We’re tough in Texas 12, even if the coronavirus is unlike anything we’ve faced, combining a public health crisis with an economic one. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, around 97,000 people in Tarrant, Parker, and Wise Counties have filed unemployment claims since mid-March, and across our state, the number of unemployed Texans reached over 1.5 million this week.
Millions of Texans, like those in our District, have been making tremendous sacrifices, staying home and away from loved ones to successfully slow the virus’ spread in our state. In return, people want to know “When?” When will things return to normal? When will our economy reopen?
In 1978, I opened an insurance agency here in Fort Worth, which I operated for almost twenty years. I know the risk, stress, and pioneer spirit that running a small business demands, and how small businesses are more than small companies. Texas’ 2.7 million small businesses employ nearly 5 million people, about half our state’s workforce. If this shutdown continues, many small businesses may not turn the lights on again—but today, our state becomes one of the first in the country to start safely reopening. As day one of Governor Abbott’s plan to reopen Texas, retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and malls may now open—at limited capacity—once again.
Two weeks ago, I wrote to you about the successful Paycheck Protection Program, which provides forgivable loans to small businesses keeping employees on payroll. In the first two weeks of the Program, more small businesses in Texas were approved for loans than any other state. After the Program was overwhelmed by demand and ran out of money, Congress came together last week to restore its funding in the latest coronavirus relief package I returned to Washington to help pass.
The added funds for the Paycheck Protection Program and the reopening of our state make it clear that the government can’t bankroll our country forever. Two weeks ago, I was honored to be appointed to President Trump’s bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Reopening the Economy to help advise the President in charting the best course to reopen America.
The Fort Worth metroplex has become one of the fastest growing regions in the country, and I know our District will emerge stronger than before, thanks in part to our courageous healthcare workers and our resilient small business owners who make our communities unique. This week Texas Rep. Charlie Geren and I were proud to support both when we visited JPS Hospital to say thank you to frontline health workers and give them gift cards for a true Fort Worth meal at Railhead BBQ.
Our District enjoyed booming growth before the coronavirus, and we should look forward to a booming recovery, but reopening safely only works if we all work together. Listen to the medical experts, Governor Abbott, and your local health officials when they say to stay hopeful, but still stay home when you can. We are close to the finish line, and our country has the tools and Texans have the strength to see this through.