EDINBURG, Texas – One of the key passages in the Rio Grande Guardian’s recent livestream with Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez on Facebook, concerned the distribution of CARES Act monies.

Judge Cortez said it was a key exchange and he was pleased with his response to anchor Mari Regalado’s question.

Regalado asked: “When the county received stimulus money to deal with COVID, county commissioners had to change the distribution formulas following criticism from some local mayors. Some cities are still not happy with the allocations they received from the county. Can you respond to that?”

Judge Cortez responded this way:

“You know, thank you so much for asking that question. I want to try to give you the best and simplest way to explain our position and why we believe we were right and that the cities were wrong. 

“I have two hands and in one hand is… I am holding the money that we received because of the people living in the municipalities. And this was 75 percent of the money that we received. On the other hand we received the same amount of money per person (for) the people living in the rural areas. 

“So, together we received $151 million based on $175 per person. The cities wanted $175 per person, for us to give it them. They said, that is how you got it, that is how we want it. 

“Well, Mari, look, look this. If I take the money that the cities wanted at that amount, what is the county left with? I am left with the money that belongs to the people in the rural areas. Well, with this money, I am supposed to go retrofit the courthouse, our jail, our emergency management, take care of the health department, take money from people in the rural areas? We said, no, that is not right. So, let’s bring the money back. 

“Only an idiot spends all their money.  I said, let’s put ten percent aside because we do not know what the future is going to bring. Let’s not spend it all. And, give us sufficient money, get some from the cities, we get some from the rural areas, to retrofit our jail, retrofit our tax office, so we can conduct county businesses and then, whatever is left, we will give it to you on the basis of our pro rata share. That is what we did. 

“The second thing that we were criticized with… and one of my opponents brought it up and she said, shame on you. Well, you know, I expect that of a young girl who is inexperienced, to really not know what she is talking about. 

“When you have small cities… remember the money we got had requirements. Just because we got the money or received the money, I couldn’t just spend it. I had requirements as to how to use that money. So, if I am responsible for it, and I let you take some of my money, I am still responsible for whatever you do with that money. So, if you are a small city and you don’t have the accountants, and you don’t have the lawyers, and you don’t have the infrastructure, to help you use those funds properly and correctly within the rules, then you are going to be in trouble and I am going to be in trouble.

“So, what we wanted to do was say, look, small cities, don’t worry about you getting into that regiment, we will handle it for you. We will be kind of like the franchisor and you are the franchisee. We will help you with that. Obviously, that didn’t happen. They misunderstood what we were trying to do. But, today, if you were to tell me, would you do something different, no.” 

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