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May 28

May 28, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #52

Posted on May 28, 2020 at 3:31 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates


Has the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) released any additional guidance on city use of Coronavirus Relief Fund revenue received from the state?


Yes. Today (May 28), TDEM released an FAQ document related to the Coronavirus Relief Fund. The document includes 71 questions and answers on the following broad topics: (1) eligible costs; (2) funding process steps and documentation requirements; (3) terms and conditions/fund usage restrictions; (4) funding allocation and associated responsibilities; (5) cities located in multiple counties; (6) Treasury guidance and Treasury FAQs; and (7) coordination with other sources of funding.


This guidance clearly applies to cities that are applying to and receiving funds through TDEM grants, but it’s unclear how or if it applies to cities in counties over 500,000 population that receive funds directly from their county. TDEM has established an email address that city officials can use to submit questions related to the Coronavirus Relief Fund. That email address is


Our city will receive Coronavirus Relief Fund revenue from the state, which means we are subject to the 25 percent limitation on the amount of money that can be spent on grants for small businesses. Are there other options to receive federal money for local economic development programs?


Yes. The federal CARES Act appropriated $1.5 billion to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to be used on economic development programs to help communities recover from the coronavirus pandemic. All cities are eligible for funding under the program, assuming a city applicant can adequately demonstrate to EDA how its project prevents, prepares for, and responds to the coronavirus. The EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance program includes grants for planning and technical assistance, capitalizing revolving loan funds for businesses, construction of infrastructure and other economic development projects, and innovation grants.


More information about the EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance program can be accessed on EDA’s website, including this FAQ


What happened yesterday (May 27) with regard to the vote by mail litigation in state court?


The Texas Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case of In Re State of Texas. The attorney general filed the lawsuit directly with the Supreme Court, claiming that the fear of contracting COVID-19 is not a “disability” that would allow a voter to quality for a mail-in ballot. The court agreed with the attorney general, but declined to issue the “writ of mandamus” he requested:


“We agree with the State that a voter’s lack of immunity to COVID-19, without more, is not a “disability” as defined by the Election Code. But the State acknowledges that election officials have no responsibility to question or investigate a ballot application that is valid on its face. The decision to apply to vote by mail based on a disability is the voter’s, subject to a correct understanding of the statutory definition of “disability.” Because we are confident that the Clerks and all election officials will comply with the law in good faith, we deny the State’s petition for writ of mandamus.”


A writ of mandamus is simply a written order to act in a certain way. The attorney general asked that the court issue the writ to five county clerks and election administrators to stop them from “misinforming the public to the contrary and improperly approving applications for mail-in ballots.”  The court refused to do so, but it did opine that fear of contracting the virus, by itself, isn’t enough for a voter to request a mail-in ballot.


Texas voters can ask for mail-in ballots only if they are 65 years or older, have a disability or illness, will be out of the county during the election period, or are confined in jail. Texas election law defines disability as a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents a voter from appearing in person without the risk of “injuring the voter’s health.”


A separate federal court lawsuit on the issue is still pending. It’s probable that the issue will find itself before the U.S. Supreme Court. 


Further Updates


Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus Updates?


TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.