Published Aug 12, 2020 by Sophia Guevara
U.S. Senator John Cornyn, the senior Senator for Texas, joined the Greater Houston Partnership's State of the Senate event on August 7 to share his perspective on the impact of the pandemic, economic downturn and racial inequities on the region.
"Three once-in-a-generation moments collided," said Senator Cornyn.
Congress has passed four bills, totaling about $3 trillion, to strengthen the response to the pandemic. Senator Cornyn said he considers the pandemic to be the economic and public health equivalent of World War II. He discussed how the virus is impacting those who could perhaps least afford it to do without a paycheck.
Senator Cornyn also discussed the importance of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which is authorized under the CARES Act. He also emphasized the importance of fixing IRS guidance related to the PPP to prevent businesses from being punished for taking advantage of the program.
Regarding unemployment benefits, Senator Cornyn discussed the delicate balance of providing assistance to those who need it until they are ready to go back to work.
Senator Cornyn also talked about efforts to increase access to broadband.
"This virus is teaching us a lot of lessons," he said, adding that broadband's a necessity for many to access education and telehealth services.
Senator Cornyn highlighted key racial equity and injustice policies under consideration in Congress and in the Houston region.
He reflected on meetings with George Floyd's family, as well as a meeting on Juneteenth with Mayor Sylvester Turner, law enforcement, faith and civic leaders.
"Some of the most impactful reforms are going to be made at the local and state level," said Senator Cornyn. "That's where the hiring is done, officer training is conducted and decisions about day-to-day police activities are made, but there are things that Congress can do to improve accountability and transparency in law enforcement agencies nationwide to prevent similar tragedies."
The senator also discussed the Justice Act, legislation he introduced with Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) to foster greater trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. While the bill has not passed the Senate, Senator Cornyn said he will keep pushing to deliver reforms.
Houston's Energy Landscape
"Helping our domestic energy industry get back on its feet after such a damaging downturn is obviously a no-brainer," said Senator Cornyn.
He detailed key points in the Save Jobs Act, a bill he introduced in June, to promote flexibility for energy companies so they can maintain their workforce during this economic downturn while ensuring that current and future carbon capture projects can stay on track.
The Partnership's Energy Advisory Committee has leveraged the research from the National Petroleum Council's report on carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) and has analyzed key federal policy issues important to scaling carbon management technology in Houston.
Houston Ship Channel
Senator Cornyn also talked about the significance of including the Houston Ship Channel Expansion Improvement Project in the next Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). He spoke about the importance of dredging out our channels for energy and manufacturing growth and security.
The senator also discussed his work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make the greater Houston region - and Texas - a priority when it comes to the WRDA.
Learn more about the Energy Advisory Committee here.
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