Frio set a goal… and we’re a major step closer to achieving it.
After the extreme cold from winter storm Uri devastated Texas, Governor Abbott announced on February 20 that only 77 of Texas’ 254 counties would be eligible for individual assistance. Frio was not one of them.
On February 21st, the state of Texas offered all excluded counties an option: “prove” you have the need. They instructed us to ask residents and businesses to fill out an online survey detailing the damage until our county reaches an unspecified threshold of responses. Then, maybe, our residents would be given the opportunity to apply for partial reimbursements. You probably saw the link on your social media feed…
As an elected official, it seemed like a daunting task. Filling out an online survey without the promise of something in return is the last thing any of us wanted to do while trying to clean up and make repairs. Much of our population with the most need after the storm probably isn’t using a smartphone. And judging by our census returns, Frio isn’t the “fill out a survey” type.
But we made it our goal. The survey was spread widely on social media by elected officials, jurisdiction pages, and involved residents. The City of Dilley Police Department printed color flyers. Frio County WIC directed their clients to the survey and assisted with filling it out. Commissioner Carrizales, Deborah Hughes of Red Cross and I went car-to-car at our respective water distributions, handing out flyers, explaining the situation, and assisting if necessary. Several other residents helped family members and spread the word.
Only four days after Texas made the survey available, Frio met the threshold of responses for Governor Abbott to re-request our county’s eligibility for individual assistance from FEMA. 92 other counties are still trying to meet the threshold.
Frio isn’t finished yet… We’re still awaiting approval of the request from President Biden. Don’t let up. Continue to make noise. Continue to fill out the survey. TDEM has added a call-in option.
Counties included in this request are Archer, Atascosa, Bandera, Brooks, Callahan, Camp, Cass, Clay, Coleman, Delta, Dimmit, Duval, Eastland, Ector, Fayette, Franklin, Frio, Goliad, Hamilton, Haskell, Howard, Irion, Jack, Jim Hogg, Karnes, Kerr, Kinney, Kleberg, Lamar, Lampasas, Lee, Leon, Live Oak, Llano, Marion, Midland, Mills, Morris, Newton, Rains, Randall, Refugio, Robertson, San Augustine, San Saba, Shackelford, Somervell, Starr, Titus, Trinity, Webb, Wilbarger, Willacy, and Young.
Thank you to everyone for your patience, perseverance, and participation,
Governor Greg Abbott today announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has received federal approval to automatically provide replacement benefits for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients in 66 impacted counties for food lost or destroyed due to winter storm Uri, which began on Feb. 11, according to Governor Abbott’s February 24th press release. The good news: Frio is one of the qualifying counties. The notice refers to “partial” replacement, so it is unclear how much of the benefit will be replaced.
Until this announcement, SNAP recipients were required to download a form, then either fax or mail their application to receive replacement benefits. No digital application tools were available.
Current SNAP recipients in the 66 counties receiving approval for automatic replacement benefits do not need to take any action and do not need to call 2-1-1 to receive their replacement benefits. Recipients in the affected counties will automatically receive a percentage of their February benefit allotment on their Lone Star cards by March 4.
Three days ago, Governor Greg Abbott announced the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) received federal approval to allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to use their food benefits to purchase hot foods and ready-to-eat meals due to impacts from the severe winter storm. SNAP recipients can now use their benefits for hot foods and ready-to-eat foods, such as rotisserie chicken or grocery store deli foods, at retailers that accept SNAP anywhere in the state through the end of March.
Counties eligible to receive automatic partial replacement include: Angelina, Aransas, Bastrop, Blanco, Borden, Brazoria, Brewster, Burnet, Calhoun, Chambers, Coke, Colorado, Comanche, Cooke, Delta, Duval, Eastland, Edwards, Falls, Frio, Galveston, Garza, Gillespie, Glasscock, Goliad, Haskell, Irion, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kerr, Kinney, Knox, La Salle, Leon, Liberty, Live Oak, Llano, Loving, Lynn, Martin, Matagorda, McCulloch, Medina, Menard, Mitchell, Montgomery, Oldham, Parker, Reagan, Refugio, San Patricio, San Saba, Stephens, Sterling, Sutton, Terrell, Throckmorton, Trinity, Upton, Uvalde, Val Verde, Waller, Williamson, Young, Zapata, and Zavala.”
If you’re from Frio County and reading this post, you probably already received notices about how to apply for individual disaster assistance. And if you already tried to apply, you probably noticed that only 77 of Texas’ 254 counties are eligible- and Frio is not one of them.
The Frio County Commissioners Court is working hard to make this individual disaster assistance available to all of our residents. Governor Abbott’s announcement yesterday, Saturday February 20 at noon, provoked the ire elected officials across the entire state of Texas:
WHAT ACTION HAS ALREADY BEEN TAKEN?
At the Frio County level, Judge Arnulfo C Luna, with the assistance of Commissioner Raul Carrizales, Emergency Management Coordinator Ray Kallio, and other officials drafted an Emergency Disaster Declaration to send to Governor Abbott on February 16th- a crucial first step taken early in the disaster to claim Frio’s fair share of aid.
At the State level, two days after receiving Frio County’s emergency declaration and request, Governor Abbott sent a request to President Biden for individual aid for all 254 Texas counties. “I am requesting Public Assistance (all categories), Individual Assistance (all programs), and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for all 254 Texas Counties,” the letter stated…
At the Federal level, as we know by now, President Biden approved only 77 of the 254 counties requested by Governor Abbott for individual assistance. Elected officials across the state are demanding answers, including the Frio County Commissioners Court.
⬆︎ Texas House Rep. Stan Lambert
⬆︎ Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams
WHAT DO WE DO NOW?
If you’re a resident:
***UPDATE 2/21, 12:30pm – Fill out this State survey to help the State understand the amount of damage in Frio County: https://arcg.is/uOrOb . The success of this effort will assist us with the eligibility to potential federal programs.
Track all of your disaster related expenses including but not limited to cleanup and repairs. This will prepare you for aid, whether it comes from FEMA or if another source becomes available
Take photos to document damage
Keep all receipts
Follow social media for updates, and share news with those without internet
Keep the pressure on local officials
If you’re an elected official:
To quote Dilley Police Chief Homer Delgado, “make noise.” Our legislators need to hear us. Don’t stop at the district level. If you don’t have contacts at the State or Federal level, make them. __________________
I’d like to thank everyone who helped get us through the storm. Right now, there are too many residents, too many elected and appointed officials, too many examples of courage and initiative to even attempt to name names for fear of leaving anyone out. The response to this emergency has not ended, and some of us are still working round the clock. To everyone who showed up during this storm to help our friends, families and neighbors in Frio County… Thank you.
I’ve had the opportunity and pleasure of speaking with U.S. Air Force veteran Gina Ortiz Jones several times this year. As COVID-19 suddenly compounded my duties as a first term County Commissioner, I appreciate everyone who actively contacts me with help to offer. Gina Ortiz Jones reached out early and often, and our conversations about other counties in the district yielded valuable ideas for our COVID response in Frio. As the site of one of the hottest of hot spots in the country at one point, we needed all the help we could get.
Typically, Frio County Precinct 4 and the city of Dilley get only one day of early voting for county and state elections. For the 2020 primary runoff, we had a full week.
The last days of early voting for this round of elections in Dilley will be today (Thursday July 9) and tomorrow (Friday July 10). Hours are 8am-5pm and for these two days, voting for both Boxes 9 & 10 will take place at the old library.
Early voting is recommended to avoid the lines and congestion of election day, especially for those practicing social distancing.
One of the earliest pieces of advice I received as County Commissioner was to be cautious about endorsing candidates. Answering questions about who you’re voting for? Fine. Privately reaching out to voters on behalf of another candidate? Ok. Anything further than that? No way.
The risks are too many. Your candidate will lose and the winner might not cooperate with you. Or the candidate you vouched for will win, and they will only disappoint you and the community after they take office. Either way, you will alienate one base of voters, jeopardizing not only your political standing, but your personal relationships in a county where everyone is connected.
But I’ve seen good people lose. And Dilley did not elect me to sit in silence.
Vote for Aaron Ibarra for County Clerk.
If you read nothing else in this post, vote for Aaron Ibarra for County Clerk.
He’s been through the fire. Aaron was appointed to County Clerk last year, and he walked into that courthouse like Ethan Hawke in Training Day. Hazed by some of the old guard in that building. Tested by a clique hoping to see him fail.
But he stuck with it. Thrived. Learned all aspects of the job. Reshaped communication between Frio County and the public. Personally, I lean on Aaron constantly for records in preparation for meetings.
This job is more important than most of the public gets to see. County Clerk Aaron Ibarra recently asked for a debate, attempting to start a new cycle of candidate evaluation and accountability, something we desperately need in Frio County.
After his opponent refused, Aaron walked into the fire again, setting up an online forum on social media. If asked, I would have advised against it. But he showed what he was made of. And if the tone of a candidate’s supporters tells you anything about the candidate, I think his Ask Me Anything forum told a story of two starkly different choices for County Clerk, and potential future of Frio County.
I was trying to concentrate on replacing a windshield in a truck parked in my grandfather’s front yard, but the customer was fixated on the sky. I didn’t ask what she was looking at. I didn’t want to know.
“There’s an old man in your tree,” she said.
I looked up. Oh yeah that’s Cornelio, I told her, relieved. A mesquite limb fell to the ground.
Cornelio survived mostly on yard work and probably other odd jobs. All manual tools. A saw blade roped and taped to the end of an 8 foot pole. A rusty grass whip. Sometimes he carried the tools for the mile-or-so walk to the job. Sometimes a friend gave him a lift.
My grandma loved hiring him. He made her feel like a doña. He worked without break on an acre of land in the brutal Dilley sun, and she didn’t pay him much more than a cup of water and maybe enough money for that night’s beer. Embarrassed, my mom always slipped him extra cash and a brisket plate from Eagle Oil BBQ.
I saw that he passed away on Councilman Everardo Castillo Jr.’s Facebook page. Bebe said he passed away a couple days ago, alone in his apartment. Like me, he didn’t know when Cornelio moved to the States from Mexico or even what his last name was. “I’ll call you back,” he said.
I remembered a photo I snapped of Cornelio. The file’s metadata says it was October 20, 2018. I’d never seen Cornelio wearing anything but Cintas work pants and a long sleeve linen shirt, but that day he was walking around town looking fly. I snapped a pic for style inspiration. He liked it. He was clearly feeling himself.
“His last name was Hernandez,” Bebe said when he called back. “But he signed his last name ‘HH.’ My mom thinks it stood for Hernandez Hernandez.”
We know he lived in Dilley for a long time. Judge Flores remembers him for sure 15 years ago. Bebe remembers maybe 30. He spoke purely in Spanish, in a gentle voice.
We don’t think he has any family in town. If he doesn’t, Judge Flores, who did the inquest, will call the Mexican consulate in the morning. If they don’t claim him, his cremation will be paid for by Frio County, and he’ll rest in one of our cemeteries.
Que en paz descanse.
–written by Jose Asuncion, County Commissioner, Pct. 4
In the week that ended May 8, Frio County was subjected to a slew of positive COVID-19 case press releases in GEO’s immigrant detention center in Pearsall. At first, it was a steady trickle- only one case each day of May 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. And then fifteen positives out of the detention center on May 6. Add nine on May 8, for a cumulative total of thirty-two cases associated with the detention center.
To GEO Group South Texas ICE Processing Center Management,
Frio County Commissioners Court often invites local organizations to attend our meetings to address matters of concern. As GEO Group’s South Texas ICE Processing Center in Pearsall is the focus of a COVID-19 outbreak, we have cause for concern.
On behalf of local elected officials and community leaders, I would like to formally extend an invitation to local GEO Group management to attend our next Commissioners Court Meeting. The purpose is to provide transparency and guidance to the Frio County community. For many of us, this could be a matter of life and death.
I have emailed you and published a list of questions to maximize your ability to be prepared for the most productive conversation possible.
Our meeting will be on Monday May 11 at 3pm. Please participate by web conference or dial-in. The link will be emailed to you by County Clerk Aaron Ibarra 20 minutes before the start of the meeting. The public is encouraged to view the proceedings online.
How many employees work at the South Texas ICE Processing Center and how many of your employees live in Frio County limits?
How many contractors are retained that make contact with detainees and/or employees at the South Texas ICE Processing Center? How many live in Frio County limits?
Are you testing all employees/contractors? Will it be done on a recurring basis?
How many employee tests are currently pending?
Are you providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to employees?
Have you made any recommendations to employees/contractors about visiting public places, such as restaurants for lunch, grocery stores, etc?
Will you release Zip Code information for “associated cases?”
Have any employees/contractors who reside outside of Frio County tested positive?
What was the average daily population for the last complete reporting year?
What is the revenue per bed per day inside GEO?
May we have breakdown of the offense level of any crimes committed by the detainees in GEO? Do you have percentages?
How often will the detainees be tested? Will it be done on a recurring basis?
Has transport of detainees in and out of the facility been halted?
How many detainee tests are currently pending?
Are you providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to detainees?
How many dorms are in the facility?
How many detainees are currently quarantined?
What protocols are in place and have they been adjusted in the past month?
Will you be keeping track of recoveries and deaths? Will you publicly report them?
Can you create a website with an accounting dashboard, so that the community may hear new reports more quickly and directly from the source?