What Politicians in Texas Are Doing for Winter Storm Relief
Beto O'Rourke, Julián Castro and others have been volunteering their time to food banks and making welfare checks of Texas residents in the wake of deadly winter weather there
The deadly winter storm that struck Texas last week left millions without power, water, heat and electricity — and the death toll has continued to rise into the dozens.
Now, as temperatures warm up, politicians from both the region as well as other parts of the country are lending a hand, working to distribute food and water, fundraise and provide other forms of relief for Texas residents, many of whom went without water and power for for more than 24 hours, as temperatures dropped to dangerous lows. (Many of those who did have water were under a boil water notice for days at a time.)
For more on the winter storm in Texas, listen below to the episode of PEOPLE Every Day.
At least 20 people across the state have died from health issues such as hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning linked te the low temperatures and fires related to the outages. Though the situation began to improve last week, some residents are still coping with finding food and managing issues such as burst pipes.
Below is a roundup of some of the political names who volunteered their time and efforts in Texas in recent days.
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter last week that she would meet with Houston Rep. Sylvia Garcia once in Texas to "distribute supplies and help amplify needs & solutions" amid the crisis brought on by a severe winter storm.
On Saturday, Ocasio-Cortez shared a video on Twitter alongside Texas Reps. Garcia and Sheila Jackson Lee while packing meals for a nonprofit organization.
Ocasio-Cortez, 31, has helped raise more than $5 million for those affected by the storms, sharing the news on Twitter along with a photo of her and other volunteers in Texas.
"Charity can't replace policy, but solidarity is how we'll face climate change and build a better world," the lawmaker wrote.
The Houston representative organized a tour of the storm damage left behind in her district. Speaking to reporters on Friday, she said a full recovery would require homeowners to stay organized when tracking damage in order to seek aid.
"We're going to work hard to bring the dollars necessary to Texas and to Houston. So we all have a full recovery," Garcia said. "Document. Take pictures. Keep track of your receipts because you can already go online to start applying for help. "
Sheila Jackson Lee
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee worked with the NACC, a coalition of Christian churches, to distribute groceries and water to those in need at various areas in Houston last Thursday.
Lee was also on hand at the food bank event with Ocasio-Cortez and Garcia, where the three joined volunteers to help pack meals.
Former Texas congressman and presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke launched a San Antonio wellness check canvass, organizing door-to-door check-ins of city residents to see if they were in need of food, water or other supplies.
On Sunday, O'Rourke knocked on doors on the city's westside, he wrote on Twitter, along with a video of him and County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez checking in on those in the area.
"In the heart of Westside San Antonio w/ Commissioner Rodriguez to help residents w/ water, food & assistance with repairs," O'Rourke wrote.
O'Rourke — who recently said he was mulling a gubernatorial run after his unsuccessful 2018 and 2020 campaigns — has also organized wellness check-in groups in Austin and Houston and has been soliciting volunteers on social media.
Former housing secretary and San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro boosted Ocasio-Cortez's fundraiser on Twitter with his own efforts raising $150,000 (triple its goal, he wrote on Twitter) for Feeding Texas food banks.
Castro's twin brother, Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, also recently called for state and federal investigations into the Texas power outages — something echoed by Democrats and Republicans alike.
"There is going to have to be a full investigation, I think both federal and state investigation into what went wrong," he told MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell last week.
Houston Rep. Al Green was among the lawmakers to join Ocasio-Cortez and local relief organizations to distribute food and water to Texans on Friday. In a tweet about the volunteer event, Ocasio-Cortez wrote that Green, Garcia and Lee were doing "incredible work" in the local communities.
Green and the others also toured the storm damage wrought by the winter weather last week in constituents' homes.
After receiving a torrent of criticism for his decision to vacation in Cancún, Mexico, with his family as his state battled snowstorms, Sen. Ted Cruz came back to the Lone Star state and immediately attempted damage control, in part by handing out water to residents over the weekend.
Cruz, 50, shared a series of photos on Instagram and Twitter Saturday with the caption "#Texasstrong," in which the Republican politician could be seen loading cases of water bottles into cars.
Critics, however, still slammed the Texas Republican, arguing that he should have been in quarantine having just come from traveling out of the country.
Others drew a stark contrast between Cruz and O'Rourke, who unsuccessfully challenged the Republican in the 2018 Senate race.