LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - KCBD NewsChannel 11′s Kase Wilbanks interviewed Senator Ted Cruz about Texas and the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, April 14, 2020. He discusses his statewide teletour, what the Senate is doing, the economic devastation of the disease and his new Combat COVID-19 Challenge.
Below is the transcript of the interview.
KASE: So I see we’re both working from home. I know you’re doing a lot of this with your teletour. So tell me what you’re learning there. What are you hearing from people? And how is that helping the work that you’re doing?
SEN. CRUZ: Well, in any crisis, it’s my responsibility to be there for the people of Texas and whenever crisis strikes, I try to be there in person. So for example, when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, massive devastation, for the next six months, I was in every affected community up and down the Gulf Coast 2-3-4-5-6 times being there listening to those who are impacted, working to make sure federal resources were there for those who are hurting. The same is true now. We’ve got not one but two crises playing out simultaneously. We have a public health crisis the Coronavirus pandemic. That is that is exactly an enormous cost. And we have simultaneously an economic crisis caused by the government steps to deal with to stop the pandemic but the nonetheless, hurting millions of Americans, over 17 million Americans have lost their jobs just in the last three weeks. In an ordinary circumstance, what I would do is I would be there meeting with talking with listening to the people who are directly impacted by this. Obviously, during a public health crisis, it’s not advisable or particularly safe to be in person traveling the state meeting with everyone in the hospital wards where people are suffering. So what I’m doing instead is we’ve launched a teletour of the state. And I’m doing video conferences I’m doing phone calls with with leaders throughout the state with communities throughout the state. I’ve done them with the Texas truckers Association, the Texas hospital association with with the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and then I’ve done them with with groups throughout East Texas today. We’re doing groups throughout West Texas, and we’re going through each region. We’re gonna be doing the valley we’re trying to go around Texas. Meet with business leaders, meet with community leaders, meet with healthcare leaders meet with government leaders meet with all of those impacted, hear their concerns and and then work to help help everyone in the local communities in Texas to work through the federal response to this these enormous crisis.
KASE: And do you plan to make any virtual stops around here in Lubbock? To the people here on the South Plains?
SEN. CRUZ: We are we have them have them scheduled throughout West Texas. We’re traveling around through every region of the state and and setting up ideally video conferences. Sometimes we do that sometimes it has to be by phone, but we’re trying to do as much as possible by video. So you have actual real interaction and conversations.
KASE: Right. So besides listening and hearing that you mentioned, you know, that affecting what you do there in Congress, so what action is being taken now, what are you working on now in the Senate to, you know, solve these issues and hopefully remedy some of these?
SEN CRUZ: When it comes to the public health piece of it, I think they’re their four priorities that we need to focus on. Number one testing making it more widespread, readily available and making it more accurate. Number two PPE protective equipment, masks and gloves, especially for first responders and healthcare workers. And I’ve been been working very closely with the Governor to make that more widely available. Number three critical medical equipment things like ventilators, things like ICU beds, and we’ve been working to ensure that Texas is ready should we see the kind of tragic spike that say New York City is seen, we want to make sure Texas is ready. And then number four for actually solving this pandemic. I’ve introduced legislation to streamline the federal regulatory process to speed up the development and implementation of a vaccine of treatments and ultimately of a cure for COVID-19. So that we can beat this disease we will beat this disease. But but but it is going to take some time at the same time. We’ve got to deal with the economic devastation of all of the people who are hurting and I’ll tell you it is it is time for Texans to go back to work. I’m very glad that both the President and the governor are laying out a specific time frame, a specific plan to get Texans back to work. Listen, obviously, those who are very vulnerable, those who are elderly, those who have serious health conditions, you should stay home if they if that describes you, you should stay home because this disease has been particularly devastating for the elderly and those with serious health conditions. But for people who are young and healthy and able to work, we need to get people back to work sooner rather than later. Because the consequences of this economic shutdown are serious and dire millions of small businesses, restaurants and bars and bowling alleys and movie theaters and oilfield services companies all facing potentially going out of business. Congress passed emergency legislation that gives short term loans to these small businesses to try to keep them alive to make it through. But we need to get people back to work. That’s how you really ensure the small businesses can survive. And we need to get people where they can provide for their family and I’m working hard to do that.
KASE: Yeah, that’s a hot topic here in Lubbock with there’s a movement called Let Lubbock Open going on right now, but we’ve seen a lot of response to that and those people that want to get back to work. What do you say to those young people, those healthy people who were scared themselves, that would be forced in some ways to go back to work or they lose their job?
SEN CRUZ: Well, look, I think we can do things in reasonable steps, guided by the Science in the Public Health. So number one, it needs to be dependent upon the particular facts and circumstances in the particular region. New York City right now where they’re facing massive numbers, it would not make sense for everyone in New York City to go back to work tomorrow. That that is not driven by the facts or circumstances. But each region in this, this is why we have elected leaders at the local level. We have strong leadership at the state level here in Texas, we can look at the facts and circumstances and say, Okay, we’re going to protect vulnerable populations, if there’s jobs where there’s some risks. It may be that when people go back to work that they wear a mask and gloves for some period of time to limit the spread of disease. We’ve seen that all the time. If you’ve ordered food, if you’ve ordered takeout, I know Heidi and I and the girls, we’ve ordered food delivered to our house quite a bit because we’re holed up at home. You know, most of the drivers who show up dropping off food or wearing masks and gloves, I mean, we can take steps like that, that that will help minimize the risk of transmission but but keeping the economy shut down for weeks- If we allow that to turn into months, we’re going to see human lives lost, we’re going to see real devastation, from poverty from dreams shattered from family businesses put out of business from people whose savings are lost. And that’s going to lead to mental health issues that’s going to lead to depression, it’s going to lead to substance abuse, it’s going to lead to increased suicide. All of those are very real public health threats as well. And so our objective needs to be to protect the most lives possible. That means targeting on the on the on those sick and those particularly vulnerable to be sick. But it also means helping people be in a position where they can provide for their family and have the security the economic security that comes from that.
KASE: So I’m hearing that you’re really wanting to get the economy open. So you don’t think Congress shouldn’t make any more steps. If that doesn’t happen, or you know, as far as more small business loans or more stimulus checks or anything like that, do you think Congress should take any more action on the economy?
SEN. CRUZ: Well, the small business loans were the most important piece of the $2 trillion emergency relief bill we passed and then that passed overwhelmingly massive bipartisan support in the Senate. It was unanimous. It was 96 to nothing, every republican voted yes, every every democrat voted yes. I voted yes. And Bernie Sanders voted yes. I mean, that’s the the breadth of the of the agreement. The most important part of that relief was the relief to small businesses, emergency loans, guaranteed low interest to employers, 500 employers or fewer. And that’s design in particular, the remarkable thing about it is if they use those loan proceeds to pay salaries, to pay mortgage or rent on their business or to pay utilities. That amount of the loan is forgivable. In other words, it becomes a grant and it’s designed to get as many people back in their jobs as possible to keep a job. And by the way, it applies even if they’ve already furloughed employees, even if they’ve already laid employees off. The small business can hire those employees back, bring them back so that people can have a paycheck. People can be on their health insurance people can have the security of a job. That’s designed to be a short term bridge loan to get them through this crisis. And then getting the economy moving again is how we enable those small businesses to continue to thrive and drive the Texas miracle forward.
KASE: So you mentioned an unlikely similar vote with an unlikely senator. Let’s talk about another unlikely initiative you got going on with as the senator from New York Senator Gillibrand, that Combat COVID-19 Challenge. How did that come about? And how did y’all team up for this?
SEN. CRUZ: Well, Kirsten and I are friends. Here’s Kirsten Gillibrand, his Democratic senator from from New York and she and I have worked together on many issues. We’ve worked together very, very closely on trying to stop sexual assault in the military. And and so I called a couple of days ago and suggested to her, let’s launch a social media challenge the combat COVID-19 challenge, where yesterday she and I both tried to do something meaningful and helpful in our community for me, I went down to the Houston Police officers union and had delivered breakfast tacos and coffee and so all the cops in Houston, heading out to their beats in the morning, got free breakfast tacos, got coffee, and I had the chance just to say thank you to them, thank them for being on the front lines at this time of crisis. And then it works much like if you remember the ice bucket challenge where at the end, I challenged three other people I challenged Rick Perry and I challenged businessman mattress Mac to within 48 hours go and do something nice To help the community do it in a way that’s safe that doesn’t endanger public health, video it put it out online and challenge three more people and hopefully we’ll get lots and lots of people, helping their neighbors helping the elderly helping those in need during this crisis. And that’s how we’re going to make it through this crisis by standing together by helping each other by relying on our fellow citizens.