WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The city of Wichita Falls receives $1.1 million in grant money through the CARES Act. The money from this reimbursement grant can only be used for money lost due to COVID-19.
While this grant cannot replace revenue lost in the city’s budget, it can provide relief to the city’s public health and medical expenses. Wichita Falls was awarded 5.8 million dollars from the Texas Department of Emergency Management, but the state has allowed cities who receive this grant to have just 20% of their grant which is $1.1 million. And their guidelines on what the funds can be used for are difficult.
“75% of the funding needs to be spent on those first three categories: medical costs, some personnel costs that will be covered and some public health costs. And then you can use the 25% remaining on the additional 3 categories which would be opportunities to provide more economic support,” Wichita Falls Finance Director/CFO Jessica Williams said.
“Right now we’re still trying to get some clarification on how much of that money we’re able to capture. It’s a lot of guidelines, a lot of stipulations that are really restrictive. I think right now, I’m hoping we get some loosening of that,” Wichita Falls Mayor Stephen Santellana.
If the city uses the initial $1.1 million correctly, there could be an opportunity to use even more grant money.
“It’s based on your per capita population so I believe it’s $55 per capita that gets you to the 5 million,” Wichita Falls city manager Darron Leiker said. “But they said ‘we’re not gonna give you all that money. We’re not gonna make it all available to you yet. We’re gonna make 20% available to you now. And then if you spend the 20% and you provide adequate documentation, we approve that. We’ll consider drawdowns beyond that.'”
“They gave us a lot of stipulations and they said if any of this money qualifies. Right now we found about $300,000 worth of qualified money that we can were able to capture,” Mayor Santellana said.
“It’s very complicated,” Williams said. “And we are waiting clarification on the guidance for this grant from TDEM. However, the challenge of revenue replacement cannot be met with this grant.”
Even with strict guidelines and no revenue replacement, $1.1 million can still do a lot of good for a city still battling COVID-19.
City officials say they are also working with the Texas Municipal League to loosen restrictions on the grant. Officials also say that the current plan for these funds is to put them towards city payroll expenses.