AUSTIN (KXAN) — Two weeks from a use-it-or-lose-it deadline, Texas still has $2 billion of federal coronavirus relief funds left to spend.
On Nov. 30, KXAN reported Gov. Greg Abbott had to spend $2 billion from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act by the end of December. A spokesperson for Abbott said on Wednesday the number hasn’t changed.
Abbott has been meeting with state agencies to determine how to spend the remaining CARES Act funds, according to his office.
“With $2 billion remaining of the original funding, the state will spend every dollar by the end of the year to ensure the health and well-being of all Texans,” said Renae Eze, Abbott’s press secretary.
Texas received $11.24 billion from the CARES Act in March. Cities and counties with a population greater than 500,000 automatically received a combined $3.2 billion under state law, leaving Abbott with $8 billion to spend by Dec. 30.
Abbott has faced criticism for not involving the state legislature in deciding how to use the federal funds, though Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, outgoing House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and members of the Senate Finance and House Appropriations committees, have been part of the process.
A different approach
In New Mexico, a special legislative session was held last month to determine how to spend the state’s remaining CARES Act funds.
Lawmakers approved a $300 million relief plan that includes grants for small businesses and a one-time, $1,200 payment to unemployed New Mexicans who qualify.
“I think there’s a lot of hope on the horizon,” said New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat.
Abbott’s office did not respond to a question asking whether the governor considered using remaining CARES Act funds for direct payments to Texans.
Running out of time
Shelley Meyer owns Iconic Austin Brands, a company with Austin Rocks, Wild About Music, Toy Joy and Yummi Joy in its portfolio.
Meyer’s businesses are 90% dependent on tourism. She said small businesses like hers need additional support to survive.
“We’re not big enough to survive this, we don’t have those kinds of cash reserves. We’re not small enough to be desperate enough to get some of the city programs,” Meyer said. “I hope they figure out how to spend (the CARES Act funds). It would be very sad to lose it.”