During a Dec. 8 meeting, Williamson County Treasurer Scott Heselmeyer informed the court that of the $93 million it received in April, about $32 million will remain unused by the Dec. 30 deadline.
Currently, the CARES Act money can be used on coronavirus-related expenses incurred by Dec. 30. The amount that remains after will need to be returned to the federal government, officials said.
“The act came out in March, and I think legitimately the leaders in Congress at that time believed that Dec. 30 was going to be an adequate amount of time to expend the funds,” Heselmeyer said. “Nobody really knew how long the effects of the pandemic were going to last.”
So far, the county has spent the money on several programs including a small-business grant program, reimbursements to cities, emergency service districts and schools, funding for rent and utilities assistance, and food banks, among other programs.
Of that, about $7.7 million went toward county-specific expenses, accounting for about 13% of the total allotment, Heselmeyer said. He added that he believed that was one of the smallest percentages of entity-kept coronavirus funding that he could find.
Heselmeyer said when the county first received the funding it feared it would run out by fall, but the fear became that there was not going to be enough time to use it all.
The court did vote Dec. 8 to allocate $424,000 for breast cancer screening for uninsured women postponed due to COVID-19 and $925,000 to Bluebonnet Trails Community Service for mental health services for Williamson County residents.
The court also prioritized a second round of small-business loans that would likely be directed toward businesses that could not run during the pandemic and additional help for rent and utilities if an extension is approved by Congress.
If the extension does not come through, Heselmeyer said the county still had the option to allocate up to $500 per student to county school districts without additional paperwork on both the school's or the district's part. He said a decision on that can be made during the Dec. 22 Commissioners Court meeting, which will be held after Congress has concluded for the holiday season Dec. 18.
“I've been very clear when I've talked to our congressional leaders that [Williamson County is] not asking for more money. We think we can do well with what we have; it's just a matter of having the time,” Heselmeyer said.