Op-Ed by Patrick Henry – Democratic Candidate for Texas House District 25 (HD 25)
Our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, our fellow Americans are in financial trouble.
Many have lost their jobs and for the first time in their lives are facing the reality that they may be homeless. Luckily, most have been able to survive with unemployment insurance, for a while.
The HEROS act to extend and continue economic help to Americans was passed by the House in May and sent on to the Senate. The Senate’s less generous version, HEALS, was still up for debate when the Senate left for a long weekend. The $600 benefit for the unemployed expired Friday. The heels left HEALs on the table and left many of you wondering where you will live in September. Well, to be somewhat fair, a few stayed to meet with little result. Should the Senate come up with a plan, it is miles away from the House HEROS act.
Over 3 million Texans filed for unemployment from mid-March to Mid-July.
In the US there were 1.4 million new claims last week. COBRA extended insurance is running out for some of those workers, adding to an unconscionable number of uninsured Texans while Covid 19 lurks all around us. Varying sources estimate between 4.3 and 5 million Texans have no health insurance. About 32,000 of those are in HD 25. That is more than the entire population of Lake Jackson. Can you visualize it?
So, into this dire mix are complaints that Texans won’t go back to work because they are making more money on unemployment than they were working at their jobs. Let’s examine that. How much can my lazy butt make on unemployment?
Well the average unemployment check is $246 per week or $1,000 per month, the maximum is $521 per week or $2100 per month. OK, about that rent, IF you can find a place for $1000 a month you just went hungry or have a whopping 1100 to cover all those other bills you had. I’m sorry did you have kids? These are people.
The Senate says that $600 is going to keep people from going back to work.
Here’s the thing, if you add the $600 do you know what that works out to per hour? It is an astounding $15 per hour. So, the complaining employer wants you to come back to work, risk Covid with no insurance, and work for less than $15 per hour? Let’s be honest about what this reveals: an abysmal current minimum wage, a lack of healthcare, and a population taking the hardest hit by layoffs and Covid.
Let’s put this in context of HD 25.
The United way ALICE( asset limited, income constrained, employed) assessment states that about $60,000 was need by a family of 4 to cling to the middle class dream of having a house, insurance, a car, a phone, the basics. That amounts to one $30 per hour job or two $15 per hour jobs. What’s that you say? “Find something new”. Even if the training for a better job is free, lost income and childcare isn’t. $7.25 an hour isn’t going to cut it. Some say raising the minimum wage is “socialism” but today, right now, we are paying for food stamps and health care from the government to make up for what these business are not paying their workers. Why is one labeled as socialism and the other is not?
I’d think the small government crowd would be in favor of putting money in worker’s hands instead of big government programs.
Right now, we are paying for the uninsured people’s health care, remember that’s 32,000 in HD 25, in the most inefficient way possible, through the emergency room at your tax supported hospital. Rest assured, they didn’t go to the ER until they were good and sick. We, the taxpayers, will pick up the tab that is left unpaid. We are paying the employer’s tab once again. What’s that? Don’t blame the employer. OK, I think you just asked for more socialism.
So, who is hit the hardest? The 22% of HD 25 families that were making under $25,000 per year. The working poor, the 60 to 70% of our students listed as economically disadvantaged, and people of color. Multi-generational families living in cramped quarters suffer more from Covid. People without a personal care physician, insurance, and regular health care and the resulting ill health suffer more from Covid. I can get tested today and have my results tomorrow, and I have done this twice, I don’t have to wait hours and days. I have the privilege of insurance, a doctor I’ve used for 25 years, and a local testing sight.
So what can I do as your State Representative?
From day 1 we will demand the Medicaid extension Texas turned down in 2012 which ended up costing us billions in taxpayer funds not to mention the suffering that can’t be quantified by money. Then we will call for an increase in the minimum wage in Texas, putting money in workers hands and freeing them from reliance on expensive big government programs.
We have less than 90 days until early voting. I need you do more than agree with me and tell me you support me. I need you money, your labor, your help, and your yard or fence for a sign. And I need you for phone banking, post card writing, block walking, and a host of other jobs. Please contact me. In closing, let us all work to help our neighbors who are in dire straits. We need thoughts and prayers, but we need action. We need you. If we work and we vote we win.
Patrick Henry is running for State Representative for Texas House District 25. HD 25 encompasses Southern Brazoria County and all of Matagorda County. Patrick and his wife Kathy have been married 34 years and live in Angleton. They have two grown sons, Sean and David.