Some smaller cities unhappy with COVID-19 reimbursements

Local News
February 07 2021 06:00 pm

EDINBURG, Texas – On Tuesday, Hidalgo County officials came up with a plan to distribute $63 million in federal funds to local cities.

The funds are part of the CARES Act which sent more than $11 billion to the state.

The state then appropriated $3.2 billion to local cities and counties.

Hidalgo County received $151 million and is keeping $88 million for the county’s use.

Based on population numbers, an analysis by Tarrant County officials showed those dollars would come out to $17 per capita or per person.

Hidalgo County Commissioners approved a plan which will give larger cities of populations of 30,000 or more $110 per person and smaller cities $80.

“Smaller cities are the ones that have the bigger challenges. They have the weaker revenue bases. They have no ports of entry, no lobbyist in Austin, Washington D.C. They have cheaper real estate, and therefore less taxes.”  says Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chairwoman, Norma Ramirez.

Ramirez says several mayors, city commissioners, and community leaders are disappointed they didn’t give all cities the same rate.

Alton Mayor Salvador Vela says his city has spent nearly a million dollars in COVID-19 expenses and they need the money. Vela says the city has had to shut down a training academy, cut food programs, and even let go of some employees.

Mayor Vela says smaller cities like Alton don’t have the resources to recover from financial impacts like larger ones do.

“We don’t have the money they have, so when it hits up, it hits up but when that money dries up what do we do? We have to get a loan to run the city and then to after that to do a loan you’ll have to raise the tax rate.”  

A source with the county, familiar with the situation, says lager cities received more funds per person because the funds are based on reimbursements not distributions. Larger cities have a structure in place already setup to respond quickly to demonstrate receipts.

Additionally, county officials are concerned that the federal funds maybe subject to a claw black, in which the county would have to repay any expenses federal auditors found not to be a COVID-19 expense.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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