County announces coronavirus relief fund
By Wesley Gardner
Caldwell County Judge Hoppy Haden announced on Tuesday that the county and local cities are eligible to receive more than $1.17 million in reimbursements for any costs incurred relating to COVID-19 spending that wasn’t previously budgeted.
According to Haden, the funds were made available to states and local governments through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act’s Coronavirus Relief Fund.
“Anything we spent money on that’s COVID related during that time will be covered by this, which is going to be tremendously helpful,” said Haden, noting that could include the purchase of masks, gloves and generators, in addition to the salaries of staffers brought on or reassigned to assist the county’s Office of Emergency Management.
On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation stating early voting for the July 14 runoffs will begin on June 29, instead of July 6 – something Haden said these funds would also help with.
“They’re extending the hours,” said Haden. “That means there’s going to be more workers, more staff, more everything due to COVID.”
According to Haden, the money could be used to cover the additional staffing costs, as well purchase proper protective equipment for employees.
Haden said that 20 percent of the funds – roughly $234,000 — is already available, noting the county has already sent in the paperwork required for reimbursement.
Caldwell County Grants Administrator Dennis Engelke noted portions of the $1.17 million is earmarked for individual cities based on their population. The following cities were included in the relief package, with monetary values listed representing the roughly 20 percent of funds currently available:
· Lockhart: $152,000;
· Luling: $66,000;
· Martindale: $14,000;
· Uhland: $6,400;
· Mustang Ridge: $5,200;
· Niederwald: $1,300
Haden said he hoped the money would start to be reimbursed within a few weeks, noting the county has already incurred well over the initial amount of funding available. He pointed out $175,000 was spent on employees alone who were required not to work while the county was running at a minimum staff.
“We have spent a fortune, so we’ll probably gobble up first tranche of money that comes in,” Haden said. “1,000’s of masks.
“1,000’s of pairs of gloves. Then we had to buy a generator for the mobile command center, for these mobile testing sites we’re setting up. It just goes on and on.”
Haden said that while it has been difficult to keep up with the building costs, he believes additional money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), coupled with future relief aid will be helpful.
“We’re kind of scrambling figuring out what to do but we’re going to figure it out,” said Haden.
As of Tuesday, Caldwell County has 30 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, with no deaths. Nine of those individuals have recovered. Forty-nine additional tests were administered on Sunday at a drive-through test site at Lockhart Junior High School.
Caldwell County Emergency Management Coordinator Hector Rangel said the results of those tests should be in by the end of the week, noting the county has applied for an additional drive-through test site that, if approved, would be in Luling.