Elected officials help Texans during, after winter storm crisis

Lauren Abel

Elected officials were asked to help their constituents and provide resources to Texans after millions were left without power and water for days during last week’s severe winter storm. 

While politicians from across the country raised more than $7 million as of Monday to aid Texans, other representatives from Texas, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, left the state during the winter storm crisis. 

Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Julián Castro, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, developed separate donation funds to raise money for food, shelter and water.

Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet that she raised more than $5 million in four days through ActBlue and partnered with 12 Texas organizations to provide resources to Texans. O’Rourke said in a tweet that volunteers made more than 784,000 phone calls to senior citizens in Texas to connect them with water, food and transportation.

Ossoff raised more than $200,000 in 36 hours through ActBlue to benefit organizations including the Central Texas Food Bank, The Bridge Homeless Recovery Center and Feeding Texas.

President Joe Biden will be traveling to Houston on Friday to “meet with local leaders to discuss the winter storm, relief efforts, progress toward recovery and the incredible resilience shown by the people of Houston and Texas.” 

“Federal funding is also available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures and hazard mitigation measures statewide,” Biden said in a press release.

Some elected officials from Texas received backlash on social media for leaving their state while millions of their constituents were without power and water.

On Feb. 14, Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Cruz sent a letter to Biden urging him to grant the request for an emergency disaster declaration made by Gov. Greg Abbott. 

Four days later, Cruz was seen traveling to Cancún, Mexico, with his family, according to the Dallas Morning News. After receiving criticism, Cruz said he believed the trip was a mistake in an interview with The Associated Press

According to the Congressional Management Foundation, Cruz’s duties as a senator include providing direct services to constituents, such as helping with recovery after natural disasters and dealing with an emergency.

After he returned from Mexico, Cruz spent time in Houston on Sunday providing food for first responders who were helping during the snow storms, according to a tweet from Cruz.

Paxton traveled to Utah during the winter storm last Wednesday and Friday to meet with Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, Paxton’s campaign team said in an interview with The Texas Tribune.

“AG Paxton did lose power but did not leave Texas until after power had returned to most of the state, including his own home,” said Ian Prior, Ken Paxton’s campaign spokesperson, in the interview.

Prior did not provide details as to why the trip was not rescheduled or if it was funded by taxpayer money, according to an interview with the Houston Chronicle.

“Texans have been failed by our statewide leaders,” Castro said in an interview with Texas Democrats. “We have been failed, not only over the last few days, but for decades, because Texas has been in the hands of people who don’t believe in government in the first place.”