Fort Worth City Council issued its seventh disaster declaration since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic at a special meeting April 29.

Council adopted a new stand-alone declaration that extends the current declaration in the city of Fort Worth while adding provisions from Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest executive orders meant to reopen the state’s economy.

“Extending the city’s state of disaster allows us to deploy and provide the necessary resources to combat COVID-19 while simultaneously prioritizing the health and safety of all residents and supporting our community during this unprecedented time,” Mayor Betsy Price said.

Abbott announced April 27 that the first phase of his plan will go into effect May 1, and officials will continue to monitor state data over the next several weeks with hopes of implementing the second phase as early as May 18.

“This [declaration] ensures Fort Worth is in compliance with the governor’s orders [by] providing guidance and assistance on the safest way to reopen our economy and ease restrictions,” Price said.

Council’s latest disaster declaration also allows the Fort Worth Police Department to issue Class C misdemeanor citations for violations of COVID-19 restrictions.

In addition, police can enforce penalties outlined in the governor’s orders, which state “failure to comply with any executive order issued during the COVID-19 disaster is an offense punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000, confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days, or both fine and confinement.

The latest declaration affords police the option of issuing citations to individuals who violate COVID-19 orders, rather than transporting them to jail, police Chief Ed Kraus said.

“As individuals, we do have a choice,” District 8 Council Member Kelly Allen Gray said. “I am against reopening. I want to applaud businesses and churches that have said, 'We are not reopening under these guidelines.'”

Council approved the declaration by a 7-2 vote. Gray and District 5 Council Member Gyna Bivens voted against.

At the special meeting, Fort Worth City Council also accepted a total of $158.72 million in funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The $2 trillion economic relief package is designed to mitigate the economic and public health effects of COVID-19.

According to city Director of Neighborhood Development Victor Turner, eligible city expenditures for federal coronavirus relief funding include:

  • Joint Emergency Operations Center expenses such as salaries, supplies and contracts;

  • COVID-19-related overtime in various departments;

  • salaries of those reassigned to COVID-19 roles, such as the code compliance director, parks director, public events staff and others;

  • supplies and equipment such as personal protection equipment and cleaning and sanitizing supplies;

  • contractual expenditures such as RVs and hotels to host COVID-19-affected people, cleaning and so on;

  • unanticipated expenses such as emergency sick leave, emergency Family and Medical Leave Act, and unemployment; and

  • community support programs.