The city of West University Place will receive an estimated $3.4 million in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, designed to help speed up its recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing recession.
The city, which lost about $850,000 in parks and recreation income in 2020 caused by COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, will join the cities of Bellaire and Southside Place in receiving funds.
“As we continue to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that collaboration and support across all levels of government will be vital to our recovery,” West University Place Mayor Bob Higley said in a March 26 press conference alongside U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, D-Houston, whose district includes Bellaire, West University Place and Southside Place.
Fletcher said she worked with legislators to ensure the three cities would receive direct aid when the piece of legislation was signed into law March 11. In total, Fletcher's 7th Congressional District is estimated to receive $1.54 billion. In addition to West University Place, the cities of Bellaire and Southside Place will receive an estimated $4.1 million and $410,000, respectively.
“In this, we made it clear that this money would be going directly to cities,” Fletcher said.
This contrasts with the aid the cities received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which was passed through Harris County’s Small City Assistance Program, which applied to cities with a population under 500,000. Under that program, West University Place was allocated $862,180 in CARES Act money, while Bellaire received $1.043 million.
According to Higley, the new funding is more advantageous not only because it comes from a bigger pot of money, but it can also be used more flexibly.
For example, the funding from the American Rescue Plan Act can be used to plug holes in the budget, as opposed to CARES Act money, which could only be used on new COVID-19-related expenses. However, city leaders said they are waiting for federal guidance before committing any funds.
The first portion of funding is expected to be allocated within 60 days, Fletcher said. The deadline to spend the funding is Dec. 31, 2022.
American Rescue Plan Act offers millions to West University Place, Bellaire
U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, D-Houston, speaks to West University Place Mayor Bob Higley during a March 26 press conference. (Courtesy city of West University Place)