With the new year officially upon us, this is a time of year to reflect on how we give back to our community. 2021 was a busy year for our office. It was my first year as your State Senator, and we faced many unprecedented challenges going into the 87th legislative session. We needed to pass legislation to support COVID-19 recovery in our state, get Texans back to work, and increase access to health care. We had to ensure our kids had the resources needed to succeed, such as access to school supplies. Reflecting on this past year, we successfully solved problems for our constituents and uplifted our neighbors through the services we offered and the legislation we passed.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted countless Texans’ health and finances. Many lost their jobs, needed unemployment insurance, or had questions about their health insurance. Our office understood that cutting through the red tape of a government agency can be a challenge, so we prioritized providing useful and meaningful services to members of our community. If you need help, we can assist with a range of matters, including food stamps (SNAP), Medicaid, unemployment insurance, children’s health insurance, driver’s license and identification, elderly and aging services, and child and adult protective services. This year, we successfully assisted over 300 constituents by cutting through state bureaucracy and helping our constituents get the resources and benefits they needed from state agencies.
Our office is also committed to delivering appropriate community service events to bring essential support to residents in need. Since I took office on Jan. 12, 2021, we have directly hosted 29 community-based service events and 31 town halls and presentations. We hand-delivered close to 500 turkeys across Senate District 29 for our 7th Annual Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway. We provided back-to-school supplies for children attending elementary schools in the district, including El Paso County. We hosted virtual workshops for mental health providers dealing with military personnel and families and put on several COVID-19 vaccination drives through which over 2,500 constituents were vaccinated. We also gave away box fans for seniors to help them beat the heat and hosted a Citizenship Workshop to assist members with the naturalization process. In total, our office directly served over 6,000 constituents through our events in the past year.
We also helped uplift El Paso through the legislation we passed this year. With four sessions, we were able to accomplish a lot. During the third special session, I co-authored Senate Bill 8 to allocate over $13 billion designated to Texas in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for COVID-19 recovery, including $7 billion to the Unemployment Compensation Fund, $180 million for tourism and travel, and $35 million for our veteran homes. I also secured over $112 million for infrastructure improvements for UTEP and TTUHSCEP to help accommodate growing enrollment and allow for continuous innovations.
During the 87th Legislature, I worked hard to improve the economy and increase access to health care in El Paso. I authored bills to address gun violence and hate and passed legislation to crack down on criminals who try to buy or possess firearms. I co-authored and co-sponsored bills to enhance bilingual education and address the shortage of bilingual educators in our state. The pandemic impacted our local businesses, so I sponsored and passed a bill to create jobs and provide small businesses a lifeline to jump-start their recovery with access to capital.
We had a lot of work to do for our community this year, and I am proud of what we accomplished. It has been a privilege to serve you as your state Senator. While the work we do at the capitol is important, you can count on me to continue putting our constituents first with service events we host in the district. If you need help cutting the red tape of a state agency or have ideas to improve our community, please don’t hesitate to contact me. It is, after all, YOUR Senate office. To contact me or make a request, email us at district29.Blanco@senate.texas.gov or call 915-595-5955.
I look forward to continuing to work for you this year and beyond.
State Sen. César J. Blanco, D-El Paso, represents District 29.
This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Reflecting on serving El Paso in Texas Senate: Sen. César J. Blanco