On May 18, mayors from 16 cities with Travis County sent a letter to county officials requesting an allocation of federal funds sent by the U.S. Treasury Department. The request from the mayoral coalition amounted to a per-capita rate of roughly $175 out of a total of $23 million.
About $61.15 million has been sent to the county as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act Coronavirus Relief Fund, and the May 18 letter signed by 16 Travis County mayors, including those of Rollingwood, Bee Cave, Lakeway, Pflugerville, Cedar Park and Sunset Valley, originally advocated for a per-capita figure of $197.44 for each person living within the 21 municipalities of Travis County.
However, Rollingwood Mayor Michael Dyson on June 1 said new parameters put a more accurate per-capita figure at $174.79 per person. That would have amounted to roughly $23.67 million of the $61.15 million for the total population of 133,334 within the 21 cities, based on 2018 population data, and would have left another $37.88 million for the rest of the county's programs and unincorporated communities, Dyson said.
During a June 4 special called meeting of the Bee Cave City Council, officials were primed to vote on whether to pursue an interlocal agreement with Travis County regarding dispersal of the funds, but they did not take action because the county has not finalized a proposal for the agreement and will likely not have a draft until June 9 at the soonest, according to Biscoe's letter.
On June 2, Bee Cave Mayor Kara King spoke before the Travis County Commissioners Court to lobby for the multicity request for fund dispersal.
"One of the issues that has been brought up over and over is the worry about how small cities will spend the funding allocation," King said. "I say this with all sincerity: We trust our staff. For myself, I can speak for my city manger and city attorney that they will keep us 100% on track in the legality of the CARES Act funding."
Travis County commissioners voted unanimously at the June 2 meeting to designate the aforementioned $55 per capita to 21 municipalities—a figure that amounts to roughly $7.3 million and is significantly less than the $174.79 per capita requested of the county.
Before the June 2 vote, Biscoe said he considered the $55-per-capita allocation to be a fair compromise that reflects the guidance of the state and other urban counties with a similar impetus to disburse federal aid among multiple municipalities. He also pointed out funds would be accessible to residents in those municipalities who applied directly to their cities, including $10 million Travis County had already dedicated to rental assistance to low-income residents.
Commissioner Brigid Shea said issuing funds directly to cities puts the county in a precarious position, as Travis County will be liable for any mistakes made in the application of funds per federal guidelines. For instance, individuals cannot receive duplicate funding for rental assistance from both a city CARES Act grant and a county grant, and Shea cautioned both the county and city would need to be vigilant to guard against overlaps.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, who represents many of the municipalities in western Travis County, expressed sympathy for the position of the mayors, although he voted with the other commissioners.
“This whole business that we find ourselves in with all of these CARES dollars really puts all of us in a very, very tough spot. We know that everybody needs as much money as they can get their hands on,” Daugherty said. “I’m going to try and convince the people in the western part that the overwhelming majority of the dollars will not just go east of [I-35], although I know that east of [I-]35 needs a lot of money and a lot of help.”
Olivia Aldridge contributed to this report.