U.S. senator discusses COVID-19 relief, learning from shortcomings during East Texas virtual conference

U.S. senator discusses COVID-19 relief, learning from shortcomings during East Texas virtual confere

(KTRE) - “A shock to our country and world" is how Sen. John Cornyn described the COVID-19 pandemic during a virtual teleconference for the East Texas region.

Texas Forest Country Partnership and the East Texas Manufacturing Alliance hosted the teleconference, where Sen. Cornyn addressed the group on the four coronavirus relief bills recently passed in Congress.

Cornyn also touched on a program designed to help cities facing low sales tax revenue caused by the pandemic.

“There was a state and local stabilization fund, which was designed to fill in some of the gaps because obviously, with our economy shut down, there wasn’t a lot of sales tax being collected," Cornyn remarked. “So, our local and state government has essential services to provide.”

Out of the $150 billion appropriated for local and state governments, around $2 billion was given to Texas, Cornyn said. Those funds were then divided on a per-capita basis, meaning larger cities got larger portions of the fund.

However, many 501(c) organizations were left out of the bill. Cornyn said that will be revisited so nonprofits will benefit from the aid.

The senator also added that his personal bill will provide immediate liability protection for businesses who are following guidelines for coronavirus-related prevention and protection.

“We’re not talking about protecting irresponsible intentional misconduct, but you can imagine the uncertainty people have in this environment and they need a little reassurance that there’s not going to be a big game of gotcha going on.”

Pre-submitted questions may have provided some clues to other issues experienced by business owners. One included the lack of rural broadband service when the region needed it most. Another noted the lack of internet service hampered school children to businesses and manufacturers.

Nancy Windham, CEO of Texas Forest Country Partnership, recalled her own personal experience. She was unsuccessful e-mailing to some businesses a simple survey submitted by the governor.

“We even had a county judge, Newton County judge, actually print out the two surveys and hand-delivered them," Windham recalled.

The judge used a cell phone to capture images to send back to Windham. The account is separate and aside from what was shared with Cornyn, who said he hears broadband questions loudly and clearly.

“I actually was on a video conference with AT&T yesterday and they asked me the same question, and they said it’s not commercially viable in some places, so Congress needs to step up," he explained. “And I think there are some pieces of legislation that were filed that we are looking at.”

Cornyn said spending a lot of money during an emergency can’t be avoided, but at some point attention must be turned to the national debt.

“We’re going to have to find a way to force Congress, and I actually mean that literally, to force Congress to vote on debt reform,” he added.

As for efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Cornyn said about 100 clinical trials are underway in an attempt to develop a vaccine.

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