest healthcare providers, researchers & innovators anywhere, I look forward to bringing TX07's perspective to the committee.
I hosted my final Telephone Town Hall for the year on Wednesday. I was glad to review my work during this unusual and difficult year – and to look ahead a little to the 117th Congress. Of course, so much of this year has been shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, and I was delighted to welcome Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of Baylor College of Medicine’s National School of Tropical Medicine, and co-director of Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, to talk about the pandemic – where we are now, and where we are headed, and taking questions from our neighbors.
If you did not get a chance to join, you can listen to a recording of the conversation here.
Despite promising developments, our country hit new records this week of a single-day caseload of more than 251,000 new coronavirus infections, 1 million new ones in just five days and more than 3,600 deaths in a single day. The national death toll soared past 300,000 this week.
Our region has an estimated 25,051 active cases, and positivity rate continues to hover at around 10 percent. Texas Medical Center is now at ‘Phase 2’ of its ICU occupancy plan, meaning that it has reached 100 percent of ‘Phase 1’ and have implemented measures to ensure patients who need treatment can have a bed.
The coronavirus vaccination efforts are underway. More than 128,000 people in the U.S. have received a dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, including here in Houston. At the same time, federal regulators have authorized a second vaccine developed by Moderna for emergency use. Inoculations with the Moderna vaccine could start as early as Monday.
While these developments offer us hope in the fight against the pandemic, it will take time before we can see the impacts. As our local elected officials have reminded us, holiday gatherings could be crucial in determining whether coronavirus cases here in our community surge over the next month. Working together can we fight COVID-19, but it is up to all of us to protect ourselves and our community by wearing a mask, washing our hands, keeping physical distance, and staying home as much as we can.
As a reminder, December 31st marks the deadline for the following:
- Hurricane Harvey Reimbursement: Homeowners who repaired their own homes following Hurricane Harvey have until December 3 to apply for reimbursement through the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program. Homeowners can begin the process here.
- Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL): Currently, he final day to apply for a COVID-19 EIDL is December 31, 2020. Start the application process before the holidays.
If you have any questions or concerns on any of the topics above – or anything else – you can reach me at (713) 353-8680 or email me here. I look forward to hearing from you!