It’s been slightly over a year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with Biden’s successful vaccination program, Texans are close to returning back to their pre-pandemic lives.
All of us are excited to return back to normal. But as we emerge from the pandemic, we have the opportunity to reshape what “normal” means for Texans. Hopefully, this means a world with increased accessibility, economic security, and protections for our right to vote, health care, and more. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of changes to Texas. As we start to go back to normal, here are some of the ones we should keep.
Expanded Voting Accessibility
With COVID-19 impacting our ability to vote in person last November, some cities made big changes to ensure that everyone had the chance to exercise their right to vote. In Harris County, election officials implemented 24-hour voting, drive-thru voting, and ballot drop boxes. The county also intended to mail absentee ballot applications to all residents, although a lawsuit from indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton restricted the initiative to only residents 65 and older.
While these measures were taken due to the pandemic, implementing them for every election would improve accessibility for voters who are young, new, disabled, working, and more. We need to remove as many barriers to the ballot box as we can, and the Harris County initiatives were a great step forward.
Unfortunately, these changes are under attack in the Texas legislature. Senate Bill 7, or what we call the Jim Crow Act, disenfranchises Texans by banning many of the measures taken in 2020 and imposing new restrictions on our right to vote. This bill has been made a major priority by Abbott and his crew, and we need all hands on deck to help stop this bill and its cousin in the Texas House, HB 6, from becoming law.
Due to the pandemic’s impact on our lives and economy, many Texans have gone through immense economic hardship over the past year. The unemployment rate reached above 12% last March, and many struggled to afford rent, groceries, and more. As a result, Congress passed a series of bills that expanded benefits and provided direct relief checks to millions of Texans. These benefits helped all of us through the last year, and our state would be much worse off without this direct relief.
A social safety net isn’t something that we should scoff at — it’s something we should embrace. Texans don’t just experience hardships during the pandemic, and our government should be there to help out. Expanded unemployment, rental assistance, and direct payments are all great measures to ensure no Texan gets left behind when they fall on hard times. Housing, food, healthcare, and shelter are all human rights, and we’ve seen how life changing these programs can be to protect Texans and their families.
Recovering from the pandemic is the most important issue for Texans. Sign our petition to let your state representatives know that COVID response and relief for Texans should be a legislative priority.
Whether we wanted to or not, the pandemic pushed many of us to embrace a new, online world. As it became unsafe to gather in person, we turned to the Internet for our work, school, health care, social gatherings, and more. Giving Texans the choice to move many of their daily activities online after the pandemic can increase accessibility, giving those who can’t commute the freedom to access their essential services from their own home.
Online accessibility can have a major impact on disabled Texans, those with families, elderly folks, and more. Plus, reducing time spent in the car can have major impacts on preventing climate change. Of course, this means we should ensure all Texans have equal access to Internet services by improving broadband access in rural and underserved areas. But by equitably improving access to telemedicine, online schooling, and work from home, we can give all Texans the opportunity to succeed.
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