"Don't forget about us."
That was the message Wednesday from many at a Texas Workforce Commission roundtable discussion at the Solomon P. Ortiz Center focused on the needs of the Coastal Bend after Hurricane Harvey.
"It's a county that's very low-income, so there's lots of needs for folks," Refugio County Judge Robert Blaschke said. "They don't build back right away. Some people don't have insurance. They just can't afford it."
Blaschke said for a low-income county like his, it is hard to get the help they need for the basic necessities of life, and their small school district is struggling.
"The school district superintendent in Refugio had mentioned that she had about 16 staff members that lost their homes," Blaschke said. "So they were displaced."
Other officials and community leaders hit a recurring theme, saying they feel like they are being forgotten.
"A Category 4 hurricane hit the Coastal Bend," State Rep. Todd Hunter said. "Some areas hit harder than others. But you were still hit, and the one message that I want you to carry is do not forget the Coastal Bend."
Along with the Texas Workforce Commission, representatives from the State's Higher Education Authority and Texas Education Agency were on hand.
Local college and trade school leaders said they are in good enough shape to offer help to others in the form of job fairs and accelerated training programs.
"We here at Del Mar College have implemented not only our traditional 16-week, but we have 15-week, 14-week, 12-week and even eight-week courses all throughout," Del Mar College President Mark Escamilla said.
The head of the Rockport Chamber of Commerce summed it up for her community.
"Tourism is our major industry, so we're out of business," Chamber President Diane Probst said. "It's horrible. The whole area looks like a war zone."
Members of the Texas Workforce Commission said this would not be the last roundtable discussion, and they will continue to try to provide grants and programs to help get people back to work in the Coastal Bend.
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