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Jul 15

July 15, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #85

Posted on July 15, 2020 at 4:35 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates


Did the governor take virus-related financial aid action today?


Yes. He issued a press release today (July 15) announcing $41 million in Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) Program funding to local governments. The press release caused a bit of confusion because the funds mentioned therein were announced back in April. However, they are awarded on an application basis. Today’s press release is just announcing the awarding of the funds to those cities that applied for them. This is not a new grant program or new money for an existing program. It is simply an announcement that awards have been made.


In response to an inquiry to the governor’s office, League staff was also told that the grants are awarded in “batches,” meaning that some cities may have applied for funding and will be approved in the future, even if they don’t show up on the first allocation schedule.


This is the text of the press release:


 “Governor Greg Abbott today announced that his Public Safety Office (PSO) will provide $41 million in federal funds to assist cities and counties throughout the COVID-19 response. These funds come from the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) Program authorized by the federal Emergency Appropriations for Coronavirus Health Response and Agency Operations Act. The first round of awards, totaling $7 million, will be distributed this week.


‘I thank our federal partners for their support and ongoing collaboration as we work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Texas,’ said Governor Abbott. ‘This funding is a critical to helping local governments protect Texans and combat the spread of the virus in our communities. The State of Texas will continue to work with the federal government to help meet the needs of our cities and counties as they respond to COVID-19.’

Funds awarded under the CESF Program will be used by local units of governments for first responder overtime and hazard pay; equipment and supplies supporting teleworking technologies, social distancing and personal protective gear; county jail costs associated with the medical needs of inmates as well as reimbursement for holding inmates awaiting transfer to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.


The CESF Program provides financial assistance to cities and counties to address the public safety challenges posed by the outbreak of COVID-19. The Governor’s Public Safety Office (PSO) is responsible for administering these funds and is moving quickly to release awards.


A list of jurisdictions that have received an award can be found here. The list will be updated as awards are released. Local units of government that are interested in learning more about this program can contact PSO via or at 512-463-1919.”


City officials should also remember that this money is subject to expenditure guidelines issued by the state. To view those, go to and click on “Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) Program.”


What’s the latest issue to crop up in relation to voting by mail?


According to KXAN News in Austin, two Austin residents who recently tested positive for the Coronavirus asked a state district judge Tuesday afternoon (July 14) to allow them to get around a state rule requiring a doctor’s signature for emergency mail-in ballots.


In a lawsuit filed in state district court in Travis County, a couple argued that the state’s criteria for applying for an emergency ballot imposes an undue burden on the right to vote. Unlike applications received before the deadline to vote by mail, voters submitting applications for emergency ballots must submit certification from a doctor that the voter has developed an illness that would keep them from being able to vote in person.


The application cutoff for voters seeking to vote by mail in the runoff was July 2. According to KXAN, that’s the same day that one of the plaintiffs learned she had tested positive for the virus. Her husband was tested soon after and learned his results on July 9. They are both under medical orders to self-quarantine and are symptomatic.


The couple did not learn about the requirements for obtaining an emergency mail-in ballot until the day before election day. They’ve since attempted to contact their doctor’s office to obtain the certification they need but haven’t heard back, the lawsuit reads.


The lawsuit, filed by the Texas Civil Rights Project against Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, seeks a temporary restraining order requiring DeBeauvoir to accept a late mail ballot application without requiring a physician’s signoff.


What’s the latest on the mayors’ letter to the Texas congressional delegation asking for additional direct funding for cities?


Ninety-six Texas mayors signed a letter to the Texas congressional delegation reiterating support for an additional federal stimulus measure that includes direct and flexible fiscal assistance to all cities across the nation.


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 on July 20.


The League also urges city officials to engage with their business community leaders to call on members of Congress and senators in support of additional direct flexible funding.


If you are unsure of who represents you in Washington, D.C., or need additional guidance, please contact JJ Rocha with TML’s legislative department at


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 sent a letter signed by 51 Texas mayors to the governor asking him to eliminate the so-called “75 percent limitation” on the use of CRF funds for cities located in counties under 500,000 population.

The League previously sent a letter to Governor Abbott last month asking him to eliminate the 75 percent limitation. No action had been taken on the spending limitations, which prompted Waco to take the lead on this new request.


Further Updates


What’s happening with school re-opening dates?


School re-opening isn’t technically a municipal issue, but it is very important for all employers with child-rearing employees which of course includes cities.


According to The Texas Tribune, the Texas Education Agency announced today (July 15) that classrooms can stay closed this fall without losing state funding if a local health official orders it, and so long as a district offers virtual classes.


Yesterday, the governor said on a local Houston television news interview that the time would be extended: “This is going to have to be a local-level decision, but there will be great latitude and flexibility provided at the local level.”


Even before that statement, The Texas Tribune reported, “some local public health officials had moved to mandate that schools remain closed at least through Labor Day, saying it would be unsafe to reopen school buildings while the pandemic was raging. El Paso and Laredo health officials were among the first to issue those mandates last week. And Tuesday, Travis County health officials ordered all public and private schools to delay on-campus instruction at least until Sept. 7. It was unclear last week whether Abbott or the TEA would let those orders stand.”


According to TEA, the actual plan is forthcoming. Interested city officials should be able to find information from the Texas Education Agency when it becomes available.


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


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