What can mayors do right now to support congressional efforts
for a next round of federal stimulus to all Texas cities?
The Senate Finance Committee is currently preparing the next
federal stimulus package for workers, businesses, states, and local
governments, and the U.S. Senate is expected to consider the measure after
Congress returns from break on July 20. Please join mayors from across Texas
in signing this letter urging our congressional delegation to
provide direct and flexible assistance to Texas cities. Mayors interested in
signing onto the letter, please email your name, city, and electronic
signature to firstname.lastname@example.org by 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, July
14 to be included.
Cities are facing major public health and public safety
challenges at the same time we are facing an unprecedented fiscal
crisis. Simply put, demand and need for core local government services
has increased significantly at the same time we are all projecting
unprecedented levels of revenue loss. As metropolitan area economies generate
over 91 percent of the nation's GDP, direct flexible fiscal assistance to
local governments is how to spur an economic comeback.
We encourage city officials to continue visiting with your
members of Congress, as well as Senators Cornyn and Cruz, to communicate the
needs of your city. ?Now, while the Senate is in recess, call your
senators and representatives. We also urge city officials to engage with
your business community leaders to call on members of Congress and senators
in support of additional direct flexible funding.
We are thankful for your voice during these trying times and we
appreciate all that you are doing on behalf your communities.
What is the status of the suspended Open Meetings Act
Today (7/10), the governor’s office extended the Open Meetings
Act suspensions. Previously, on March 16, the governor granted the office of
the attorney general’s request for suspension of certain open meeting
statutes. The temporary suspension allows, among other things, for
telephonic or videoconference meetings of governmental bodies that are
accessible to the public in an effort to reduce in-person meetings that
assemble large groups of people. The guidance associated
with the suspension provides that:
“These suspensions are in effect until terminated by the office
of the governor, or until the March 13, 2020, disaster declaration is lifted
The March 13 declaration has been extended for successive 30-day
periods, including today’s extension for 30 days. That
means the relevant open meetings laws remain suspended for at least another
30 days (or until affirmatively rescinded).
We can’t be certain, but it is highly likely that the governor
will continue to repeatedly extend his declarations. We’ve heard from his
staff that they have no immediate plans to rescind the suspensions, which are
sensible and seem to be working well, but that can’t be guaranteed.
Are there ongoing efforts to ease state-issued restrictions on
the use of federal Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) revenue by cities in
counties under 500,000 population?
Yes. The City of Waco has drafted a letter asking the
governor to consider eliminating the so-called “75 percent limitation” on the
use of CRF funds for cities located in counties under 500,000 population.
As background, the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s
(TDEM) CRF Terms and Conditions document contains the
following statement regarding the use of grant money allocated from TDEM to
“The subrecipient agrees that a minimum of 75% of its allotment
will be spent in the categories of medical expenses, public health expenses
and payroll expenses for employees substantially dedicated to mitigating or
responding to the public emergency. The remainder of the allotment may be
spent in any of the categories provided within the Treasury guidance.”
The other general categories of expenses for which only 25%
percent of a city’s allotment can be spent are: (1) expenses of actions to
facilitate compliance with COVID-19-related public health measures; (2)
expenses associated with the provision of economic support in connection with
the COVID-19 public health emergency; and (3) any other COVID-19-related
expenses reasonably necessary to the function of government that satisfy the
Fund’s eligibility criteria.
The League sent a letter to Governor
Abbott last month asking him to eliminate the 75 percent limitation in order
to free up federal dollars for use on economic support for local businesses,
among other things. No action has yet been taken on the spending limitations,
which has prompted Waco to take the lead on this new request.
Mayors interested in signing on to Waco’s letter are encouraged
to email their name, city, and electronic signature to Ashley Nystrom with
the City of Waco at AshleyN@wacotx.gov by 5:00 p.m.
on Monday, July 13.
Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus Updates?
TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject