Texas has $2 billion in COVID aid funds left to spend. Advocacy teams are anxiously watching.


With solely two weeks earlier than the funding expires, Texas’ state authorities nonetheless hasn’t spent a few quarter of the $8 billion it obtained from the federal coronavirus aid invoice.

In March, the U.S. Division of the Treasury assigned $11.24 billion to native and state governments in Texas. Nearly a 3rd of that went on to cities and counties with greater than 500,000 folks, which have been fast to make use of it for a variety of measures, from hire help packages to temperature checks at metropolis workplaces. The state distributed $1.85 billion to smaller jurisdictions and has been distributing the remaining $8 billion by way of its well being, schooling and emergency companies, amongst others.

The funds pays for bills incurred solely till Dec. 30, in response to federal pointers. Gov. Greg Abbott’s workplace stated that it’s going to use the cash by that deadline however wouldn’t give particulars on how.

“Governor Abbott has labored carefully with legislative leaders and state companies to allocate $6 billion up to now, together with an estimated $1.6 billion for [the Department of State Health Services] and [Texas Division of Emergency Management] to fund the state’s response by way of the tip of the 12 months,” stated Renae Eze, a spokesperson for Gov. Greg Abbott, in a press release. “With $2 billion remaining of the unique funding, the state will spend each greenback by the tip of the 12 months to make sure the well being and well-being of all Texans.”

Except the federal authorities decides to increase the Dec. 30 deadline, unspent funds must be returned to the Division of Treasury.

On Monday, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller stated the remaining funds must be used to assist rural hospitals and meals banks. With restricted staffing and funding, rural hospitals have struggled to maintain up with COVID-19 surges.

Meals banks have additionally been strained, serving households in want which have skilled unemployment and wage cuts. Advocacy organizations stated they’re anxious that in 2021 they received’t have sufficient to reply to demand. Two federal packages which have helped them by way of the pandemic are ending, and a state program that gives surplus groceries to them has been lower by 40%.

“It’s a really cost-efficient approach — retains down meals waste and it serves the wants of a whole lot of hungry folks,” Miller stated in an interview Tuesday, who added he hasn’t heard from Abbott’s workplace but. “There’s been zero response. The clock’s ticking and we have to transfer. Hopefully we’ll hear from the governor.”

State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, stated that there hasn’t been sufficient transparency in how the funds have been assigned. She known as for a fast allocation in areas like private protecting tools, assist for faculties and support for well being care establishments.

“We have now 15 extra days to alert the feds to how Texas intends to spend the remainder of these {dollars}, or they need to be despatched again,” Howard stated. “There doesn’t appear to be any actual dialogue that’s in place proper now to have these sorts of discussions, as a result of the Legislature has not been capable of meet in the course of the interim. We’ve been handicapped when it comes to actually having these discussions and doing the deep dives, asking the questions and having some oversight to the method.”

Housing advocacy teams have additionally argued that the cash must be used to assist renters in want, on condition that a moratorium on evictions ends Dec. 31, and hire help packages typically have been inadequate or gradual.

“Our state’s leaders need to prioritize offering individuals who need assistance with direct money help to pay the hire, pay the mortgage, pay the sunshine invoice and put meals on the desk,” stated Christina Rosales, deputy director of Texas Housers. “Smaller native jurisdictions haven’t obtained their fair proportion of those funds to satisfy the wants of their communities. The governor’s workplace must be being attentive to what’s taking place across the state and provides native communities the instruments and sources to serve the numerous who’re anxious about hire and fundamental wants.”

Within the meantime, bigger cities and counties are additionally getting ready to spend the remainder of their funds. Dallas, for instance, had used $190 million of its $234 million as of Monday and plans to make use of all of the funds by the deadline.

“It’s been essential for town of Dallas and for different cities due to the pandemic,” stated Elizabeth Reich, chief monetary officer of town of Dallas. “There are a whole lot of bills that now we have incurred as a result of native authorities is the place folks flip after they want instant help. We’re probably the most direct supply and level for people to show after they’re at their most weak.”

Reich stated town would have most likely needed to dig into its reserve funds if the funding hadn’t been authorized. Metropolis officers are hoping {that a} new stimulus bundle will maintain serving to to allow them to keep away from having to spend their reserves within the subsequent 12 months.

“We all know that coronavirus doesn’t finish on Dec. 30,” Reich stated. “It’s essential that cities obtain further funding in order that we are able to bounce again and we are able to develop and get the economic system again on observe.”

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