Our local, state and Congressional leaders have taken critical steps over the past several weeks to address the public health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19. Swift action by state agencies and Congress have made it easier to access telemedicine, unemployment insurance benefits, and COVID-19 testing for many residents.
Too many Texans, however, are still facing barriers to the care and services they need. Here are five actions state and federal officials should take immediately to protect our communities, frontline essential workers, and our most vulnerable neighbors.
1. UPDATE — On April 16, Texas announced that it would request federal funding for COVID-19 testing for the uninsured. This is a great step! Now on to the next 4 steps below!Texas should opt into special 100% federally funded testing for the uninsured through Medicaid and the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund.
2. Texas should request federal approval to enact the Pandemic electronic benefit transfer (EBT) program authorized by Congress, which will issue benefits on an EBT card equal to the value of the free or reduced-price school meals children would have received if schools were open.
3. The Texas Workforce Commission should get benefits to households as quickly as possible by issuing benefits to applicants while waiting to receive certification from employers regarding the layoff and by issuing the minimum amount to all approved applicants immediately (adjusting retroactively once they establish guidelines for calculating this new benefit).
4. The Trump Administration should re-open Marketplace enrollment for health insurance by creating a new, streamlined Special Enrollment Period, as leaders have done in previous disasters.
5. The next Congressional relief package should include much more federal funding to support local governments in states like Texas, where cities and counties provide the majority of frontline services.
The policy choices we make today will determine how well we weather this crisis in the weeks and months ahead and if we can emerge stronger together. We need our state and Congressional leaders to do everything possible to protect the health and economic security of every Texan — Black or White, Latino or Asian, Native or newcomer – with no exceptions.
During COVID-19 we’re staying at home while continuing to create people-driven policy solutions for our great state. Our policy solutions have always focused on building a just and equitable Texas. Today, those policy solutions matter more than ever. That’s why we are asking you to join us by making a monthly donation to achieve our collective vision for Texas.