The Woodlands to argue for $30M of American Rescue Plan Act funding

The Woodlands Township board of directors met June 23. (Vanessa Holt/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Woodlands Township board of directors met June 23. (Vanessa Holt/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Woodlands Township board of directors met June 23. (Vanessa Holt/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Woodlands Township does not qualify for American Rescue Plan Act funding under U.S. Treasury Department guidelines at this point, but township officials June 23 discussed hiring consultants to help pitch its case to the Treasury and the White House before a public comment period ends July 16.

Methodology established by the Treasury would give the township $30 million if it qualifies as a nonentitlement entity, said Todd Stephens, the intergovernmental relations manager for The Woodlands Township. The ARPA has reserved $19.5 billion for states to distribute to nonentitlement units of local government, which are smaller units of local government.

In March, the ARPA authorized $350 billion to assist in economic recovery from COVID-19, including $130.2 billion to local governments to respond to economic effects, recover lost revenue, make investments in infrastructure and other needs, Stephens said.

The board authorized engaging Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck for government relations consulting services for $50,000 per month to advocate for The Woodlands before Texas, the Treasury and the White House, arguing it should receive a share in the funding under the same methodology as a nonentitlement unit.

According to township materials, the funds could be used to provide relief to residents or businesses affected by COVID-19.

The Woodlands clashed with Montgomery County in 2020 when a previous round of federal aid—the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds—was allocated by counties to smaller governmental units within their boundaries. Harris County provided $55 per capita to the portion of The Woodlands in that county, but Montgomery County opted to provide $300 per student for Conroe ISD and reimbursed The Woodlands for expenses it said qualified, which was about $244,000, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported. The Woodlands officials have said there is about $5.8 million in CARES Act funds they believe it deserves.

Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said in late 2020 he stood by the decision as the county was responsible for providing direct aid for COVID-19-related expenses.

Officials in The Woodlands have disagreed and June 23 continued to express frustration on the distribution of federal aid packages.

“We have been hamstrung on so many levels when it comes to COVID-19; it’s not been a pretty thing,” Director Shelley Sekula-Gibbs said.

Board Chair Gordy Bunch said the township has had tangible lost revenue from hotel occupancy tax, from fees collected by Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion concerts and other sources that have affected its coffers negatively.

Vice Chair Bruce Rieser said since the funds are federal, taxpayers in The Woodlands have already paid into the funds that are being distributed.

“Legislators ... intended that money to come back taxpayers and so far we’ve been shut out,” Rieser 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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