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Right on the Money: University of Houston offers contact tracing class

Here's a phrase we haven't heard much lately: Business is booming for a startup company from Dallas.

Updated on Sept. 17 with information from Amazon.

Here's your Right on the Money for Monday, May 11, 2020.

How a local company is helping the PPE fight

The Urgent Response Network was spun up a couple of months ago to help supply personal protective equipment, or PPE, to frontline workers. 

While the company had initially said it signed a deal with Amazon, representatives from Amazon clarified that they had not received inventory from the Urgent Response Network and did not have an ongoing relationship with the vendor.  

Amazon said there was no impact on customers since they never received any inventory.

The Urgent Response Network is not a third-party seller in Amazon's stores and did not have a "partnership" with the online retailer.

"We have successfully moved millions of units of PPE, and we are well on our way to moving hundreds of millions and then billions of units of PPE," said chairman and co-founder Brent Skoda.

"We have successfully moved millions of units of PPE, and we are well on our way to moving hundreds of millions and then billions of units of PPE," he said.

As the outbreak made its way to the United States, Skoda says he was told that the vast majority of purchase orders for PPE were being delayed, canceled or altered. Having previously lived in China and worked in manufacturing, Skoda says he recognized China was not going to be the most reliable place to get large PPE orders filled. 

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Skoda, a Texas Christan University graduate, turned to a former rival he had bested in a university business competition. That friend was well connected to a whole network of manufacturing centers in Mexico. Within weeks, Skoda says, “we built out a network of over 85 FDA-vetted factories in Mexico."

Skoda said many truckloads of supplies have already made the journey from Mexico into the U.S., and he expects that to increase exponentially. 

He said those trucks consist mostly of isolation suits, different light technologies, infrared thermometers and COVID-19 test kits. But he said the most popular item they're selling is still N-95 masks. Skoda said his company is now buying its own machines to manufacture bottles, masks and gloves.

New contact tracing class at the University of Houston

The coronavirus is also being seen as an opportunity by the University of Houston, which has started a free contact tracing and case identification certificate program through its College of Medicine. 

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The course, available to UH students, faculty and staff, aims to prepare what the school calls "a new type of public health worker." UH notes that 100,000 "disease detectives" will be needed nationwide to slow the spread of COVID-19. Click here for more information on the UH contract tracing program.

How to get back pay for unemployment benefits

If you are unemployed and are getting benefits through the Texas Workforce Commission, here's a reminder: When you go in to request payment this week — and especially next week — you may see a new feature that allows you to collect back weeks of benefits. It could be a new icon on your account, or you may notice that you can claim earlier weeks when you click to request payment. 

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A lot of people were getting payments based on the date of their claim instead of the date they lost their jobs or wages, as the agency previously said. But TWC says it has been tweaking its system. For more on that and other unemployment news, see our latest update from TWC.

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