Texas AFT urges U.S. senators to help provide federal assistance to local governments

May 13, 2020

Senator John Cornyn
U.S. Senate
517 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510

Senator Ted Cruz
U.S. Senate
Russell Senate Office Bldg. 127A
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senators,

On behalf of the 65,000 members of the Texas American Federation of Teachers (Texas AFT), I write to ask for your support in securing additional federal assistance to help our communities and the education, healthcare and public employee workers—the people who teach our children, protect our health and provide essential public services—recover from the current economic, educational and health crisis wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Texas is projected to see 1,669,677 jobs lost by July as a result of COVID-19, and the unemployment rate is expected to be 15.2 percent. During this period of instability and economic peril, our state needs for Congress to act. Not doing so would gut the pensions and retirement security of Texas’ dedicated public service workers. This would cause irreparable harm to your constituents across Texas, as well as undermine education, healthcare, and public services in communities across our state.

Congress should make at least a $750 billion investment in state and local government to stabilize public services. This includes the National Governors Association’s request for $500 billion in additional direct funds for state and local governments. I urge you to prioritize this level of support in order to help communities in your state weather this crisis. The funds already provided through the CARES Act unanticipated costs due to the virus but do not fully address the substantial losses of revenue Texas is experiencing.

We also need to specifically help our education, healthcare, and retirement systems, and we echo the American Federation of Teachers’ requests to:

  • Replenish and enhance the education stabilization fund for preK-12 with at least $175 billion, and provide significant funding for public colleges and universities. Given the anticipated loss of tax revenues, Texas will need substantially more federal support to deliver critical public services, such as educating our public school students, sustaining public higher education, and maintaining a public service workforce.
  • Invest in voluntary summer school, after-school programs, and community schools to make up for lost instructional time during the 2019-20 school year, by providing significant additional funding for Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for the 2020-21 school year, with $25 billion divided evenly (on top of regular appropriations). While the full extent of the current crisis continues to evolve, we already know that, despite their best efforts to support students and families, our schools will be faced with students who have experienced extended months of learning loss, significant poverty, trauma, and unmet social-emotional needs.
  • Increase investment to close the digital divide. High-speed broadband, reliable mobile service, modern technology, and hardware are no longer optional. They are now core infrastructure needs of businesses, schools, and homes in Texas.
  • Protect our frontline workers with appropriate provisions of personal protective equipment and mandate the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue emergency temporary standards to protect all workers from infectious diseases. 
  • Substantially increase Medicaid funding, provide free COVID-19 testing and treatment for all regardless of immigration or insurance status, and increase support for providers assisting underserved populations. 
  • Cover 100 percent of COBRA health insurance premiums for those workers now unemployed through no fault of their own.

Your constituents in the great state of Texas are on the front lines every day, and we are asking you to bring home every dollar you can to help us recover from this crisis stronger together.

Respectfully,
Zeph Capo
President, Texas AFT

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