With an election just around the corner and the coronavirus pandemic still raging, the next few months are a critical time for our country, U.S. Congressman Michael Cloud says.
“It’s not a time for citizens to sit on the sideline,” Cloud told the Leader-News.
Cloud, a Republican, represents congressional District 27, which covers Wharton, Aransas, Calhoun, Jackson, Lavaca, Matagorda, Nueces, Refugio and Victoria counties along with parts of others. He was elected in 2018 after the former representative resigned.
He has spent recent weeks meeting with local organizations and individual voters, many of whom are still battling economic hardships and other issues induced by the ongoing pandemic.
“It just reminds us that, as people, we’re built for relationships,” Cloud said. “We’re not cogs in an economic machine ... It’s important that as we are weighing all of these decisions that we keep the human element in mind, and remember how important it is that we get back to a functioning society.”
The application for Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans ended on Aug. 8, with at least $11.1 million issued to El Campo area businesses from local banks, according to estimates from the City Development Corporation of El Campo.
Small businesses and rural communities were a key focus when it came to the PPP loans, according to Cloud.
“It was extremely important that the mom and pop businesses ... especially in our rural communities had the same access, and the community banks that serve them had the same information and access available,” he said.
Going forward, Cloud didn’t present any plans to create more PPP loans. But he wants to streamline the process of getting the already-issued loans forgiven, Cloud said.
He plans to support legislation making a one-page simplified loan forgiveness form for businesses not issued multi-million dollar loans.
“That will help in a number of ways,” Cloud said. “For the banks to be able to process what’s going on. For the small businesses, they just don’t have the staffing and the same sort of resources available to them.”
Agriculture is a big industry in Wharton County, but it has not been immune to the effects of the pandemic. When Gov. Greg Abbott closed schools and restaurants in March, demand for produce and other crops plummeted.
In response to the drop in commodity market prices, the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Cloud praised the administration for creating the program.
“It was a really creative way to go about meeting that need,” he said.
CFAP aims to aid producers impacted by the pandemic, as well as families who relied on free meals provided by schools. The program provides assistance to commodity producers who saw a price decline of 5 percent or more due to the pandemic, and applications for the program ended Friday.
The Ongoing Issues
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has been a big focus for the world this year, Cloud said he has still spent time focusing on the issues he was elected to solve. He recently traveled to southern Arizona, to discuss border security with local law enforcement.
He visited a point along the US-Mexican border where cartel activity is known to be a common problem. The barrier between the borders had recently been replaced, Cloud said, cutting down on the number of people crossing illegally as well as garbage and debris dumped on the ground.
“In the particular area that we visited, it was a protected natural habitat,” Cloud said. “One thing that people don’t realize is that cartel activity is not conducive to a healthy environment.”
Three years after Hurricane Harvey devastated many parts of Texas, locals are still recovering. Cloud said his office is still supporting people in his district that are recovering from Harvey, and he sees grants come to his district almost monthly.
Although Texas was largely spared by the Gulf Coast’s most recent large-scale storm, Hurricane Laura, Louisiana suffered great damage. Many Texans empathize with what those in Louisiana are going through and are returning the help locals received after Harvey, Cloud said.
“Nobody wants a hurricane or hurricane damage, but we can also see in Texas what’s really so great about our nation,” Cloud said. “People are willing to step up and help our neighbors.”
The General Election is a little less than two months away, and Cloud and other members of congress are up for election alongside the president. The election has impacted the way conversations and legislation have been approached, Cloud said.
One such example, according to Cloud, is the recent $25 billion United States Postal Service funding bill passed on Aug. 22.
“This was just unfortunately a smokescreen to distract the people from the fact that the house leadership had walked away from the negotiating table when it came to COVID relief,” Cloud said.
Cloud supports USPS reform, but not in the way legislators decided to go about it, he said. Instead, he favors the HR 756 the Postal Service Reform Act of 2017, which would raise rates of certain mail categories, and allow USPS to change health and retirement benefits for employees.
Cloud is running against Ricardo De La Fuente of the Democratic Party. Election Day is set for Tuesday, Nov. 3.