COVID-19 relief bill expected soon as RGV suffers through high unemployment

Local News
February 07 2021 06:00 pm

HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — Months of gridlock has left little time to pass a new COVID-19 relief bill, but members of Congress are determined to get something done by the end of the month.

On Tuesday, a group of Senators announced they were working on a second, bipartisan, COVID-19 relief bill.

Senators from both parties spoke during the press conference.

Steve Manchin, a Democrat Senator from West Virginia, said “We are not going to leave until something is accomplished.”

Speakers hailed the bipartisan supported bill as a long overdue breakthrough.

“This is a victory for the American people, this is a victory for common sense,” said Bill Cassidy, a Republican Senator from Louisiana.

Since July, people on unemployment have been receiving an additional three hundred dollars a week on top of the usual benefits. That ends December 31st unless it is extended with a new relief bill.

With the threat of millions of Americans losing out on additional, pandemic-necessitated benefits, Manchin urged his fellow Senators to work together for the good of the country. “Our action to provide emergency relief is needed now more than ever before,” said Manchin.

The new proposed bill does not include a stimulus check like the original CARES Act did back in March, but it does extend those additional unemployment benefits for a little bit longer.

Perhaps nowhere is in need of a relief bill more than the Rio Grande Valley. All four counties have an unemployment rate of at least 37% higher than the state average 6.9% unemployment rate during the month of October.

Cameron County has 9.5% of its population unemployed.

From Texas Labor Market Information

Hidalgo County has 10.5%.

From Texas Labor Market Information

Willacy’s unemployment rate is 10.3%.

From Texas Labor Market Information

Starr county has the highest unemployment rate for any county in the state of Texas, with 15.4% of its 25,299 person civil labor force, 3,900 people, reporting as unemployed during the month of October.

From Texas Labor Market Information

Two of the main sources of jobs in the Rio Grande Valley, the service and hospitality industries, have been hit extremely hard by coronavirus slowdowns, and they remain so.

“Unlike past years, when retailers in particular really hired up for the holiday season, we’re not seeing that this year,” said Henry Castillo, the regional director for Workforce Solutions.

Even though unemployment in the Rio Grande Valley is high, the numbers are not as bad as they were at the height of the pandemic, and the unemployment numbers are starting to turn around.

“We have had consistent double digit unemployment in the teens, but things are looking brighter the past three months and we’re hoping that’ll be the case moving forward,” said Castillo.

You can request the Senators that represent you work to ensure some form of Coronavirus relief is passed by contacting them here.

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