At the April 21 special meeting, the Fort Bend County Commissioners Court discussed how it would distribute the $141.6 million the county is receiving from a direct allotment provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or the CARES Act.
Commissioners unanimously approved a motion at the special meeting to begin setting up a steering committee consisting of representatives from local political subdivisions within Fort Bend County—including school districts, municipalities and special purpose districts, such as municipal utility districts—to help the county determine how to spend the direct allotment of funds. Fort Bend County Judge KP George and Precinct 1 Commissioner Vincent Morales will lead the efforts to set up the committee.
This committee’s purpose is to determine how the funds will be distributed for coronavirus relief, commissioners said. In an interview, County Auditor Ed Sturdivant further explained that the committee will advise the Commissioners Court, which will then instruct the county’s budget team how to disperse the funds to eligible expenditures.
“We can spend the funds, but we need them to tell us what they need,” Sturdivant said.
Sturdivant said he expects the majority of the funds to go toward coronavirus testing. Although the federal government is providing testing kits, medical staffing needs at testing sites and lab work to process results are both expensive.
Funds could also go toward purchasing items to help reopen local governments and schools, he added. These items may include masks, hand sanitizer and monitoring systems at entrances.
At the meeting, Sturdivant said that the CARE Act funds cannot be used by governments for revenue losses in an adopted budget due to the coronavirus pandemic. The funds can only be used for coronavirus prevention efforts.
In addition to the county’s $141.6 million in direct allotment, another $173.1 million in CARES Act funds will be distributed by the state of Texas throughout the county, Sturdivant said. He added that the county does not know at this time how the state is going to distribute it the funds.
"Fort Bend County and all of the local governments within Fort Bend County's boundaries should have a voice for pursing those funds as well," Sturdivant said at the meeting.