Hidalgo Co. deciding use of $151M in CARES Act funds

EDINBURG — Hidalgo County leaders have begun talks to determine how to disburse more than $151 million in CARES Act funds in response to the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on local communities.

According to a news release from U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez’s office Tuesday, the county will specifically be receiving $151,582,672.50.

The federal funding — acquired through the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act — is required to be used for expenses incurred due to the public health emergency from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county may use the funds on public health costs addressing the COVID-19 crisis from March 1 through Dec. 30.

“Our local governments and municipalities are bearing the brunt of this crisis and need assistance,” Gonzalez said in the release. “These federal funds will help many in Hidalgo County that have suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is still much work to do for other cities and counties in the 15th District of Texas.”

The details on how the funding will be utilized has not been announced yet, but county spokesman Carlos Sanchez explained that Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez is already meeting with county commissioners to determine how the funding will be disbursed. In at least one case, Cortez announced during a Facebook Live news conference last week that $38 million will go toward small business grants.

“There’s a lot of strings attached to this $151 million,” Sanchez said. “What we’re doing right now with the commissioners is trying to understand what those strings are.”

Sanchez explained that the county’s biggest concern at the moment is clawback, in which the federal government may ask for some of the money back.

“(Cortez) is trying to make sure that this money is properly spent, properly accounted for, and disseminated among as many jurisdictions as possible” Sanchez said.

According to Sanchez, Hidalgo County is the only county to receive CARES Act funds in the first wave of distribution. Other recipients of the funds were large metropolitan cities. Hidalgo County was able to qualify for the funding collectively.

Cities and counties with less than 500,000 residents do not qualify for the assistance provided from the CARES Act.