Did the governor take virus-related financial aid action
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 email@example.com or
City officials should also remember that this money is subject
to expenditure guidelines issued by the state. To view those, go to https://egrants.gov.texas.gov/fundopp.aspx and click on
“Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) Program.”
What’s the latest issue to crop up in relation to voting by
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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
TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.