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The state of Texas has billions of dollars that are not currently being distributed to regions in dire need.
Last week, Congressman Henry Cuellar held a telephone conference to discuss how emergency funding for COVID-19 expenditures is needed for local governments and public schools.
Cuellar spoke about several pieces of legislation he worked on to get more funding to the region, including four Appropriations bills (for State-Foreign Operations, Agriculture, Interior-Environment and Military Construction – VA).
The HEROES (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions) Act was passed in the House of Representatives two months ago, and was designed to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak’s impact on the economy, public health, state and local governments, individuals and businesses.
“It’s been sitting in the Senate,” Cuellar said Thurs. July 23. “The Senate and the White House are finally talking to each other, and now will be talking to us so we can go ahead and work on an agreement.”
Cuellar said if everything goes according to plan, they’re hoping to have an agreement that will send unemployment benefits and stimulus checks are made available to individuals, private businesses and municipalities.
Cuellar also spoke about the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Amendment he proposed. Among them, he wrote language to “strengthen the Transition Assistance Program by encouraging collaboration and outreach between transitioning military members with their communities.”
“We need a better way, a stronger way with more resources, to do the transition,” Cuellar said. “We cannot have our soldiers get out, become veterans and not be able to transition to new jobs in the public and private sector.”
The NDAA Amendments also encourages Public-Public and Public-Private interactions between transitioning military members with their communities, and will provide support to an estimated 200,000 service members who transition to civilian life annually.
Two other representatives added amendments to the NDAA, Rep. Mark Takano and Rep. Madeline Dean. Takano’s amendment would close a federal loophole making military education benefits, such as Department of Defense Tuition Assistance, count as federal educational assistance funds, and “limits the availability of federal funds for proprietary for-profit institutions unless the institution derives at least ten percent of funds from sources other than federal funds.
Rep. Dean’s amendment aims to provide relief to private student loan borrowers who received no assistance in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, reducing their outstanding student loan balance by up to $10,000 “through direct payments from Treasury to student loan servicers, and requiring sustainable loan modifications to reflect the reduced principal amount. This would help 6 million private student loan borrowers, and ensure “all the 200,000 service members” receive some form of relief during the pandemic.
Cuellar spoke about how the CARES Act funds have been held by the state.
“The state of Texas has received over $21 billion, some of those [funds] are for education, universities, some are for cities and counties,” Cuellar said. “I see what the state of Texas is doing – and I use this with a lot of love – they’re hoarding billions of dollars that should be going out to our schools and our communities.”
Cuellar explained that the state and region is in a situation where hospitals are being overloaded, there’s not enough testing, businesses need more money, schools need more money and border communities need more money because of the closure of the border leading to a decrease in sales revenues. He noted that the state comptroller said there would be a $4 billion deficit because oil and gas prices have decreased.
“They still have over $11 billion in the state rainy day fund,” Cuellar said. “On top of that, the federal government sent money not to help balance the budget, but to help cities, counties and communities.”
Cuellar said that during a difficult time, the state is holding onto money. He gave several examples of the federal government sending funds to Texas and the Texas Education Agency (TEA), noting they have held on to billions.
Texas will be using funding from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to reimburse districts for up to 75 percent of their allowable COVID-19 expenses through May 20. For the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund, which totals at $1,285,886,064, 90 percent will go to Local Education Authorities (LEA), 9.5 percent will go to TEA and 0.5 percent will go to TEA Administration.