COVID-19

UPDATE: October 20th, 2020

With more than 40.48 million cases worldwide and 8.21 million cases in the United States, Congresswoman Garcia continues to work closely with federal, state, county, and city government officials to make sure the Houston region has the resources it needs to reduce the spread of coronavirus in the community and help people who have been affected by this virus. For daily updates on the number of cases in Harris Couty, please use the tracker below that is being updated by both Harris County and the City of Houston.

On Thursday, June 11th, Harris County announced a new color-coded system to inform residents regarding the current level of risk from COVID-19 and actions we strongly urge residents to take to stay healthy, save lives, and ensure our local economy recovers in a way that is sustainable over the long term.

Current Level: Level 1: STAY HOME

What this means:

Level one signifies a severe and uncontrolled level of COVID-19 in Harris County, meaning outbreaks are present and worsening and that testing and contact tracing capacity is strained or exceeded. At this level, residents take action to minimize contact with others wherever possible and avoid leaving home except for the most essential needs like going to the grocery store for food and medicine.

Regardless of the current level indicated, all residents should continue the use of social distancing, frequent hand washing, and the use of face coverings until there is a vaccine or a treatment for the virus. Additionally, residents exposed to COVID-19 should quarantine for 14 days regardless of the level indicated.

Threat Levels

The Harris County COVID-19 Threat Level system advises four levels of transmission: Level 1 severe (red), Level 2 significant (orange), Level 3 moderate (yellow), and Level 4 minimal (green). Along with the level of transmission are actions residents should follow: Stay home, (red); minimize all contacts (orange); stay vigilant (yellow); and resume normal contacts (green). 

Level 1: Stay Home

Level one signifies a severe and uncontrolled level of COVID-19 in Harris County, meaning outbreaks are present and worsening and that testing and contact tracing capacity is strained or exceeded. At this level, residents take action to minimize contact with others wherever possible and avoid leaving home except for the most essential needs like going to the grocery store for food and medicine.  

Level 2: Minimize ALL Contacts (Current Level)

Level two signifies a significant and uncontrolled level of COVID-19 in Harris County, meaning that there is ongoing transmission of the virus and that testing and contact tracing capacity is likely sufficient to meet demand. At this level, residents should minimize contact with others, avoiding any medium or large gatherings, and only visiting permissible businesses that follow public health guidance. 

Level 3: Stay Vigilant

Level three signifies a moderate, but controlled level of COVID-19 in Harris County, meaning a demonstrated reduction in transmission and the local healthcare system is within capacity. Residents should remain vigilant, but resume contact with others and resume leaving home.  

Level 4: Resume Normal Activity

Level four signifies a minimal and controlled level of COVID-19 in Harris County, meaning new chains of transmission are limited and quickly broken or a vaccine and/or treatment has been developed and widely deployed. At this level, residents may resume normal contact with others unless sick. 

For a complete list of indicators, guidance, and related information read Leading Harris County: Public Guidelines for a Healthy Community on ReadyHarris.org.

What is Congress doing?

Congress is moving forward quickly and in a bipartisan fashion to address the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in a strategic and serious way that will help individuals who have been affected the most by this outbreak. Congress has already passed four pieces of legislation.

On July 27th, the Senate Republicans announced the introduction of the HEALS Act, a watered-down version of the House Democrats' HEROES Act. For eleven weeks, Republicans have blocked critical coronavirus relief, telling Americans losing their lives and livelihoods to ‘just pause.’ While the crisis spiraled out of control, President Trump and Senate Republicans refused to do even the bare minimum needed to crush the virus and protect struggling families.

Republicans have now released a completely inadequate package loaded with giveaways to Big Banks and Big Business while slashing the lifelines that struggling families depend on – a bill that would only prolong the suffering facing the American people by:

  • Destroying families’ financial security by cutting $400 a week in Unemployment Insurance from families struggling to make ends meet after losing their jobs and refusing to provide rental or mortgage assistance to families on the brink of eviction and homelessness;
  • Abandoning our heroes by provides no state and local funding to pay our health workers, first responders, teachers, food, transit and sanitation workers and other frontline heroes risking their lives to save lives;
  • Rejecting science by refusing to have a strategic and well-funded, science-based testing plan and abandoning communities of color, who are being disproportionately devastated by COVID-19;
  • Endangering our children by bullying vulnerable schools to reopen too soon while failing to provide adequate resources to reopen safely and refusing to expand broadband to help kids who need it at home for distance learning; and
  • Enriching corporations at the expense of working families by handing liability immunity to employers who do not protect workers’ health and safety, while offering no OSHA protections to ensure workers can trust safe workplaces and giving wealthy corporations a business meal tax deduction while refusing to expand SNAP for families.

On Friday, May 15th, the House of Representatives voted and passed the HEROES Act, a continuation of the work the other four coronavirus bills have done to put families, workers, and small businesses first. 

The Heroes Act is based on our three pillars:

  • Opening the economy with a science-based path of testing, tracing, treatment, and social distancing: our legislation commits another $75 billion for the testing, tracing, and treatment we need and helps ensure that every American can access free coronavirus treatment.
  • Providing strong support for our heroes with nearly $1 trillion for state, local, territorial and tribal governments on the frontlines who desperately need funds to pay the health care workers, police, fire, transportation, EMS, teachers and other vital workers who keep us safe and are in danger of losing their jobs.  The Heroes Act will also establish a $200 billion Heroes’ fund to ensure that essential workers receive hazard pay.  
  • Putting money in the pockets of workers with a second round of direct payments to families up to $6,000 per household, new payroll protection measures to keep 60 million workers connected with their jobs, and extending weekly $600 federal unemployment payments through next January.  We are also putting money in workers’ pockets by supporting:​
  • Small businesses’ economic security: strengthening the Payroll Protection Program to ensure that it reaches underserved communities, nonprofits of all sizes and types and responds flexibly to small businesses by providing $10 billion for Covid-19 emergency grants through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
  • Health security: with COBRA subsidies and a special enrollment period in the ACA exchanges for those without insurance.
  • Workplace security: requiring OSHA to ensure that all workplaces develop science-based infection control plans and preventing employers from retaliating against workers who report problems.
  • Housing security: with $175 billion in new supports to assist renters and homeowners make monthly rent, mortgage and utility payments, and other housing-related costs.
  • Food security: with a 15 percent increase to the maximum SNAP benefit and additional funding for nutrition programs that help families put food on the table. 
  • Security of our democracy: with new resources to ensure safe elections, an accurate Census and preserve the Postal Service. 

On Thursday, April 23rd, the House of Representatives passed an interim emergency funding bill focused on helping small businesses and hospitals, as well as expanding testing capabilities across the country. The bill provides real support:

  • For small businesses: we have strengthened the Paycheck Protection Program with $310 billion in additional funding, with $30 billion reserved for community-based lenders, small banks and credit unions, and $30 billion for medium-sized banks and credit unions. We are expanding small business support beyond PPP by securing $50 billion for SBA disaster lending, translating into more than $350 billion in loans and $10 billion in SBA disaster grants. We have also secured strong protections to ensure that our nation’s farmers have access to this vital assistance.
  • For hospitals and health care workers: Democrats have secured $75 billion to provide resources to the frontlines, including Personal Protective Equipment to health care workers. The Administration has also agreed to key improvements to be made in CARES 2, including significantly lowering the interest rate on advance payments, lengthening the repayment schedule, and distributing payments from general revenues, not the Hospital Insurance Fund.
  • For all Americans: we have secured $25 billion for testing, which is the key to reopening the economy and resuming our lives.  The Administration has agreed to a national strategic testing policy that will focus on increasing domestic testing capacity including testing supplies.

On Friday, March 27th, the House of Representatives passed the CARES Act, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which will aim to help families, workers, small businesses, and industries across the country as we recover as a nation from the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. It was subsequently signed by the President into law.

  • Every eligible person making less than $75,000 per year, and including people with out income, will receive a $1200 check, and every eligible child will also a receive $500 check.
  • Small businesses will receive $350 billion in grants if they agree to keep workers on payroll, $17 billion to provide relief from SBA loan payments for 6 months, and $10 billion for SBA emergency grants for operating costs: rent, mortgage, utilities, etc.
  • People who are unemployed will receive $600 per week in addition to other unemployment insurance benefits for 4 months.
  • Big industries will receive $500 billion in aid through the Federal Reserve, and requires maintenance of at least 90% of employees through Sept. 30, 2020, banks stock buybacks and dividends until 1 year after aid ends, and restricts executives from being able to increase their own compensation.
  • Healthcare providers will get $100 billion to cover coronavirus-related costs.
  • Local school systems and higher education institutions will receive $30.75 billion in support.
  • SNAP will receive an additional $15.8 billion in funding.
  • Sets up a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund for states.

On March 14, Congresswoman Garcia also voted for H.R. 6201, the bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed into law on March 18. This legislation, in addition to the $8.3 billion emergency response supplemental package signed into law on March 6, helps address COVID-19 by:

  • Appropriating funds to ensure free coronavirus testing for every Houstonian who needs a test, including the uninsured;
  • Increasing funding for Medicaid to support local, state, tribal and territorial health systems, so that they have the resources needed to combat this public health emergency;
  • Strengthening nutrition initiatives including SNAP, student meals, seniors’ meals and food banks.
  • Providing two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of family and medical leave for eligible workers and enhance unemployment Insurance. It also supports small businesses by fully reimbursing them for providing leave.
    • You are eligible for two weeks of fully paid time off to self-quarantine, seek diagnosis or preventative care, or receive treatment for COVID-19, as well as two weeks paid leave at two-thirds pay to care for a family member or child whose school has closed, or if their child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19.
    • You are eligible for 12 weeks of job protected leave to care for a child in the event of a school closure or if your child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19. The first two weeks are unpaid, but the next 10 weeks would be paid. Employees will receive no less than two-thirds of their usual pay.

The updated text of H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act is here.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has released the following "Families First: COVID-19 Constituent Service Resources Toolkit" with information on some of the key components of the CARES Act. This document has some useful information about unemployment benefits, direct cash payments, and grants to small businessess that was included in the CARES Act relief package passed in Congress and signed into law by the President.

On March 5, Congress passed a bipartisan bill that appropriated $8.3 billion to improve the government’s response to the COVID19 pandemic. The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act includes:

  • Over $3 billion for the research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics to prevent or treat the effects of coronavirus;
  • $2.2 billion in public health funding for prevention, preparedness, and response, including $950 million for state and local health agencies;
  • Nearly $1 billion to purchase pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, in support of healthcare preparedness and Community Health Centers, and to improve medical surge capacity;
  • $61 million for the Food and Drug Administration to respond to coronavirus, including developing medical products;
  • $1.25 billion to prevent and respond to the outbreak abroad;
  • $1 billion in loan subsidies to be made available to help small businesses, non-profit organizations, small agricultural cooperatives, and small aquaculture producers that have suffered financial losses stemming from the outbreak. The Small Business Administration could provide an estimated $7 billion in loans to these entities using this funding. Please visit the Small Business Administration’s website for further information about Disaster Assistance in Response to the Coronavirus; and
  • Measures to ensure that the government can purchase vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics at a fair and reasonable price.

Stay Informed

For updates on the number of confirmed and pending cases in Texas, please visit the Texas Department of State Health Services website. This is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will provide updated information and guidance as it becomes available.

You can also visit the Houston Department of Health website and the Harris County Public Health website for city and county specific resources.

If you have any health related questions, regardless of health insurance and immigration status, please call the Ask-My-Nurse hotline at 713-634-1110. This number is answered in English and Spanish from 9:00am-7:00pm Houston time everyday

If your employment has been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19), apply for benefits either online at any time using the Texas Workforce Commission Unemployment Benefits Services or by calling the Texas Workforce Commission's Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 from 8:00am-6:00pm Houston time Monday through Friday.

Contacting the Office during COVID-19

While the offices continue to be physically closed due to COVID-19, both the Houston and DC staff are continuing to work remotely in service of the constituents in the Texas 29th Congressional District. Staff are able to take meetings virtually and are happy to work with constituents and other groups to set up these meetings. For the time being, staff will continue to not take in-person meetings due to COVID-19.

There are several ways to contact my office. You can send me an email, or contact one of my offices. If you specifically would like to request help with a federal agency or need help with something else, you can contact our DC and Houston offices for help.

Office Phone Numbers

Houston - 832-325-3150

Washington, DC - 202-225-1688

Email

To send an email, complete and submit the Email Me form.

More on COVID-19

June 22, 2020 Page

Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia (TX-29) has heard from many Houstonians who are concerned about the coronavirus and want to answer some of your frequently asked questions.

June 22, 2020 Page

Tax Deadlines

The IRS has established a special section on its website focused on steps to help taxpayers, businesses and others affected by the coronavirus. This page will be updated as new information is available. Below are some important resources:

June 22, 2020 Page

Federal Help with Paying Bills

Many hard working families are currently struggling due to the economic and health impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. The federal government has several assistance programs to help low-income indivuals with paying phone bills, medical bulls and other expenses. You can also learn more about how apply for temporary assistance due to coronavirus here or by using the portal below:

June 22, 2020 Page

Texas Workers

If your employment has been affected by COVID-19, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) encourages you to apply for benefits by utilizing the online claim portal, or by calling the Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Central Standard Time, Monday through Friday.

June 22, 2020 Page

Texas Small Businesses

June 22, 2020 Page

The coronavirus outbreak has been stressful for many people, forcing us to adapt to a new reality. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Taking care of your emotional health during an emergency will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your family. My staff and I will continue to work to ensure that everyone is protected and well informed. We will continue to fight this together.

June 22, 2020 Page

Veterans Affairs

The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is in daily communication with VA leadership and would like to share the following information.

What should veterans do if they think they have COVID-19?

June 22, 2020 Page

K-12 Schools

**School district reopening plans and schedules are subject to change depending on the most recent COVID-19 guidance from the local school board, local public health officials, the Texas Education Agency, and/or the Center for Disease Control. Please check with your local school district for the most up-to-date information.**

Houston ISD Fall Reopening Plan: https://www.houstonisd.org/Reopening

June 22, 2020 Page

2020 Economic Impact Payment: Most Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs about Economic Impact Payments or the Get My Payment Portal can be answered on the IRS’ website at:

June 22, 2020 Page

During this difficult time, many people in the community have become concerned about whether or not there will be a sufficient food supply throughout the remainder of this pandemic. Grocery store officials have made it clear that there will be no lapse in the supply chain and that stores will be regularly stocked. However, it is recommended for everyone to just buy what they need to ensure others are able to have regular access to food and other necessary items such as papertowls, toilet paper, and soap.