The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act provides $55 per capita to local governments to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. For counties with fewer than 500,000 residents, such as Galveston County, the money is given to each city rather than to the county itself, a League City official said.
As such, Galveston County requested each city provide 18% of its CARES Act funding to the Galveston County Health District to continue nasal swab and antibody testing. League City received $5.73 million in CARES Act funding, and the county's request equaled about $1.04 million.
Many council members expressed concern with giving the county the money.
Nick Long said the move would be "inequitable" to League City because giving $1.04 million to the county would constitute subsidizing other smaller cities and unincorporated parts of the county.
Getting tested for coronavirus is free at certain places, such as The University of Texas Medical Branch in League City, but for those with health insurance, facility charges are not. These charges can range from $40 to $100, Long said.
However, uninsured people get their coronavirus tests and facility charges covered 100%. League City is the municipality in the county with the highest number of infected residents, and League City residents have health insurance at three times the rate of residents in unincorporated areas. Therefore, the money should stay with League City, Long argued.
Long said it would be possible for League City to do its own coronavirus testing of its residents.
Council Member Chad Tressler said the funding was federal money, not League City's, and giving it to the county would not be the same as the city losing a resource unless the city has something it could use it on. However, League City is not providing a "credible use" for the CARES Act funding besides keeping it as a buffer in case of an emergency, Tressler said.
"The last time I checked, the federal [government] took about 40% of my money every year," Council Member Todd Kinsey said, illustrating that the money still belongs to League City taxpayers.
Mayor Pat Hallisey agreed and said that the money might be given by the federal government, but it comes from League City taxpayers.
Council Member Hank Dugie asked if League City would use all of the $5.73 million in CARES Act funding if it were not given to the county, to which League City officials said the city would still have $2.9 million if the city gave the county $1.04 million.
Dugie said he supports giving the county money considering League City relies on the county to do testing and help fight the pandemic. Others disagreed.
Hallisey said his first idea was to be helpful to the county, but he said he has not heard "one thing" from the county in regards to their needs and how the money would be used.
Council Member Larry Millican said several of his questions about this transfer of money also have not been answered by the county and that he is concerned about how giving the county the money would benefit League City.
Kinsey said the county has not answered his questions either, so he would be voting against giving them the funds.
"I can't think of anything the county actually does well for this part of the county, so I'd rather keep it in League City," Kinsey said.
Hallisey agreed, calling the county's silence "unfair."
"I think those questions ought to be answered," he said.
Dugie amended his motion to approve giving the county 18% of League City's CARES Act funding to only 9%. The amended motion failed, as did the motion to approve giving the county the full 18%.
Tressler and Dugie cast the sole dissenting votes.