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Senator John Cornyn Discusses Financial Aid Outlined by CARES Act

Published Apr 02, 2020 by Julia McGowen

As many Houston-based employees and employers are suddenly faced with financial hardship due to unemployment and changes in business operations, these individuals and businesses are seeking immediate relief and stability.  

In response to the COVID-19 health crisis, Congress has passed three bills to bolster resources for health care providers and support for workers and businesses who have been significantly impacted by the economic fallout. These bills are critical in fighting the virus and ensuring the economy is stabilized so that employers can continue operations in order to provide jobs and opportunity. On Friday, March 27, Congress passed and President Trump signed the third phase of the stimulus package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.  

U.S. Senator John Cornyn joined the Partnership’s COVID-19 Houston Business Forum webinar series to discuss the main provisions outlined within the CARES Act. Here are three key provisions the monumental piece of legislation provides.   

Funds to Support the Fight Against the Virus 
One of the cornerstone pieces of the CARES Act is the $100 billion it provides to hospitals, providing additional support for public health agencies and greater access to telemedicine. An additional $16 billion was included to increase the availability of scarce and critical resources including masks, gloves and other equipment to keep health care providers and first responders safe. The Act also allows for an expedited process for making vaccines and treatments widely available and affordable.

Immediate Financial Aid for Individuals 
As we face the start of the month, millions of individuals are faced with bills they will be unable to pay due to furloughs or layoffs. “The CARES Act sends direct financial help to Texans who need it most,” Senator Cornyn said. A family of four in Houston with a household income of $150,000 or less will receive $3,400 because of this legislation. The Act also expands unemployment insurance eligibility and provides an extra $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits on top of the state’s portion and extends the duration of unemployment eligibility through the end of 2020. “This provision gives people the resources they need to cover rent, bills, groceries, and other expenses until the smoke clears,” said Cornyn.  

Ensuring Houston Area Businesses Stand Strong 
Senator Cornyn noted that at no fault to many business owners, they are having to close their doors or dramatically shift operations to cope with the current circumstances, adding, “for most small businesses, it’s not feasible to go weeks – let alone months – without reliable income.” For small businesses with fewer than 500 employees, the bill establishes the Paycheck Protection Program through the SBA, which provides eight weeks of cash-flow assistance at a low-interest of 0.5%, which can cover payroll, rent, supply chain disruption costs. He added that if employers maintain their payroll through June, payroll, rent, and utility payments covered by the loan can be completely forgiven. The application process for the Paycheck Protection Program was announced on March 31, and applications can be submitted as early as Friday, April 3. These loans will be available through all SBA-certified lenders, including local banks and credit unions. Those seeking these loans should contact their banks or credit unions and are encouraged to submit applications as quickly as possible. Cornyn added that loans for businesses with more than 500 employees will be made available through the federal reserve.  

Before concluding the session, Senator Cornyn reminded participants that for the Houston area, this is not our first crisis, and “while this crisis presents tough and uncharted challenges, Texans will get through this and be stronger on the other side.” 

In an effort to build a business-led recovery initiative for the greater Houston region, the Partnership has established the Greater Houston Business Recovery Center (GHBRC), which will provide guidance on policy and financing related to recovery program, learn more about the center here. We also encourage you to visit the Partnership's COVID-19 Resource page for updates, guidance for employers and more information. And sign up for daily email alerts from the Partnership as the situation develops.  

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The program has generated billions of dollars in capital investments and tens of thousands of jobs. The reauthorization of the Chapter 313 program is a key priority for the Partnership this session.  House Advances Brain Institute of Texas On Wednesday, the House passed House Bill 15 by Representative Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), on a final vote of 107-36. This legislation would establish the Brain Institute of Texas to fund research in brain-related sciences in Texas. With the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas as a model, the bill would connect public and private institutions of higher education in Texas and other partners to create a state-funded research collaborative to put Texas at the forefront of brain research. The bill would also establish the Brain Institute of Texas Research Fund as a dedicated account in the state's General Revenue. The research would be funded by grants from the institute through revenue from general obligation bonds, and other sources. The Partnership has worked closely with the bill author to support this important legislation. Federal Funding for Texas Public Schools During a Wednesday press conference, Governor Greg Abbott and Commissioner of Education Mike Morath announced the release of $11.2 billion in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) funding to Texas public schools. This one-time federal relief funding is in addition to the $9.5 billion increase in state funding for public education that is included currently in the proposed state budget. School district leaders have until the Fall of 2024 to fully expend the relief funds, and the U.S. Department of Education requires that each district that receives funding must utilize a minimum of 20 percent of the funds to address student learning loss through evidence-based interventions. We estimate that the 20 largest school districts in the Houston region stand to receive approximately $2.4 billion of Texas' ESSER III funding. School districts with significantly higher percentages of economically disadvantaged students are likely to receive more relief funding per student. Houston ISD is expected to receive the most funding in our region, with an allotment of approximately $804 million.  Sign-up to receive Legislative and other Public Policy updates directly to your inbox.
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