As Sen. Ted Cruz rushed back to Texas on Thursday after coming under fire for fleeing to Cancún while his constituents faced devastating power outages, water disruptions, and food shortages, an out-of-state Democratic lawmaker teamed up with a coalition of local organizations to raise money to provide direct relief for people in desperate need.
Announced on Twitter early Thursday evening by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the grassroots fundraising campaign brought in more than $1 million in a matter of hours—all of which, according to the New York Democrat, will go to The Bridge Homeless Recovery Center, Ending Community Homeless Coalition (ECHO), Family Eldercare, Houston Food Bank, Feeding Texas, and other local groups assisting Texans during the ongoing emergency.
“Wow. We officially raised $1 million for Texas relief at 9:17 pm,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Thursday night. “Thank you all so much. I’m at a loss for words. Always in awe of movement work. 100% of this relief is going straight to Texan food assistance, homelessness relief, elder care, and more.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s use of her massive social media platform to raise relief funds was quickly contrasted with the actions of the state’s Republican leadership, which critics say has been missing in action throughout the emergency—with Cruz’s vacation trip to Mexico in the middle of the crisis serving as an illustrative example.
“Cruz is emblematic of what the Texas Republican Party and its leaders have become: weak, corrupt, inept, and self-serving politicians who don’t give a damn about the people they were elected to represent,” Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party, said in a statement Thursday. “They were elected by the people but have no interest or intent of doing their jobs.”
The New York Democrat’s relief push came as hundreds of thousands of Texans remained without power in the wake of Winter Storm Uri, which exposed the state government’s total failure to prepare the Texas electric grid for extreme weather. As the Washington Post‘s Will Englund put it earlier this week, “In the name of deregulation and free markets… Texas has created an electric grid that puts an emphasis on cheap prices over reliable service.”
The consequences of such an approach were almost immediately felt by millions of Texans as sweeping blackouts followed the historic storm’s arrival, which sent vulnerable families scrambling to stay warm and preserve their food and other essential supplies. The tens of thousands of Texans without homes were often left stranded in the freezing weather.
“For Texans who are already familiar with navigating disasters on their own with little help from the government, how local and city officials have responded to the storm so far is merely the latest chapter in a long pattern of neglect,” Buzzfeed reported Thursday.
Tim Boyd, the then-mayor of Colorado City, Texas, wrote on Facebook earlier this week that “the City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING!” Boyd later resigned amid backlash over his inhumane comments.
As some residents of his state resorted to burning their possessions for heat, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott—a major beneficiary of fossil fuel industry donations—appeared on Fox News late Tuesday and erroneously blamed wind and solar for the widespread outages.
While power was finally restored for nearly two million households on Thursday, an estimated 325,000 homes remained without electricity. Compounding the ongoing power crisis are food and water shortages brought on by the winter storm’s disruption of supply chains and frigid temperatures, which caused pipes to freeze and burst. Houston, the fourth largest U.S. city, will likely remain under a boil water advisory through the weekend as officials warned of possible contamination.
As The Texas Tribune reported Thursday, the power, food, and water crises—which come on top of the deadly coronavirus pandemic—have hit the state’s hospitals particularly hard.
“Hospitals canceled elective surgeries, waited days on delayed medication shipments, and are having to seek oxygen tanks from outside sources to meet a critical oxygen supply issue,” the Tribune reported. “While some issues like deliveries, water pressure, and power problems are starting to ease up for some, most in the affected areas are still experiencing challenges.”