Time For Action / Harris County Elections Administrator / Updated COVID-19 resources

Governor Abbott’s decision to follow President Trump’s lead on combating the COVID-19 pandemic has regrettably contributed to record-high cases and deaths in Texas. Furthermore, the Governor continues to prevent local officials from taking the necessary steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their communities. The pandemic continues to grow under President Trump’s watch while other countries have been able to get the virus under control, and that has caused a desperate need for Congress to pass another COVID relief bill.

It must be noted that another COVID-19 relief bill would probably not be needed if the President had properly responded to the pandemic in the first place. In May Congressional Democrats passed the HEROS Act and sent it to the Senate, where the Republicans sat on the bill and refused to work on it. The HEROS Act had important benefits for individuals, schools and local governments, but beyond that it had billions set aside for contact tracing and testing. Had the Act been implemented 2 months ago it could have been used to minimize the surge in cases and deaths we are seeing in Texas and the rest of the southern United States.

One of the reasons why Germany has been able to cut their daily new cases from 6,000 a day to 600 is because of contact tracing. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel aims for the country to have 1 tracer per 4,000 people — nearly 21,000 tracers for Germany’s population of 83 million. Regrettably, as of June 30th Texas only had about 2,800 contact tracers or about 1 tracer for every 10,000 people. This is below the goal Governor Greg Abbott set back in late April of 4,000 contact tracers when he started his premature reopening of the state. Despite the need for contact tracers and additional testing, “the White House is reportedly trying to block any additional aid for testing and contact tracing, making the likelihood of comprehensive aid in the next package shaky at best.”

Despite these regrettable delays, we need Congress to act soon because the additional $600 in weekly benefits for unemployment from the CARES Act is set to expire on July 31st. These additional benefits are still desperately needed by many as the national unemployment rate remains at 11%. But this only tells part of the story because for many groups the rate is much higher. For example, the unemployment rate for Black workers is at 15%, and the unemployment rate for workers making less than $25,000 is at 24%. Despite this looming deadline, and the surge in cases and deaths, House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy does not seem to be in a hurry to respond, as he told CNBC on Monday he does not expect the bill to get done before the end of the month.

The additional unemployment benefits are not only good for the millions of unemployed Americans, but also good for the economy. Richard Murphy, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin writes, “with the loss of this additional income many Texans will have less cash on hand to spend in their local communities . . . local industries such as services and events will be hit again.” The federal unemployment benefits are not only helping people stay in their homes and keep food on the table for their families, but the benefits are having the indirect effect of helping our local economies as well.

The Republican’s lackadaisical approach to the ongoing crisis shows how desperately we need new leadership in the White House and Congress.

Office of the Elections Administrator
HOUSTON, TX – The Harris County Commissioners Court has created an independent, non-partisan office to oversee elections for Harris County. State Representative Garnet F. Coleman has the following statement:
“I applaud the move from the Harris County Commissioners Court to create an independent, non-partisan Elections Administrator. Our current election system is an outdated relic of a time when there were explicit attempts to suppress the votes of people of color through poll taxes and literacy tests. The switch to an independent Elections Administrator will make our elections process more modern and efficient. Open and free elections are too important to our democracy to have election and voter registration duties be split between two different county offices—the Clerk and Tax Assessor-Collector—both of which have other important duties under their supervision.

I am confident that moving the county’s election responsibilities to a single Office of the Elections Administrator, dedicated solely to the execution of elections, will make the registration and voting process better for everyone in Harris County.”

Commissioner Ellis and Representative Coleman
at Texas Association of Counties Conference, 2017


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. Additionally,  wearing a mask is good for the economy. According to a recent study a national mandatory mask policy could save the U.S. Economy $1 Trillion dollars. Please stay safe this Fourth of July weekend.

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 another drive thru testing site in our district now in addition to the CVS Pharmacy at 1003 Richmond Avenue, Houston, TX 77006, the CVS Pharmacy at 8234 Broadway Street, Houston, TX 77061 is now also doing drive-thru testing. 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.

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:
This week’s video is from OWN “Remembering John Lewis” – Oprah’s Master Class. Click here or below to watch.
Cartoon of the Week

Chris Britt Copyright 2020 Creators Syndicate

Song of the Week
Our song of the week is “We Shall Overcome” by Louis Armstrong.

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