Tuesday, June 18, 2024

City, county leaders hope for direct disbursements, more flexibility in next coronavirus relief bill

WACO, TX – Lawmakers in Washington are expected to settle on a new coronavirus relief bill this week which could include additional funding for cities and counties.

Local leaders hope that funding will come in the form of direct disbursements from the federal government instead of being allocated through the state.

During previous rounds of funding, large jurisdictions — those with at least 500,000 people — received direct funding from the Federal Government almost immediately.

However, jurisdictions with fewer than 500,000 people including Waco, Killeen, Temple and Belton had to wait for the Texas Division of Emergency Management to distribute funds.

That slowed down the disbursement of funds, Bell County Judge David Blackburn said.

“It took us longer because we didn’t get those funds as quickly as others,” Blackburn told KWTX.

“At the end of the day, that just meant that those businesses in Bell County could’ve received those funds a lot quicker and a lot faster.”

Waco City Councilwoman Andrea Barefield said Waco has only been reimbursed for about a fifth of the $7.6 million it initially spent to keep the city running during the pandemic.

But she noted that if it were a larger city, it would have received the funds right off the bat.

“There are so many communities that do not have direct opportunity,” Barefield said.

“It’s not like COVID skips them or affects them less because they have fewer people.”

Mexia City Manager Eric Garretty also would like to see more jurisdictions receive direct payments and more flexibility to spend the funds.

“Streamlining the process and potentially looking at more flexibility or a broader range of categories that that federal assistance money can be used for local governments . . . Those would be the two main things for this next round,” Garretty said.

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