Happy Juneteenth / Long Days of Summer / COVID-19 resources

HAPPY JUNETEENTH!


LONG SUMMER DAYS
We are in the long days of summer, as this week was packed with important news and high temperatures. We had two positive and impactful Supreme Court decisions, a pathetic attempt by the President at police reform, updates on racial health disparities, and a major change in Texas’ mask policy.

Supreme Court Rulings
Pro-LGBTQ
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court made a landmark ruling that found Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, also applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The ruling for the first time extends federal workplace protections to LGBTQ employees nationwide.

I am proud of my extensive record of being a leader on LGBTQ rights, and that is why I am glad that the U.S. Supreme Court made the right decision in this case. However, there is still work to do. That is why I will be working with a group of legislators next session to pass a comprehensive non-discrimination bill. Despite the Court’s decision, there is no statewide law protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing or public spaces. LGBTQ rights are civil rights, and like all civil rights, it is an uphill battle to protect them.

Pro-DACA
On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the Trump Administration’s Department of Homeland Security “failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients. That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner,” said Chief Justice Roberts, writing in the majority opinion.

This is a good decision because Houston and Texas are enriched by the immigrants who call our state home, bringing diversity, innovation, and economic prosperity to our communities. There are more than 109,000 DACA recipients in Texas, including many in Harris County, who have lived in the U.S. for as long as they can remember, and who have become integral members of their Texas communities and contributors to the economy. Today’s decision, however, is temporary relief. I am committed to working to protect these young immigrants, but federal action is needed. Congress should act to protect Dreamers once and for all.

Trump Executive Order – Police
On Tuesday, President Trump signed a half-hearted executive order is nothing more than an incentive package that fails to provide the kind of meaningful policy reforms needed. The same President who delivered law and order rhetoric with relish has proposed a tepid order that only dangles incentive funds for police departments that require things like de-escalation training, something many law enforcement officers are already required to do. This is superfluous in Texas because in 2017, I passed the Sandra Bland Act that required both de-escalation training and additional crisis intervention training for all officers through basic training, promotion requirements, or continuing education.

His proposal to share information in the executive order between law enforcement agencies does not increase transparency for the public. Furthermore, his executive order will increase armoring law enforcement with “non-lethal” weapons. This is not real reform. These weapons can kill, and as we have seen, they can cause severe injuries and left Justin Howell in critical condition in Austin.

People of color have heard the President’s kind of empty rhetoric for far too long. Instead of justice, the President offers more of the same. The members of Congress who represent our communities are developing a plan for justice that will make our communities safer and stronger. If the President wants progress and real change, he would work with them instead of offering an order designed for nothing more than political cover.

Racial Health Disparities
This Friday, Juneteenth at 2pm, I will be speaking on a Black Leadership in US Health Care and Health Policy panel hosted by State of Reform. Eric Hunter of CareOregon, and Demetria Malloy, MD, of Anthem Medicaid in California will be on the panel with me. Click here to register for the event.

Next week on Tuesday, June 23, I will be participating on another panel on racial health disparities. On the panel with me will be the director of the Humana Integrated Health System Sciences Institute at the University of Houston and a University of Houston College of Medicine professor Dr. LeChauncy D. Woodard, M.D., M.P.H., FACP, and founder/director of the HEALTH Research Institute and professor and Associate Dean of the University of Houston College of Education Dr. Ezemenari M. Obasi, Ph.D. The panel will be moderated by Sean Haley, Ph.D., of the Center for Civic & Public Policy Improvement (CCPPI).

This virtual event is free and open to everyone. Please share with your friends and family. Hope you will be able to attend. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

These panels are important as other health leaders and I try to push for meaningful change to our healthcare system for people of color. Racial health disparities have always existed and are only being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Masks
On Wednesday, the Legislative Study Group (also known as the Texas House progressive caucus, which I chair) released a report showing that mandatory face mask requirements would go along way in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Click here to read that report. That same day, Governor Abbot ducked a showdown with local officials by saying his plan has always allowed for mask requirements. Abbott said Bexar County Judge Wolff has “finally figured out” what locals can do regarding masks under his statewide order, adding that government cannot require individuals to wear masks, but under his plan, local governments can require stores and businesses to require masks. If this was truly Abbott’s plan all along, he has been playing a deadly game of “hide the ball” that may have cost hundreds of Texans their lives.

We are still in the middle of a pandemic, so it is important that we still all work together to help slow the spread of COVID-19. If you are part of the population who has a high risk for severe illness please such as those 65 years and older, or who have an underlying health condition, please stay home as much as possible. If you do go out please practice good hygiene and public health safety measures when you do go out. Such as:

  • practice social distancing;
  • limit when you go out in public;
  • when you do go out wear a face mask; and
  • wash your hands and avoid touching your face.

There are people whose work requires them to go out to help us all stay safe, healthy, and fed. We can help those essential workers by staying home. If we work together, we can do our best to minimize the number of deaths by following the recommendations above and encouraging our friends and family to do the same.


Center for Civic & Public Policy Improvement (CCPPI) Presents a Panel on Racial Health Disparities

 
Next week on Tuesday, June 23rd at 11 am, I will be participating on a panel on racial health disparities. Also on the panel will be the director of the Humana Integrated Health System Sciences Institute at the University of Houston and a University of Houston College of Medicine professor Dr. LeChauncy D. Woodard, M.D., M.P.H., FACP, and founder/director of the HEALTH Research Institute and professor and Associate Dean of the University of Houston College of Education Dr. Ezemenari M. Obasi, Ph.D. The panel will be moderated by Sean Haley, Ph.D., of the Center for Civic & Public Policy Improvement (CCPPI).

This virtual event is free and open to everyone. Please share with your friends and family. Hope you will be able to attend. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.


COVID-19 RESOURCE UPDATES
As our community continues to work to slow the spread of the coronavirus, I wanted to make you aware of some of the resources out there to help you through this difficult time.

Harris County COVID-19 Relief FundHarris County has established the Harris County COVID-19 Relief Fund to provide much-needed relief to Harris County residents most impacted by the global pandemic.

The Fund is open to all eligible, low-income Harris County residents, including those excluded by the CARES Act or immigrant households, and people who may receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance but cannot afford to wait for months.

  • Apply Online at www.harriscountyrelief.org  from Tuesday, June 23 at 6AM through Wednesday, June 24 at 10PM.
  • Apply by Phone: Friendly operators will help applicants during the process by recording their answers and submitting the application.
    • June 23: Open 6AM – 2PM CT
    • June 24: Open 2PM – 10PM CT
  • Applications will not be accepted at the Greater Houston Community Foundation.

Applicants only need to apply once. For example, if you apply online, you do not have to apply over the phone too. Multiple applications do not guarantee or increase chances of receiving aid.
Summer Meals
From HISD: The Houston Independent School District will begin providing the Summer Meals Program for all children ages 1 to 18. This year, the meals will be distributed curbside to adhere to social distancing requirements.

Beginning June 1, families will be able to pick up boxed student meals twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays at one of 71 designated schools across the district. Each box will contain a day’s worth of meals, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack. Pick up sites will provide parents with multiple boxes — three on Mondays and four on Thursdays — for each child.

Boxes will be provided for all children in the vehicle at pickup. Children are not required to be present, but parents must have proof of enrollment in any school district (report card, student id, etc.) or birth certificate.

Click Here for additional info and locations.

CVS OPENS DRIVE THRU TESTING SITE IN HD 147
CVS Health has opened up a drive thru testing site in our district at the CVS Pharmacy at 1003 Richmond Avenue, Houston, TX 77006. The drive-thru will be available to individuals who meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria, in addition to age guidelines. Patients must register in advance at CVS.com beginning Friday, May 22 to schedule an appointment.

HOUSTON COVID-19 TESTING FOR EVERYONE
Good news Houston, we now have the capacity to test anyone who wants to be tested. Houston’s two community based testing sites are now available to ANYONE who wants to be tested for COVID-19. You no longer need to have symptoms. However, you do need to call ahead. If you would like to be tested please call 832-393-4220 to be provided a unique identification code and directions on where to go.

Internet Access
If your family or a family you know is in need of internet access to help continue a child’s education, some of Houston’s cable providers are offering free internet for the next 60 days. Listed below are companies and numbers to call to help set you or someone you know up with internet access while a child (K-12 & college) may require an internet connection to continue their education.

  • SuddenLink 888-633-0030
  • Charter/Spectrum 844-488-8395
In addition to those companies Sparklight and Comcast are working with customers to waive late fees, defer payments, and avoid disruption in internet service. If you believe you are going to have difficulty paying your internet bill please reach out to your provider before the bill is due so that they can work with you during this difficult time.

 

Houston Health
The Houston Health Department is operating a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) call center for Houston residents needing more information COVID-19. Houstonians can call the center at 832-393-4220 to speak to department staff and obtain information about the disease or get their questions answered. The call center will open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Texas Workforce Commission
The waiting week for unemployment benefits has been temporarily waived, allowing the Texas Workforce Commission to pay your UI benefits sooner during this declared disaster. Additionally, For workers impacted by the Coronavirus, the Workforce Commission has waived requirement that one must be looking for work in order to apply for unemployment benefits.

If your employment has been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19), apply for benefits either online at any time using Unemployment Benefits Services or by calling TWC’s Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 from 7 a.m .- 7 p.m. Central Time every day including Saturdays and Sundays.


Census 2020:
While at home you can still perform your civil duty and fill out the 2020 Census online. It is important for you to fill out the census to ensure that our community receives its fair share of funding for SNAP, Medicare and Medicaid, infrastructure, public education, and more. Click here to fill out the 2020 Census Online if you have not already.
 
What To Watch This Week:
This week’s video is from a Future Now Virtual Panel on Policing Reform: One Step in Dismantling Structural Racism held last week.  This panel includes Dr. Tracie Keesee of the Center for Policing Equity, Sam Sinyangwe of Campaign Zero and Mapping Police Violence, Delegate Josh Cole of Virginia, Representative Garnet Coleman of Texas, and Senator Nikema Williams of Georgia. Click here or below to watch.

Cartoon of the Week

Steve Breen Copyright 2020 San Diego Union-Tribune

Song of the Week
Our songs of the week are “Fight The Power” the orginal by The Isley Brothers and the remake by Public Enemy.

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