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County scrambles to get $9 million for indigent health care

Hidalgo-County-SealA demand from Hidalgo County Clinical Services that Hidalgo County pay the entire $9 million promised for services to the indigent for next year by the first week of June sent Hidalgo County Commissioners scrambling to determine where the money was coming from in the Tuesday, May 20, meeting of the Commissioners.

This is the money sent to the state yearly to be multiplied by the state formula to provide more funds for indigent health care. Usually the money is fully returned with half as much added for indigent health care in Hidalgo County because so many citizens need indigent health care services.

Personnel from the staff of Eddie Olivarez, director of Health and Human Services, explained in past years the money could be paid in quarterly payments.   However, no quarterly payments had been requested this year. The county had set aside $5 million in the budget, and had accumulated another $1,64,000 to add to the initial figure. Staff was counting on having the fourth quarter drawdown to fund the rest of the money, a sum of almost $2.4 million.

However, Olivarez received a notice last week stating the county would have to provide assurance by May 20 the entire $9 million would be in the bank and ready for withdrawal the first week of June. Without the assurance, the county would lose the multiplied funds.

Pct. 3 Commissioner Joe Flores said the money could be taken from the general fund reserve and repaid when the rest of the money came into the county.

While the money could be taken from the general fund, Budget Director Sergio Cruz said it would be better to draw funding from departments that still had high funding to make the payment in June. As money came in from deleted salaries and other non-funded items along with the October draw down from funds, the money could be paid back to those departments without tapping the general fund.

After the meeting, Cruz said putting the entire amount in the budget would have placed the county’s reserve funding too low.

“There are always monies that come into the budget from grants that fund some of the things that are budgeted. And there are always people to leave their jobs during the year and many of those are not filled immediately. Those funds are added to the general fund,” Cruz said.

“The $1,640,000 we have accumulated on top of the original $5 million has been obtained this way,” he continued. “If there had been quarterly payments as in the past, we would have been able to have the money without a problem. But because they are asking for the entire sum at mid-year, we are having to scramble for the money,” Cruz said.

After discussion, staff was directed to send the confirmation that all $9 million would be in the appropriate fund and available by the deadline of May 29. The money will be drawn during the first week of June.

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CoverageAreaThe Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.

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