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North Texas Governments Say They'll Meet Federal Spending Deadline For Coronavirus Money

Restaurant worker in bright red shirt and facemask opens the door to the street.
LM Otero/AP
Wearing a mask amid concerns of the spread of the coronavirus, Dimitris Anagnostis opens the door to Chop House Burgers in downtown Dallas in July.

Hundreds of millions of federal dollars have been spent for COVID-19 response.

Cities and counties big enough to receive their own share of Coronavirus Relief Fund money are racing to spend it by the Dec. 30 deadline.

Tarrant County, for example, got over $209 million from the fund, which was passed as part of the $2 trillion federal CARES Act. In an interview, County Administrator G.K. Maenius said, “We will have expended all of that money by the 30th of December.”

That’s a similar promise to one made by the city of Dallas’ Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Reich.

“I can assure you that we will spend all of our Coronavirus Relief Funds by the deadline,” she said. “We will not return any money to the U.S. Treasury.”

Other money in the CARES Act for pandemic response was allocated to existing federal programs, like the Community Development Block Grant. Those funds do not have to be spent by Dec. 30.

Here’s an estimate of how North Texas counties and cities — those with over 500,000 residents — stand with CRF spending as the deadline approaches.

Tarrant County
Amount received: $209,816,857
Amount spent or designated: about $191,000,000 as of Dec. 3
Amount remaining: $18,957,709 as of Dec. 3

One way the county used the money was for rental assistance for people outside the city of Fort Worth. The county is taking applications until Wednesday, Dec. 9.

“Look, if you need help, you need to contact us,” Maenius said. “Because we’re here, we’re trying to help you as best we can so give us a call.”

City of Fort Worth
Amount received: $158,715,568
Amount spent or designated: $154,466,777
Amount remaining: $4,248,791 as of Dec. 1, according to a Dec. 1 budget presentation

Victor Turner, director of the Department of Neighborhood Services in Fort Worth, said the city has a plan to spend its remaining CRF funds. But the Dec. 30 deadline has always loomed since the money arrived.

“It was hard to try to gauge, you know, requesting additional money for our program from the big pot and balancing, if I ask for more, will I be able to expend it in a timely manner or could that money have gone to another program within the city?” Turner said.

Dallas County
Amount received: $239,952,373
Amount spent or designated: $237,779,822
Amount remaining: $2,172,551 as of Nov. 19, according to Dallas County Assistant Administrator Charles Reed

City of Dallas
Amount received: $234,443,128
Amount spent or designated: $114.4 million is considered “spent” in the accounting system, according to Reich. An additional $65 million in payroll costs will soon be added, for a total of $179 million.
Amount remaining: About $55 million

Reich said the city is “well on [its] way” towards spending the additional money. Any remaining funds, perhaps due to a contract costing a lower-than-expected amount, can be applied to public safety payroll, she said.

View the city's financial dashboard here.

Collin County
Amount received: $171,453,156
Amount spent or designated: $156,714,816
Amount remaining: $14,738,340

The $14.7 million figure comes from subtracting a $2 million expenditure for food and groceriesapproved at the Nov. 23 Commissioners Court meeting from an existing $16.7 million the county listed as “unallocated funds.”

A county spokesman said no one was available last week for an interview.

Denton County
Amount received: $147,733,722
Amount spent or designated: $146,702,552, as of Nov. 30
Amount remaining: $1,031,170

The numbers come from a summary County Auditor Jeff May gave to county commissioners. Denton County is applying about $50 million to payroll costs for public safety and public health workers.

Bret Jaspers is a reporter for KERA. His stories have aired nationally on the BBC, NPR’s newsmagazines, and APM’s Marketplace. He collaborated on the series Cash Flows, which won a 2020 Sigma Delta Chi award for Radio Investigative Reporting. He's a member of Actors' Equity, the professional stage actors union.