By Bob Katzen
$1.1 BILLION FOR COVID-19 RESPONSE (H 4853) – Provides $1.1 billion to cover expenses related to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Baker had been urging the Legislature to quickly get a spending bill to his desk because the state cannot be eligible for federal reimbursements for costs related to COVID-19 until a package is approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor.
Provisions include $350 million for personal protective equipment; $139 million for rate add-ons to providers of congregate care and other essential human services; $93 million for incentive pay for state employees at facilities that are in operation 24 hours a day; $85 million for field hospitals and shelters; $44 million for the Community Tracing Collaborative; $36 million for emergency child care for essential workers; and $13.5 million for local housing authorities.
The measure also makes Juneteenth Independence Day an official state holiday. Juneteenth, derived from the date June 19th, marks the day—June 19, 1865—that enslaved African Americans in Texas finally received word from Union Army General Gordon Granger that they were free, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves. News of, and enforcement of, Lincoln’s proclamation relied on the advancement of union troops which were slow to reach Texas and enforcement had been slow and inconsistent prior to Granger’s announcement in Galveston, Texas.