The Senate Finance Committee met for several hours on Monday to consider SB 8, a bill that would allocate billions of dollars in federal COVID-relief money. These funds are separate from the billions that Congress has designated for public schools. One provision in the bill authorizes an expenditures of $286 million to cover COVID-related claims in the TRS-Care and ActiveCare health insurance plans. This amount will cover costs through September 2021, and is intended to ensure that the plans will not require premium increases due to COVID. (Note that this funding does not guarantee that premiums won't increase for other reasons, but should at least prevent increases that would otherwise have been necessary due specifically to COVID costs.) The bill was left pending, and its author, Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson, suggested that the committee will meet again to consider requested amendments to the bill.
The House Select Committee on Youth Health and Safety held its first meeting to "discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health needs of Texas youth and identification of effective treatment strategies." There was not a specific bill before the committee. Committee members heard from several mental health experts who talked about increasing mental health concerns among children, and the roles that school counselors and teachers should play. One witness noted that teachers should not be the "front line" for treatment, that they already have full plates without also having to serve as mental health providers. He said the state should give teachers appropriate supports so that when they do identify needs, there is a place to go. There were also discussions on the considerable level of anxiety that surrounds STAAR testing.