City council to look at potentially using $119 million from CARES Act funds to relieve financial hit

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While several members of the public said it's a good idea, some City Reps. want to make sure they have a clear plan before voting to approve.

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — City leaders are looking into possibly authorizing nearly $119 million from the CARES Act fund to help relieve the city’s financial hit from COVID-19.

While several members of the public said it’s a good idea, some City Reps. want to make sure they have a clear plan before voting to approve.

“We were able to identify how are we going to use those funds to really help the community not only now, but in the future,” Robert Cortinas, CFO with the City of El Paso said.

City Manager Tommy Gonzalez and Cortinas are recommending members of council to approve authorizing nearly $119 million of coronavirus relief money from the federal government, known as the CARES Act to help with city costs.

“So there’s going to be a lot that’s going to go into developing and actually flushing out those costs,” Cortinas shared.

City staff said $84.2 million would go towards Public Health and Safety response (ex: increase COVID-19 testing and tracing), $16.4 million would go to Community response (rental assistance and food security), and $18.4 million would be left for an Economic response (support of businesses with financial obligations.)

City Rep. Cassandra Hernandez said more work needs to be done before approving, “I was just expecting there to be like a clear outline of how the funds would be spent and a clear guidance and direction in the form of a council approval.”​

Gonzalez said he’s spoken with other City Managers in larger cities, like Houston for example, to figure out the best way to use these funds.

“So what we wanted to do is all agree these were expenditures that we all were doing in the big cities so that we can have strengthened numbers,” Gonzalez explained, “So that’s just one more avenue of approach, that we took in order to ensure that we’re being extra careful, but that also expeditious as possible.”​

Gonzalez added it’s important to make sure the funds are spent in a timely manner before it’s too late.

“We didn’t want to give any of it back to the federal government. We want all of it to go to our community, in any form or fashion so we can make sure that it gets to them because the need is great in our community here in El Paso,” Gonzalez shared.

City council voted 6-2 to postpone the vote until Tuesday’s regular meeting. Reps. Sam Morgan and Cissy Lizarraga voted against the move to postpone.

Council members will be able to send more questions between now and then for city staff to provide more information.​

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