Fort Bend County to host workshop on distributing $134M in CARES Act funds

The Fort Bend County Commissioners Court met for its regular meeting at the county courthouse in Richmond on May 12. (Screenshot via Fort Bend County)
The Fort Bend County Commissioners Court met for its regular meeting at the county courthouse in Richmond on May 12. (Screenshot via Fort Bend County)

The Fort Bend County Commissioners Court met for its regular meeting at the county courthouse in Richmond on May 12. (Screenshot via Fort Bend County)

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 2:08 p.m. to include Fort Bend County's proposed budget for distributing the $134.3 million in federal funds from the direct allotment from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The story text was also updated to reflect this budget.

The Fort Bend County Commissioners Court agreed to host a discussion and workshop to decide how to distribute the $134.3 million in federal funds from the direct allotment from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

This was decided at the May 12 regular meeting of the Commissioners Court after the commissioners listened to eight public speakers—including the Sugar Land, Fulshear and Meadows Place mayors—discuss their priorities for the funding during public comment.

The commissioners and county administration discussed holding a special court meeting May 19 to discuss and potentially take action on the topic.

A first draft of the budget for how to spend the funds was crafted and provided to the court based on two meetings of the Fort Bend CARES Act Distribution Advisory Committee and initial suggestions from county commissioners. The upcoming workshop will help to fine tune the final draft.


“The budget is a living, breathing document,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Grady Prestage said. “It's not one-shot. [There are] a lot of things we don’t know right now that we’re trying to figure out.”

According to the proposed budget, about $21.3 million would go to the Fort Bend County Health and Human services for testing, tracking and treating the coroanvirus. Also, $20 million would be put into a grant program to fund local entities COVID-19 mitigation activities. Cities within Fort Bend County will also receieve funding based on their population.

Another $15 million would go to a rental assistance program, and yet another $15 million would help local hospitals and clinics. Roughly $5 million was set aside for a small business grant program.

The proposed budget in full is available at the end of this article.

Wishlists

Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers along with several public speakers who said they were part of the advisory committee expressed their ideas for how to spend the county’s funds from coronavirus rescue package at the May 12 court meeting.

According to April 22 guidance from the U.S. Department of Treasury, the funds from coronavirus rescue package must be used for COVID-19-related expenses, such as testing sites, personal protection equipment and technology to local schools.

Funds are not allowed to help governments cover any revenue losses from COVID-19 in an adopted budget. The funds can only be used for coronavirus prevention efforts.

However, during public comment at the May 12 court meeting, Sugar Land Mayor Joe Zimmerman and Jennifer May, Sugar Land assistant city manager, specifically asked for financial help to cover the municipality’s’ revenue shortfall.

“It is extremely important to continue to identify a revenue loss is a priority for these funds, as it may be more likely that the federal government will retroactively broaden the use of the funds previously allocated than it is that they will issue new funding,” May said.

Meanwhile, Meyers said he wanted additional assistance for local businesses to help residents return to work and receive a pay check. Bryan Guinn, the Fort Bend ISD chief financial officer, said the district hopes funds will go toward feeding hungry children and mental health services.

Jeffrey Wiley, president and CEO of the Fort Bend Economic Development Council, said his main priorities—after purchasing disinfectant supplies and personal protective equipment as well as assisting COVID-19 testing sites and contact tracing—were to provide payroll reimbursements for first responders, improve hospitals and set up business grant programs.

Both Fulshear Mayor Aaron Groff and David Sincere, senior pastor at Fort Bend Transformation Church and founder of Advocacy Now Institute, asked for resources to fight homelessness.

Spurgeon Robinson with MPACT Strategic Consulting LLC—which is advising the committee, he said—said the goal is to help prioritize the needs of the county for these federal funds.

“We're trying to work with the group identify from just not a subjective manner, what is important to the county, but also put some analytics around it,” Robinson said. “How are you going to maximize—with the funding that you have—the results that you need to make sure all citizens’ needs are addressed and prioritized?”
By Jen Para
Jen joined Community Impact Newspaper in fall 2018 as the editor of the Katy edition. She covers education, transportation, local government, business and development in the Katy area.


MOST RECENT

Houston City Hall in rainbow lighting
Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce celebrates five years of service

The organization is open to all and serves members throughout the Greater Houston area.

Fort Bend County residents will be notified via email, text message or phone call with information about their COVID-19 vaccine appointment. (Courtesy Pexels)
Fort Bend County announces new COVID-19 vaccination system

More Fort Bend County residents than before can now sign up and be placed on a waitlist for a COVID-19 vaccine, thanks to the county's new registration system.

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from Fort Bend County. (Community Impact staff)
Fort Bend County surpasses 50,000 coronavirus cases; testing slowed during winter storm

Fort Bend County Health & Human Services has recorded 1,512 new coronavirus cases since the Feb. 15 winter storm that resulted in days of freezing temperatures and widespread power outages.

Hank's Crab Shack gets and sells several hundred pounds of crawfish daily, especially during the peak of crawfish season. (Morgan Theophil/Community Impact Newspaper)
New Orleans-style restaurant Hank's Crab Shack puts 'a lot of love into the food,' owner said

At Hank’s Crab Shack, it is not uncommon for natives of New Orleans to walk in skeptical and leave with their heads spinning and stomachs full, restaurant owner Akina Robinson said.

Snow covers I-45 in Houston during a winter storm that hit Texas the night of Feb. 14. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legislators probe energy officials over power failures, lack of preparation heading into winter storm

The Texas Legislature held hearings Feb. 25 with energy companies including Oncor Electric Delivery and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in response to last week’s historic winter storm, which left millions of Texans without electricity for days.

Keith Luechtefeld spoke with Community Impact Newspaper about some of the short-term and long-term repercussions of the storm as well as some of the reasons why so many homes saw burst pipes during the freezing weather. (Community Impact staff)
Q&A: Greater Houston Builders Association President Keith Luechtefeld discusses power, plumbing, frozen pipes after Winter Storm Uri

Keith Luechtefeld spoke with Community Impact Newspaper about some of the short-term and long-term repercussions of the storm as well as some of the reasons why so many homes saw burst pipes during the freezing weather.

After the Feb. 20 fire, the building was declared a total loss. (Courtesy Jason Carlisle)
Midway BBQ management looks to future after destructive fire

After the Feb. 20 fire, the building was declared a total loss.

Winter Storm Uri led to closures across the Greater Houston area during the third week of February. (Courtesy Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County)
‘It’s been a rough year for us’: Expert explains economic effects of winter storm, ongoing pandemic in Houston region

“It's been a rough year for us economically; it's been a rough year for us public health wise. It's just been a rough year for us psychologically—first the coronavirus and then the freeze," said Patrick Jankowski, senior vice president of research with the Greater Houston Partnership.

Katy city officials plan to rebuild the bridge over Cane Island Creek along the First Street extension for drainage purposes as part of a project to increase mobility in the area. (Morgan Theophil/Community Impact Newspaper)
Upcoming Katy transportation projects focus on increasing mobility to match continued growth

Katy city officials plan to rebuild the bridge over Cane Island Creek along the First Street extension for drainage purposes as part of a project to increase mobility in the area.

Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa works to make luxury spa services accessible for the general public. (Courtesy Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa)
Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa coming to Fulshear

Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa, a 475-plus-unit massage and facial spa franchise, will open March 5 at 6230 FM 1463, Ste. 650, Fulshear.

The $560 million central processor, which is part of the new Mickey Leland International Terminal, will replace the parking garage for terminals D and E. (Courtesy Houston Airport System)
Parking garage at George Bush Intercontinental Airport to be demolished to make way for new Mickey Leland International Terminal

The international central processor, which is part of the new Mickey Leland International Terminal, will replace the parking garage for terminals D and E.