WASHINGTON — Elected officials from both parties joined together in recent days to push back against the Trump administration's intention to stop funding seven Texas coronavirus testing sites at the end of the month.
At issue are federal plans to stop funding sites in Houston, El Paso and Dallas on June 30, as first reported by Talking Points Memo. The sites are a small piece of a much longer list of sites across the state run by private entities, local governments and the state. But the lawmakers are calling for the federal government to keep funding them as the number of Texans testing positive for the virus soars in Texas, particularly in the Houston region.
Coronavirus testing has ramped up in recent weeks in Texas. In April, Abbott set a goal of 30,000 daily tests in the state — a benchmark it consistently missed through the first half of June. The state's seven-day running average has surpassed the 30,000 mark every day this week.
A rare bipartisan phalanx of state and federal Houston legislators wrote letters to Trump administration officials and publicly pushed for funding to continue.
The city's four Democratic U.S. House members — U.S. Reps. Sylvia R. Garcia, Al Green, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher and Sheila Jackson Lee — joined together to send letters to U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams and to Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Pete Gaynor in which the members expressed "urgent concern" over the matter.
"In May, when FEMA made the plan to end support on June 30, we could not have foreseen the continued rise in cases like we have in the past couple of weeks," they wrote. "Texas continues to set records for the number of new cases and hospitalizations and Harris County leads the state in number of confirmed cases.
"Without FEMA's supplies, fiscal aid and personnel, these sites may no longer be able to serve our communities. ... FEMA's removal in this moment would be harmful and irresponsible," they added. "We urgently ask you to extend FEMA's presence at these testing sites through August 30, 2020."