After retreating from the bond process, Texas Biomed gets $10 million for infrastructure through ARPA

City council approved a spending framework for $199.4M in federal recovery dollars and $13.1M in local funds

San Antonio – Despite vocal opposition from animal rights activists and others, the San Antonio City Council voted Thursday to give $10 million to Texas Biomedical Research Institute for infrastructure improvements at its campus.

The $10 million allocation for the nonprofit research institute was included as part of a $212.5 spending plan, mostly using federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act. Council voted 9-1 to pass the framework of the plan.

Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez (D2) voted against the plan, while Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) was absent for the vote.

The spending framework includes funding emergency housing assistance, infrastructure, COVID-19 response, or small business and non-profits.

While the intent for some of those categories -- such as small business or mental health -- is for council committees to set priorities for how to spend the money before it gets doled out, Texas Biomed was one of three organizations singled out for direct funding.

The city also earmarked $15 million specifically for Morgan’s Wonderland, which has several projects, and $7 million for an early-childhood education facility on the South Side.

City staff's proposal for spending the $199.4 million in ARPA funds and $13.1 million in leftover money from the city's Recovery and Resiliency plan. Council passed a similar version with $1.5 million taken from digital access and $2.5 million from the small business and non-profit section to create a new, $4 million bucket of money specifically for social service non-profits.

A parade of opponents urged council members to remove Texas Biomed’s allocation from the spending plan, citing animal welfare concerns, other priorities for the ARPA funds, and the fact that Texas Biomed was seemingly able to skip to the front of the line for the money.

They also pointed to the fact that Texas Biomed pulled its $11 million request for funding through the bond in the face of public outcry over animal welfare concerns.

A Texas Biomed executive, though, told KSAT the institute pulled out because it appeared the bond committee wanted to use the money to support governmental organizations.

City Manager Erik Walsh said Texas Biomed had come to the city after the February 2021 freeze looking for help funding more than $30 million in infrastructure work. Staff originally recommended it for bond funding, but Walsh said it would also work for ARPA, pointing to the community’s prioritization of economic development.

The infrastructure work is part of a $270 million strategic plan to grow its research program and double the number of its employees.

About the Author:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.