Travis County allocates $7.3 million in coronavirus relief aid to small cities

A screen image of Sam Biscoe at a meeting of the Travis County Commissioners Court
Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe oversees a meeting of the Travis County Commissioners Court. (Courtesy Travis County)

Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe oversees a meeting of the Travis County Commissioners Court. (Courtesy Travis County)

Travis County has allocated around $7.3 million in coronavirus relief aid to 21 municipalities within the county, following requests from small city mayors for $23 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds.

Travis County commissioners voted unanimously at a June 2 meeting to designate $55 per capita to 21 municipalities that contribute approximately 133,344 individuals to Travis County’s total population—a figure that does not include the city of Austin or unincorporated areas of the county. This amount was significantly less than the $174.79 per capita 16 local mayors had most recently urged the county to contribute in a letter submitted to Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe. Had that request—made by the mayors of Pflugerville, Rollingwood, Bee Cave, Lakeway, Cedar Park, Sunset Valley, San Leanna and others entities—been granted, it would have accounted for around $23 million of Travis County’s $61 million in CARES Act funds.

Before the 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 that 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.

However, earlier in the meeting, one small-city mayor, Kara King of Bee Cave, called in to lobby for the county to put more funds into cities' hands.

“Bee Cave has unique challenges related to COVID-19. It may not be the same as other parts of the county,” King said. “Please trust me and trust us to care for the people we know best.”

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.”

Commissioner Brigid Shea said that 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 cautioned that both the county and city would need to be vigilant to guard against overlaps.

Other stipulations of the court’s decision included a provision that cities would receive 20% of funds up front once a proposal has been made to the county, with the remaining 80% to be received in reimbursement. Expenditures made between March 1 and Oct. 30 will be eligible for reimbursement.

The following municipalities are eligible for Travis County CARES Act in these approximate amounts, based on population 2018 data listed in county documents for the associated action item. Population estimates include only Travis County residents for cities that straddle multiple counties.

  • Bee Cave, $372,075

  • Briarcliff, $99,064

  • Cedar Park, $457,380

  • Creedmoor, $12,485

  • Elgin, $56,650

  • Jonestown, $114,565

  • Lago Vista, $391,435

  • Lakeway, $862,015

  • Leander, $113,630

  • Manor, $614,515

  • Mustang Ridge, $27,665

  • Round Rock, $96,305

  • San Leanna, $28,160

  • Sunset Valley, $37,345

  • The Hills, $138,270

  • Volente, $32,670

  • Webberville, $25,520

  • West Lake Hills, $182,490

  • Rollingwood, $86,735

  • Pflugerville, $3,531,055

  • Point Venture, $55,660

By Olivia Aldridge

Multi-Platform Journalist

Olivia hosts and produces Community Impact Newspaper's podcasts, The Austin Breakdown, The Houston Breakdown and The DFW Breakdown. She launched the podcasts after nearly three years as a reporter for the newspaper, covering public health, business, development and Travis County government for the Central Austin edition. Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas.