“I think we are doing a good job of meeting the unmet needs in the community, and hopefully, that will go a long way,” said Joel Hardy, the grants and special projects administrator for the city of Pearland.
Federal coronavirus relief funds were awarded to Pearland and Friendswood, and both cities are allowed to allocate the funds toward medical expenses, public health expenses—as well as expenses to “facilitate compliance” with public health—payroll expenses, economic support and other COVID-19-related expenses, according to the Texas Department of Emergency Management.
However, the state mandated at least 75% of the money be spent on medical expenses or payroll, which has proved challenging for Pearland and Friendswood, officials said.
“[The government] is pretty intense on how we can use the funds and what we can use it for,” Friendswood Emergency Management Coordinator Brian Mansfield said.
Friendswood had access to allocate $1.5 million from Galveston County and another $600,000 from Harris County. The city spent money on social distancing equipment for City Hall, including panels that separate council members in the chamber, and created physical barriers in some open staff spaces. The city also allocated money to Friendswood ISD.
The city did try to give a portion of its allocation back to Galveston County, which was planning on using the allocations for increased testing. However, that had to pass across several municipalities, and it did not, Mansfield said. For now, that money is being left untouched in Friendswood. As of August, Friendswood had spent roughly $130,000 of its federal funding.
“We are still trying to find a way to help Galveston County with testing,” Mansfield said.
In Pearland, the money was allocated toward relief for businesses and households, reimbursements for the city, facility improvements, and allocations to Pearland and Alvin ISDs. About $2 million of Pearland’s money went to hazard pay for first responders because they are most likely to be exposed to the virus, Hardy said.
The city of Pearland received $6.64 million in total: $6.3 million from Brazoria County, $288,000 from Harris County and $56,000 from Fort Bend County.
Only $1.9 million went to business and rent relief, which does not include personal protective equipment, per the state requirements, Hardy said. Pearland launched a rent relief program in October to provide a maximum of two months of back rent to renters affected by COVID-19.
Pearland officials would have liked to spend more money on business and rent relief, Hardy said.
“We could be helping a lot more people and a lot more businesses, but we had to scale that down due to those limitations,” he said.