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Hidalgo County leaders react to Gov. Abbott's letter over CARES funding distribution

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Debate ended this on how Hidalgo County would divide the nearly $152 million the federal government sent of part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Commissioners decided to send $110 per person for cities with more than 30,000 residents and $80 per resident in cities with a lower population.

On Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott and lawmakers are urging 11 Texas county judges, including Judge Richard F. Cortez to share it at the same rate.

In a letter sent, it reads:

"It is our expectation, and we feel certain it is the expectation of county residents who live in cities within your county, that they be treated equally as citizens in the unincorporated areas of the county."

Read the governor's full letter here.

State Representative Oscar Longoria is supporting that position.

“We thought that we were pretty clear and we didn't think that there would be an issue. But, apparently, I think a lot of the counties think that the money should stay at the county level and not trickle down to the local municipalities,” said Longoria.

Cortez says an even distribution among all cities would leave the county short.

“Where are we supposed to get that money? If the only money we keep is based on population in the rural areas, then what is the population in the rural population is going to get if we take all the money to use it for these other things?” said Cortez.

Hidalgo County is already planning on using that money on necessary expenses.

“We are entrusted with having a health department, a jail, a judicial system and all of those systems that go to the benefit of everyone. Can you imagine me not having money to protect all the workers who work in the courthouse, to protect all the people who go into the courthouse? Where is the county going to get money for that?” Cortez said.

Some of those services could be offered soon by the state.

“Our county, I think, part of their objectives or endeavors are to make a COVID tracing center. Well, the state has allocated $300 million to set up a state COVID tracing center. So, that may be a duplicate of the services that the state is going to do,” said Longoria.

Cortez says they are following federal guidelines that are required as part of the CARES funding.

“We're supposed to use the money for expenses that were directly associated with it, that were necessary, that had not been previously budgeted and had not to replace somebody's income,” Cortez explained.

Those requirements are what factored into the county’s decision.

“If a certain city had no infections while another city had many infections, why does it make sense and why would anybody believe that dividing the money among cities on the basis of population would comply with the rules of the federal government?” Cortez asks.

Cortez pointed out counties will ultimately be accountable for deciding how to spend federal funding.

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