During the week of February 15, nearly half of Texas lost access to electricity, clean water, or both. Thousands of un-heatable homes were damaged by the unseasonably cold winter storm bursting pipes, and tens of thousands of people evacuated. Natural gas pipelines and wind turbines that were not winter-proofed froze, and the demand for power vastly exceeded the supply on Texas’s landlocked grid.
For the thousands who used wholesale power companies, that meant they came back home to astronomical power bills, some as high as $16,000 for a week when they might not even have been home. It will be months before the financial impact of the storm is clear, or the resultant loss of life. So far, the latter is at least 80, including an 11-year-old boy who died of hypothermia wrapped around his three-year-old brother in their bed in a mobile home.
“It’s one thing to read about what’s going on,” said New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Saturday, February 20. “But it’s another thing entirely to see the damage for ourselves. The message in Washington is let’s not let people get caught up in a bunch of red tape. Let’s try to get this assistance out the door as much as people need and as quickly as we can.”
By then, Ocasio-Cortez had already raised over $2 million for Texas through a fundraiser that she launched through Act Blue, a Democratic fundraising tool. By Tuesday, it was $4.7 million, raised mostly through small grassroots donors.
Her fundraising efforts were helped to go viral by the coverage of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who responded to the disastrous storm by taking his family and friends on a flight to Cancún. Ocasio-Cortez held nothing back in criticizing Cruz for his egregious negligence on Twitter, though she took a long break Sunday to work in a Houston food bank distributing donated supplies to Cruz’s displaced constituents.
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