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Alton applies for COVID-19 relief

The city of Alton joins other cities in Hidalgo County applying for financial relief from the state government for COVID-19 expenses.

During an emergency city council meeting held last week, the city of Alton approved an application for $113,000 in Federal COVID-19 Emergency Funding for Local Governments.

The city council meeting was held Thursday, April 16, the day after state Gov. Greg Abbott announced the funds through his public safety office where Texas received $38 million from the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program authorized by the federal Emergency Appropriations for Coronavirus Health Response and Agency Operations Act to be split among local governments to prepare and respond to the coronavirus.

Funds from the grant can be used for projects and purchases such as overtime, equipment, supplies, training, travel expenses, and addressing the medical needs of inmates in local and tribal jails and detention centers, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

“These funds will help our local governments respond to COVID-19 and provide the resources that our communities need,” said Governor Abbott. “I am grateful to our federal partners for making this crucial financial support available to the state of Texas.”

According to Alton city Manager Jeff Underwood, with the $38 million split between council of governments across the state, the local COG-composed of the counties of Starr, Hidalgo, Willacy and Cameron County, received $1.35 million to be split among cities in the Valley.

“There’s a 60 day window to apply but like most grants, they are reviewing and processing as quickly as they get it so this becomes a first come, first serve kind of grant,” Underwood told the council, who unanimously approved the application.

Underwood said the money will go toward buying personal protective equipment for first responders and cleaning supplies for the jail.

“We want to recoup some money and have resources and finances as we continue dealing with the pandemic,” Underwood said. “This is not over by a long shot.”

The funds might arrive by the June 15 deadline, Underwood added.

According to State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, the cities of Palmview, Peñitas and Edcouch have submitted applications for these funds, but 19 other cities have started the application process.

“The application date for these funds ends June 15, but I anticipate the money will be gone by then,” Hinojosa said. “Coronavirus is having an impact on our local economies and families so this is a form of assistance to help them. It’s important for cities to apply and take advantage of government funding available so they can lessen the costs they will incur.”

According to Underwood, revenues throughout the city are down 25 percent and with PPE prices soaring, the city of Alton may have to dip into their reserve fund.

“But it’s the same for every city, we’ve taken quite a hit financially,” Underwood said. “Ultimately the states will decide how to disperse this money. It could mean a lot for a few cities or a little for every city. We’re hopeful. We’re reasonable with our request and this will hopefully offset some of our expenses.”

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