Lack of Transparency Frustrates Legislators, Local Leaders as Texans Continue to Get Sick, Die at Alarming Rates
AUSTIN, Texas — Governor Greg Abbott has until the end of the year to spend $3.5 billion in remaining Texas CARES Act funding before it’s lost.
The state initially received $11.2 billion in federal funds from the CARES Act in March. From those funds, the state allocated approximately $5.06 billion, or 45-percent to local governments: $3.2 billion to Texas cities and counties with populations of 500,000 and above, and $1.85 billion was left for cities and counties with populations under 500,000.
The other $6.18 billion, or 55 percent, went to the state for discretionary use. Of that, $4.5 billion has already been spent, although it’s not clear on what agencies exactly. No easily-accessible information is available on the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts website, and even state legislators have not been informed how that money was spent.
The Governor’s Office recently stated it will allocate $1.5 billion to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) to spend before the December 30 deadline, and that it will work with TDEM to spend the remaining $2 billion that will be left before the end of the year.
The lack of transparency and lack of sense of urgency from the governor has frustrated many across the state. Texas is once again seeing huge surges in COVID-19 cases as experts warn that the holiday season will most likely lead to even more spikes across our state that is seeing so many people get sick and die.
Texas has some of the laxest and most dangerous COVID-19 policies in the country. Last month, Texas was the first state to reach one million COVID-19 cases. More than 21,000 Texans, mostly black and brown residents, have died from the virus since the state began recording data.
In fact, just last week, the White House Coronavirus Task Force issued a scathing report of Texas’ response to the pandemic, stating that three-fourths of all Texas counties have an increase in the spread of the virus and that the state hospitalization rate is unsustainable without increased mitigation efforts by the state.
Governor Abbott has refused to issue any new orders since he last gave recommendations in September. He has repeatedly ignored requests from city and county leaders asking for stricter measures and has even sued those officials who have gone beyond the minimum recommendations he issued.
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa issued a statement:
“While food lines grow across Texas cities, more people are dying. Texans are in danger because they simply cannot afford to skip work, and Greg Abbott has yet to execute a comprehensive plan to stop the coronavirus. Businesses continue to close at a record rate, because the environment is unpredictable, workers are in unsafe conditions, and consumers lack confidence. Our people need assistance to get through this and the lack of transparency with how the CARES Act funds are used by Texas’ state government is just another example of how ill-prepared our state is under Republican control. Texans die and lose their jobs and healthcare as Governor Abbott dithers and obstructs local leaders.”