Protecting Americans and Recovering from the COVID-19 Pandemic
I have worked hard to protect El Pasoans and recover from the COVID-19 Pandemic locally. This work includes having been appointed by the El Paso County Commissioners Court to the COVID 19 Taskforce, a partnership between the County, the City and local healthcare professionals that was created to strategize and help decision makers come up with data driven policies that have helped us weather the storm. I heavily pushed for more transparency and accountability within our health department, as it was not being run by a public health official for numerous months and was failing in providing important data and information, enforcing orders, and even contact tracing. I advocated with the state government to bring more contact tracing resources to El Paso, pushed University Medical Center to open our mega vaccination hub at the County Coliseum, and spearheaded the County’s efforts to create equity in our vaccination roll-out, asking UMC to also set up mobile vaccination clinics that could be taken into underserved neighborhoods and more vulnerable populations that may not have been able to access regular vaccination sites. I also was the first local elected official to propose vaccinating people in our sister city, Cd. Juarez.
I was also the original proponent of utilizing federal funding we received through the CARES Act to provide direct cash assistance to those who needed it, as well as working with local non-profits and other stakeholders, such as our Justice of the Peace courts and landlords, to reduce evictions and provide rental and utility assistance.
In addition, I led the County’s work with local school districts, making sure they received County CARES Act funding to use as a match to draw down state and federal funding to invest in broadband access.
I also was the original proponent of utilizing County reserves to help small businesses. The County took $10 million and, working with the El Paso Chamber, the Hispanic Chamber, Workforce Solutions Borderplex and others, created what we called the FASTER Program, providing grants and low interest loans to hundreds of small businesses. I pushed hard to make sure that Historically Underutilized Businesses were prioritized in that effort.
I plan to continue these efforts as we are not in the clear as of yet, when it comes to the pandemic. I will continue to be an active member of the COVID-19 Taskforce and plan to continue to support the University Medical Center’s efforts to not only keep people who have contracted the virus healthy, but to continue vaccinating folks with third shots and boosters, always focusing on an equitable roll-out.
The County will be receiving $164 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding, and as usual, there are always more needs than what is available, which means we have to intelligently and deliberatively prioritize the use of these funds. We have already dedicated twenty percent to water and wastewater infrastructure and another twenty percent was set aside for helping UMC to continue their work. I have advocated for the remaining amount to be utilized to provide more direct assistance to those in need, to continue to help local small businesses, to provide some non-profits whose work compliments our work at the County with funding, and to invest in mitigating homelessness, hunger and poverty, as well as issues with access to childcare. I want to make sure we don’t just spend this unprecedented amount of resources being pumped into our community, but that it is spent in a way that creates real, meaningful and sustainable change. We must have something to show for it all.