WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar says the State of Texas is hoarding COVID-19 related monies received from the federal government that should be going to local communities and school districts.
On a conference call with reporters last Thursday, Cuellar said it is hard to know how much money has been kept back because he is still waiting for more information from Gov. Greg Abbott’s office. However, he said there is at least $7.5 billion of CARES Act monies that was supposed to go to local communities and it is being held back by the state.
Asked to elaborate on his point, Cuellar told The Rio Grande Guardian:
“We estimate right now they have got about $7.5 billion that they are hoarding. And I say the with love. Harding the money.
“They say they want to use it for the next session. We need the help right now. Those are federal dollars that should be going out to the communities. The CARES Act, there are two areas. First there is the 55 percent of dollars which they can give out to the state now but they are holding on to that. And on the 242 or 242 counties, the $1.85, the smaller counties, they are giving out 20 percent of the monies out of the $1.85. And out of that they are saying give us invoices and we will give you the other 80 percent.
“Well you know, Steve, that there are local communities that don’t have the money, and I know this because they have told me that, that don’t have the monies to spend and wait for a reimbursement. So, what is going to happen, you are going to have communities, Zapata County is one of them, for example, and other ones, that are not going to get their 80 percent because they can’t spend it and therefore the state is going to stay with that money.”
Cuellar said part of the $7.5 billion being held back by the state includes about $1.2 billion that could have been distributed by the Texas Education Agency to local school districts. He said it has not been.
“On top of that there is a memo I sent to you and I asked the TEA commissioner this question. I said, Mr. Commissioner, are you supplanting or supplementing school districts with the $1.2-plus billion that we sent you. He said, ‘we are supplanting, we are not prohibited.’ I said, I know you are not prohibited but that money is federal money that should be going out to the school districts.
“What they are doing, is a state with $122 million for discretionary money for TEA, 0.5 percent for overhead, so that is about $6-plus million dollars and then the other 90 percent they supplanted so they are sending out the state dollars and they are staying with the federal dollars. So, they are basically staying with $1.2-plus billion on schools money.”
Add all this up and it comes to $7.5 billion, Cuellar said.
“So, if you add all that, that is a minimum of $7.5 billion. There are programs we are asking for information from the governor’s office and they still have not given us. This is only the things we can track. So, federal dollars, very difficult times right now. At least $7.5 billion.”
Not attacking anyone
“Now I know there are folks out there in the district that will defend the governor and I am not attacking the governor. I am not attacking anybody. All I am saying are the facts. If the state sends you, and we know of at least $7.5 billion, if the federal government sends money there they should be sending out to the community and not wait for the legislative session.
“I was on the state appropriations committee for many years. Look, we wait for the Comptroller’s (report). Hegar put out, what a $4-point-something billion deficit, we do know that there is a rainy day fund of about $11 billion. If you take some of the un-obligated there is at least $8 billion that the state has right now. So, you get the rainy day fund, you get the $7.5 billion, this does not even include what we are going to do in the HEROES Act next week.
“So, those are the facts. I am not criticizing anybody. I do not want anybody to get excited and say Cuellar is attacking anybody. I am just giving you the facts: $7.5 billion should be going out to the communities now.”
Congressman Cuellar issued reporters with this handout:
Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
COVID Education Funding to the State of Texas
Coronavirus Relief Fund $5.06 billion
Texas will be using funding from the CRF to reimburse districts for up to 75% of their allowable COVID- 19 expenses through May 20th, be it for added personnel costs, digital devices, etc.
Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund $1,285,886,064
90% LEA Formula (proportionate share Title I, Part A)
9.5% TEA Discretionary 0.5% TEA Admin
$122,159,176 $6,429,430 $1,285,866,064
The agency will flow 90% of this ESSER funding, equaling $1.157 billion, for direct formula grants to eligible LEAs.
That funding will be distributed in proportion to the amount of funds each LEA received under Title I, Part A in 2019-2020, pursuant to the CARES Act (allocations posted on the TEA Coronavirus website).
ESSER Funding will be used as a Method of Finance to support a Foundation School Program (FSP)
The CARES Act’s ESSER fund is a critical resource to support this hold harmless process. ESSER fundsdo not have a supplement versus supplant requirement, and federal guidance explicitly authorizes their use as a way for states to sustain their school finance system, as long as net state funding remains above prior years.
Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund $307,026,008
$57 million in federal funds to maintain the state’s need-based financial aid programs Various other funding streams
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.
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