The Hays County Commissioners Court unanimously approved $644,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds for the Hays-Caldwell Women's Center at a meeting Aug. 9. The HCWC is a nonprofit based in San Marcos that offers free and confidential services to victims of family or dating violence, sexual assault or child abuse; its services are offered to those who live, work or attend school in either Hays or Caldwell counties.

The commissioners received a presentation from Eric Boehning, senior project manager of Ardurra, on Aug. 2 regarding the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on the women's center and its eligibility to receive the ARPA grant funding.

"We have been assembling these [documents] with the overall goal of having a clear methodology and logic utilizing the U.S. Treasury's framework for how to determine eligibility," Boehning said. "[The documents] are there for when the inevitable audit comes down from the federal government: everything, the decisions made at the time, costs associated and reasoning within the legislation is very clear and presently laid out."

The Ardurra presentation calls out a variety of issues over the past few years that have negatively affected the HCWC, namely the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation and supply chain issues.

"The revenue loss and the decrease in donations and the need for an increased response to domestic violence are all eligible [for ARPA funding] underneath the public health and negative economic impacts eligible use category," Boehning said.

The report also states the pandemic exacerbated the impacts of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.

The grant funding for the HCWC will go toward day-to-day operations such as payroll, rent, inventory, utilities and more, according to agenda documents.

"It's unfortunate that we have to provide these types of service, but it's a reality. ... It's wonderful to know that we have a great organization that provides these services in such a caring way. I'm extremely happy that we are able to fund this through our ARPA funding," Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe said.