Hidalgo County to receive $212.7 mil for COVID recovery

The City of Mission will acquire $24.3 million in recovery funds through the American Rescue Plan that President Joe Biden signed into law March 11. The $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package is designed to support local governments, address public health and aid the communities that have faced economic crisis due to the pandemic.

Texas will receive $27.6 billion to support recovery, with $16.8 billion going to the state government and $10.4 billion going to local governments.

The smaller cities surrounding Mission will receive their cut of the stimulus package including Palmview ($1.2 million), Peñitas ($1.03 million) and Palmhurst ($600,000). La Joya and Sullivan City will receive $940,000 and $910,000, respectively. Hidalgo County as a whole will receive $212.7 million, and Starr County will receive $12.5 million.

Representative Henry Cuellar

Representative Henry Cuellar held an online event explaining the highlights of the relief package. He addressed the most talked-about portions of the stimulus — the $1,400 checks that have already started hitting bank accounts, and the extra $300 a week for unemployment aid, which is extended until Labor Day but likely won’t go into effect until mid-April, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Another key change is the 2021 child tax credit, which increased in size and will be fully refundable.

“When you look at the monies that go into the direct payment, unemployment, child tax credit, there will be a lot of money that will be going directly to individuals that qualify for that,” Cuellar said.

Regarding support for public health, the state representative spoke about the expansion of vaccine distribution and testing for the novel coronavirus. The relief package adds $20 billion dedicated to the COVID vaccine program and another $51 billion for COVID testing, contact tracing, mitigation and other activities related to prevention.

For small businesses and nonprofits, $25 billion is set aside for a restaurant revitalization fund which will assist restaurants and bars with 20 or fewer locations that have been hit hard during the pandemic. An additional $7.2 billion will go toward the increased paycheck protection program for small businesses and nonprofits. Moreover, $15 billion has been set aside for emergency grant funds through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. This is meant to help those businesses that applied for relief in 2020 but did not receive the full $10,000 grant.

In education, a total of $7.6 billion is allocated to expand internet connectivity to students and communities. Additionally, $130 billion will go to helping K-12 schools safely reopen, while almost $40 billion will be provided for higher education institutions.

“At least half of that is dedicated for emergency financial aid grants to students to make sure we prevent hunger, homelessness and other hardships facing students as a result of this,” Cuellar said. “You could say that about $20 billion of that will go directly to our college students to help them.”

Regarding renters and homeowners, $26 billion is allocated for emergency rental assistance and $10 billion is allocated to help homeowners struggling with a mortgage, property taxes, utilities and other housing-related costs. An additional $1.1 billion is carved out to help people that need food assistance.

The Department of Treasury will issue guidelines on the interpretation and implementation of eligible uses for all of the funds, but as of March 17, those specifications have yet to be released.

Starting the week of March 22, Cuellar will visit the cities and counties he represents to go into more detail about the recovery funds and the impact for every area.

“As I visit the county judges and commissioners…they make the decisions as to how they want to use that money but I will be asking them ‘What are your thoughts, how are you going to use the money?’ And I will be going over some of the guidelines that we will provide as to what’s available for them to use,” Cuellar said. “I look forward to talking to the county judges and the mayors and the city council and the county commissioners to see what their thoughts are because the public will be interested to see how this money will be used.”

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