Small Bexar County cities, towns struggle to spend CARES Act funding

Bexar County split $9 million dollars among 26 cities, towns

Converse Mayor Al Suarez says he has a list of wish list items he hopes the CARES Act funds will cover for his residents.

BEXAR COUNTY, Texas – Converse Mayor Al Suarez says he has a list of wish list items he hopes the CARES Act funds will cover for his residents.

Schertz has used more than $1.5 million budgeted to it by Bexar County. The city purchased three new ambulances, sanitizing equipment and made renovations to city chambers to comply with social distancing guidelines.

The amount given to the cities and towns was based on the population.

“When you’re sitting here making decisions for families and citizens, you only get one shot. So you better do your best,” Suarez said.

He stresses that a lot of planning went into planning the list of needs and coordinating staff to ensure the county deadlines were met.

“The problem was trying to get all the paperwork and everything for the grant, you know, with this company and with the team. We got the team put together, and we got it done such a short time,” Saurez said.

The funds had to meet specific guidelines dealing with COVID-19. Saurez said the ambulances were needed because they serve unincorporated areas of the city. The city needed to ensure it had the equipment necessary if the COVID-19 cases continued to go up in the area.

Live Oak City Manager Scott Wayman said his city used less than half of the more than $874,000 budgeted because leaders were mindful of how the money should be spent, and time was working against them.

“There were some things that, you know -- there was a deadline that we had to meet. There were some cities that were getting what we call ‘Wal-Mart doors,’ and it’s like the space shuttle. The doors open up to you,” Wayman said. “We actually tried to start that process, but we could not get them, actually, to our facility and installed in time to apply for that funding.”

The city used funds to help small businesses, buy protective gear, and update technology to conduct remote meetings.

Some cities -- such as St. Hedwig, Von Ormy and Grey Forest -- didn’t use any of the money budgeted to them, according to a county list. Some staff and mayors said they didn’t have the staff members to coordinate the deadline guidelines nor the upfront money needed to buy items for reimbursement later on.

Kirby leaders say they used the city’s money to buy protective and sanitizing equipment and cover payroll for city staff who were out sick with COVID-19.

Coordinating the process takes a lot of time and effort, Suarez said, but Converse needed the new items it purchased anyway. He says there’s more on the list that he would like the city to apply for funding if funding is available.

Wayman says the money left unused by Live Oak will still be used to benefit community residents, and that’s important.

“All our county are our residents. This region stands alone. There’s a reason why we’re here,” Wayman said. “We’re very fortunate with the county, to be ensured that they’re going to be taking that money, and they’re going to spend it on the residents in the county for sure.”

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said that, of the $9 million budgeted to the 26 cities and towns, only $4.4 million had been used, and $3 million was reallocated to support county programs and business grants during the pandemic.

Budgets, money disbursed to 26 cities, towns in Bexar County (Bexar County)

The federal government had given a Dec. 30, deadline for the funds to be used, so the county gave the cities and towns an Oct. 30 deadline to have documentation into the auditor’s office. The spending deadline was pushed to Dec. 30, 2021, this week by Congress.

About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Before starting KSAT in 2017, Lee was a photojournalist at KENS 5, where he won a Lone Star Emmy in 2014 for Best Weather Segment. In 2009 and 2010 Lee garnered first-place awards with the Texas Association of Broadcasters for Best Investigative Series in College Station, as well as winning first place for Staff Photojournalism in 2011 at KBTX.