MCALLEN, Texas (KVEO) — Last week Senator John Cornyn sat down with leaders in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) to discuss the CARES act.
KVEO reporter Jeremiah Wilcox had a wide-ranging open conversation with the senator about plans for helping residents impacted by the pandemic.
The RGV continues to be one of the hardest-hit places by COVID-19, so far over 45,000 confirmed cases.
“As you know, the Rio Grande Valley has been particular[ly] hit hard by the coronavirus. Some of that has to do with Mexico struggling too and the proximity to the border. While travel has been restricted to essential travel and trade. Unfortunately, we have a population that is. Whether it’s because people are elderly or have underlying health problems that they are particularly vulnerable,” he said.
Sen. Cornyn said the federal government has allocated $530 million to help the RGV. Here’s the breakdown:
- $97 million for health care facilities
- $133.6 million for public schools
- $179 million for local governments
- $4.8 million for public housing
- $68 million for colleges and universities
- $34,864,258 for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
- $3,608,280 for Texas Southmost College
- $20,022,398 for South Texas College
- $9,501,756 for Texas A&M International University
- $21.4 million for public transportation
- $7,599,697 for the City of Brownsville
- $3,717,342 for the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council Corporation – Harlingen UZA
- $10,119,614 for the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council Corporation – McAllen UZA
- $26.4 million for local airports
- $1,857,797 for Brownsville/South Padre Island International
- $30,000 for South Texas International at Edinburg
- $20,450,551 for Valley International
- $30,000 for Mid Valley Airport
- $4,016,251 for McAllen Miller International
- $20,000 for Port Isabel-Cameron County
Cornyn was asked if there was talks of getting more money to the area.
“Yes, after passing four bills we kind of hit a road bump given the upcoming election there’s temptation to lapse into partisan dysfunction,” said Sen. Cornyn.
He is confident once a bill makes it way to the senate parties will come together and approve.
“We can add some of these popular programs and meet the need and do more,” he added.
Cornyn adds he wants to ensure things like making sure schools have measures in place for people who want to attend class in person and when asked about small minority-owned businesses being left out. He said he wants to address the disparity many small minority-owned businesses faced after being denied from the paycheck protection program.
“Yeah, we had to learn along the way and make it more targeted,” he said.
Sen. Cornyn’s challenger MJ Hegar was unavailable for an interview. A spokesperson said she was gearing up for a live stream pre-DNC event. Hegar’s team sent us the following statement:
Latino communities across Texas felt left behind long before this pandemic, and now with the pandemic the economic and health care challenges they faced prior have only worsened. The U.S. Senate needs to immediately take action to provide minority-owned businesses left out of past relief packages access to relief funds, ensure paid sick leave for workers so people don’t have to choose between paying their bills or protecting their families’ health and extend the full $600 for expanded unemployment insurance.
KVEO previously reported over half a million COVID-19 tests never made it to the state agency that’s in charge of counting. Sen. Cornyn spoke about the uphill battle to get testing under control.
“As I travel around the state there are more rapid tests available,” he said.
He goes on to say part of the problem is the FDA has approved so many different types of tests.
“We’re learning which ones work best,” he added. “This has been a challenge for all of us for sure.”
Senator Cornyn will face off against Hegar on the ballot this November general election.
Watch the full interview with Cornyn below: