Early Voting Starts Monday/ Racial Health Disparities Panel / COVID-19 resources

Early Voting
Election Day for the Texas Primary Runoff Elections is fast approaching, with Early Voting starting tomorrow, Monday, June 29thCLICK HERE TO FIND A POLLING LOCATION NEAR YOU. I highly encourage you to vote early to avoid the long lines and crowded polling places on election day. When going to vote make sure you wear your mask at all times.

Vote By Mail
If you are registered to vote, you still have time to register to vote by mail if you meet certain qualifications. You may vote early by mail if you are registered to vote and meet one of the following criteria:

  • Away from the county of residence on Election Day and during the early voting period;
  • Sick or disabled;
  • 65 years of age or older on Election Day;
  • or Confined in jail, but eligible to vote.
If you believe you qualify you can click here for more information on how to request a mail ballot application to receive a ballot and vote by mail. The deadline to request a mail ballot application for the primary runoff elections is this coming Thursday, July 2nd. When you get your mail ballot application, you can use that form to request a mail ballot for all elections this year, including the November general election.

Despite efforts by Texas Democrats the ability for everyone to have the choice to vote by mail is still up for final decision in the courts. Hopefully, we will have a final decision in time for the November General election that will allow all Texans the choice to vote by mail.

Please see below for my endorsements for the Democratic Primary Runoffs:

U.S. Senate:
Royce West

State Representative, District 142:
Harold V. Dutton, Jr.
State Representative, District 148:
Anna Eastman

On Tuesday I led a bipartisan effort with 20 Harris County state lawmakers to request that FEMA-Supported COVID-19 Community Based Testing Sites continue to be supported by FEMA until the end of August. Without an extension, these sites will lose federal support next week at the end of the month. Though FEMA only supports four testing centers in Harris County, we will need all the support we can get to combat the surge in new COVID-19 cases. Click here to view that letter.

Despite having bipartisan support at all levels of government to continue federal support for testing in Harris County, the Trump Administration seems to be carrying out what President Trump said in Tulsa last weekend—”slow the testing down.” The Trump administration came around a little on Friday, and extended FEMA support for just 14 days, and for only 5 of the 7 testing sites in Texas. This half-hearted policy decision by the President makes it more difficult for local leaders to craft policies to help keep us all safe.

This is yet another reason why we need new leadership in the White House.

I will continue to push for a full extension till the end of August for all sites in Harris County.

More on this important issue from the Houston Chronicle:

Lawmakers protest as feds pull support from 4 Harris County COVID testing sites

Editorial: Houston’s COVID-19 spike won’t stop because Trump stops measuring it

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

You can watch the panel by clicking here or below. You can view Dr. Woodard’s slides by clicking here, and a one pager on Dr. Obasi’s slides by clicking here.


We are in the middle of a pandemic, with case numbers rising in Harris County, and all of Texas. That is why I agree with Judge Lina Hidalgo that even though we are not under a mandatory stay-at-home order we need to act like we are as much as possible to help slow the spread of COVID-19. This is especially true if you are part of the population who has a high risk for severe illness such as those 65 years and older, or who have an underlying health condition. If you do have to 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Healthcare is available through the ACA marketplace if you lost yours
Regrettably, 1,608,000 Texans have lost their employer-sponsored insurance (ESI). However, many people who have lost their ESI are eligible for subsidized healthcare on the marketplace thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This is because the ACA allows people to sign-up anytime after a major life event such as marriage, birth of a child, a family death, or loss of employer coverage. If, you unfortunately have lost your ESI please visit healthcare.gov to see if you qualify for the marketplace’s special enrollment period.

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:
On Friday, June 19, State of Reform held a virtual conversation titled “Black Leadership in US Health Care and Health Policy” with three of the most thoughtful senior health care executives and health care leaders with which we work across the Western United States. The panel featured Eric Hunter of CareOregon, Demetria Malloy, MD, of Anthem Medicaid in California, and Rep. Garnet Coleman, a 30-year legislator out of Houston, Texas.

During the conversation, the three leaders discussed their experience working to transform US health care, their experience as Black leaders, and the role the health care sector can play to address structural inequality and racism in American society.. Click here or below to watch.

Cartoon of the Week

John Branch Copyright 2020 Houston Chronicle
Song of the Week
Our song of the week is “Black Parade” by Beyoncé.

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