Coppell City Manager Mike Land announced Tuesday that the city will receive $2.2 million to cover direct COVID-19-related expenditures.
After the CARES Act passed, the state of Texas distributed the funds it received among the counties, which will in turn allocate their funds as they see fit. To allocate their share evenly, Dallas County will give enough to cover $55 per capita for each city in the county. This excludes the city of Dallas, which already received a sum of money from the state.
The CARES Act, according to Mayor Karen Hunt, leaves much to interpretation. The main requirements state that the funding must be used only to cover COVID-19 expenses, and it must be spent between May and December 2020. If funds are used outside of what the act prescribed, the county could fall back those funds. Unused funds would be sent back to the county.
Coppell plans to use the majority of its funds for assisting the community through different programs including rental assistance for those who are unemployed or on furlough.
Two weeks prior, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order with the department of emergency management that all licensed, long-term care facilities must be available for COVID-19 testing. As the city only has one such facility, the Coppell Fire Department volunteered to provide that service, with reimbursement and supplies coming from the state.
“You can see from city to city, it has a different impact on how people are going to function,” Land said. “Some cities have chosen to contract with community hospitals and healthcare providers to do that.”
After the order passed, all centers had to be established in 14 days, Land said. The fire department went to the long-term care facilities to perform the test. Afterward, they coordinated with the county on who to deliver to for the processing. The county did not have the resources to process all the tests, so they began relying on private companies. The city anticipates testing to be carried out every 30 days, and results to return every 14 days.
“I’m not trying to make this political when I say this, but when I hear people talk about local control and cities – you see the rhetoric in the newspapers about, ‘the city’s doing this, all kinds of good stuff,’ I find it interesting that the state felt it necessary for them to do something,” Land said. “It felt necessary to them to instruct cities to carry out an order by the governor, and there was no hesitancy to do that. There was a process that was hijacked that could have accomplished the same thing, and that was through the Department of Emergency Management. It made me feel uncomfortable that someone was giving instruction to our fire department – the city’s fire department, and it was not you, and it wasn’t me.”
The council noted their concern for the lack of continuity between the frequently changing governor, lieutenant governor and county orders, and guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From each branch’s orders, the city put together a plan for reopening establishments safely.
“More than likely, this will go on for a long time, and we need to be prepared for continuity of government,” Land said. “We don’t have a choice to not serve. We must produce for the citizens of Coppell, so to protect the integrity of our organization, we must have a healthy team.”