The Woodlands seeks $1.33M reimbursement in CARES funds from Harris, Montgomery counties

The Woodlands Township board of directors met Oct. 28 at Town Hall on Technology Forest Boulevard. (Screenshot via The Woodlands Township)
The Woodlands Township board of directors met Oct. 28 at Town Hall on Technology Forest Boulevard. (Screenshot via The Woodlands Township)

The Woodlands Township board of directors met Oct. 28 at Town Hall on Technology Forest Boulevard. (Screenshot via The Woodlands Township)

The Woodlands Township will request a total of $1.33 million in reimbursement for COVID-19-related expenses through Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds from Harris and Montgomery counties and from a state program.

However, at the Oct. 28 board of directors meeting, members questioned the discrepancy between federal coronavirus relief fund allocations between the two counties, as officials said the township had additional expenses that would qualify under U.S. Treasury guidelines.

Harris County is following federal guidelines of $55 per capita for CARES Act reimbursement, while Montgomery County has more restrictive rules, said Monique Sharp, the township’s assistant general manager for finance and administration.

Montgomery County is not allocating per capita funding, and it has several other restrictions, according to Sharp.

“Any expenses incurred after Sept. 30 are not eligible for reimbursement, and they are not allowing any salary expenses to be reimbursed,” Sharp said.

Although most of The Woodlands’ population is based in Montgomery County, the allocations from Harris County total $715,000, which would amount to $55 per capita for about 13,000 people, while Montgomery County’s allocations totaled $320,000, Sharp said. Montgomery County also issues reimbursements for personal protective equipment requests, for which The Woodlands is requesting an additional $15,000 this week, she said.

If Montgomery County followed the per capita rules, The Woodlands would be eligible, under U.S. Treasury rules, to receive up to $6.1 million, Sharp said, which equates to $55 per capita for about 111,000 residents.

The total population of The Woodlands according to U.S. Census information from 2019 was 117,270, with a margin of error of about 10,000.

The township will also submit $287,000 for reimbursement through the Texas Department of Emergency Management’s program with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, she said.

Although Sharp said the township and other cities in the county are not being reimbursed on a per capita basis from Montgomery County, earlier in the week, the Montgomery County Commissioners Court approved allocating $40 per student in public school districts in the county for some COVID-19-related expenses.

At that time, county officials estimated about $73 million remained in the county's CARES Act funds, not counting the school district reimbursement, $800,000 for converting the Lone Star Convention and Expo Center for the use of county courts, or public safety expenses for the last two quarters of the year.

“There is a $5.8 million delta in how it is being treated in Montgomery County compared to Harris,” Township Board Chairman Gordy Bunch said at the meeting.

One salary expense the township incurred given as an example at the meeting was the cost of fire department employees who had missed work due to quarantine or COVID-19 exposure.

The Woodlands Fire Chief Palmer Buck said from the audience at the meeting that about 5,000 hours of time were lost for paramedic firefighters.

“We will proceed to request to do all we can to get our community its fair share of CARES Act funding,” Bunch said.
By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.


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