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In response to a spike in local cases of COVID-19, the city of Mission reinstated their curfew following their approval of their CARES Act budget.
This week, the city council met for a special meeting and an emergency meeting. The special meeting was called in order to discuss how their allotted funds from the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020.
The CARES Act was enacted to address the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hidalgo County was awarded over $151 million, and after several rounds of debate and meetings, came up with a plan for distribution throughout local municipalities.
The city of Mission will be receiving $9,613,734, or $114 per capita. Mission can spend the funds on any coronavirus-related expenses incurred during the pandemic.
City council approved an interlocal agreement between the County of Hidalgo and the city of Mission.
The county provided forms and budget sheets that Mission will fill out electronically and submit. Perez said they made minor modifications to the draft budget proposed by Mission last week, and eligible expenditures are from March 1 to Dec. 31, 2020.
O’caña added that he agreed with the recommendation by the city to approve the interlocal agreement, and the council approved it. Perez noted any funds exceeding the $114 per capita would be put into a reserve and kept with the county until further approval.
Perez then presented an overview of the Mission CARES Act budget during the special called meeting, which O’caña said would be done over three phases.
“Phase one will be up to $114 per capita, phase two will be up to $132 per capita and phase three would be up to $174 per capita as it was approved by our federal government,” O’caña said.
Perez said the first phase of the budget would cover the $9.6 million, with $500,000 for medical expenses, $2.4 million for public health, $3,100 for payroll expenses, $2.1 million for the facilitation of public health measures, $1.5 million for economic support and $46,000 for things related to reasonably necessary expenses. It can be amended or changed as the city sees a need moving forward.
The second phase would increase the budget by $2.1 million, then the third would be $2.9 million as the funds become available. Perez said the city received an additional $573,000 from Housing and Urban Development, and $400,000 of that will be used for utilities, rent and mortgage payments.
Daniel Silva, the Chief Executive Officer of the Mission Economic Development Corporation, presented the ways in which the EDC will be utilizing funds and distributing them to local businesses. Silva said the Mission Business Economic Recovery Committee (BERC) has worked hard to see how they will roll out their plan.
The Mission EDC has distributed 242 surveys to local businesses, and 29 reported they have not reopened, 30 have reported they have the same or higher revenue and 13 reported they are hiring new employees.
Silva broke down how the program will be laid out, and included that qualifications for the application include negatively-impacted businesses based in Mission, launching an online presence, sanitation and Personal Protective Equipment costs, replenishing inventory, short-term marketing campaigns, limited interior modifications for health and safety purposes, rent/mortgage assistance and utility payments for business properties.
The three different programs a business can qualify for are $1,000, $3,500 and $7,000, and residents who own multiple businesses can apply for multiple programs as long as they provide supporting documentation for each. Depending on the size of each program, a business will need to provide documents showing their Feb. 2020 bank statements, employee verification and tax returns.
Considering the time restraints, Perez presented some financing options for a short-term loan through the end of the year to expend the funds.
“We want to make sure we have the funds allocated to be able to complete everything in a timely manner,” Perez said. “We want to be able to have those funds available in case we have an issue with the cash flow moving forward waiting for reimbursement.”
Perez said the city has reached out to several banks in the community for more information, and the city was seeking direction from the council, who approved for the city to look at financial options for a short-term loan.
During the emergency meeting, held following a five-day spike of positive COVID-19 cases in Hidalgo County and Mission, council approved a curfew in Mission from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. for nonessential workers. The curfew went into effect Wednesday, June 17.
“We have received an increase of cases in our city, and we are monitoring those daily,” City Manager Perez said. “We’ve been in constant communications with the county officials as well as our staff to be able to determine what it is that the city of Mission can do to try to decrease the number of cases.”
Perez said that one of the messages they’d like to send to Mission residents is to practice Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, most importantly facial coverings.
“We strongly encourage that everyone continues to wear the face coverings and do the social distancing,” Perez said. “One of the things we are doing as a city is that we are requiring that everyone that enters into our city facilities must be wearing a facial covering.”
Mission is screening every individual that comes into their buildings, including taking their temperature and questions. Perez said they are also continuing to mandate all employees wear face coverings in buildings, and they will also be screened and checked.
“It is very important that we protect ourselves,” Perez said. “I’ve done an analysis on what our cases have been throughout [the pandemic] from March to now, and we have seen an increase when the reopening came into effect around the beginning of May.”
James Cardoza, the Emergency Management Coordinator for Mission, said their department had met to determine what action they could take to mitigate the spread, and they had reached out to Attorney General Ken Paxton.
“According to the attorney general, the city of Mission’s hands are tied, and we cannot supersede the governor’s executive order,” Cardoza said. “And that was very disheartening for us, as we’d like to see what we can do in terms of the COVID-19 cases.”
City Attorney Gus Martinez confirmed that they cannot mandate facial coverings throughout the city, or the curfew, because the attorney general is the legal advisor for all political subdivisions [including Mission] under a disaster declaration.
“He has in a sense denied us the enforcement ability for facial coverings and other safety-related issues,” Martinez said. “Which really puts the entire onus of the health and safety of our citizens on private business owners and the individuals themselves.”
Martinez referenced the current task forces Mission has, and said they’d currently be more effective in taking an educational approach to the businesses.
“The issue is mass gatherings, and the curfew can be done – it’s unlikely we’ll be able to impose any type of crime or arrest upon it, but it is a good idea under the circumstances we have now,” Martinez said. “I would be in favor of that, and also to further communicate to the attorney general to perhaps loosen his mandate on facial coverings and social distancing.”
The council approved the curfew for 14 days for nonessential employees, and O’caña implored residents to maintain CDC guidelines, wear masks and maintain social distancing.