Texas yet to spend nearly $6 billion in federal coronavirus funds, lawmakers demand Gov. Abbott’s plan

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Both Republicans and Democrats in Texas are pressing Gov. Greg Abbott for his plan to spend nearly $6 billion in remaining federal coronavirus funds, which must be used before the end of the year.

In March, Texas received $12.84 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds as part of the CARES Act. So far, the state has spent $7.14 billion with $5.7 billion remaining before the Dec. 30 deadline when those funds would be returned to the federal government, if not appropriated.

Both Republicans and Democrats in the Texas Legislature have been critical of Abbott for what they say is his singular approach to managing the state’s coronavirus response. Some have urged Abbott to call a special session for lawmakers to weigh in on how the state spends billions of dollars in federal funds.

State Rep. Donna Howard, a Democrat from Austin, said her staff had to repeatedly press the state for a breakdown of how federal coronavirus funds have been spent.

Infographic courtesy state Rep. Donna Howard’s office

“This decision really is the governor’s and buck does stop with him,” Howard told KXAN. “It was kind of a dogged fight to get this information.”

In a statement sent to KXAN, the governor’s office said Abbott is engaging with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, outgoing House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, as well as the chair and vice chairs of the Senate Finance and House Appropriations Committees, two of whom are Democrats, in deciding how the state’s federal coronavirus funds are spent.

“As we enter the final quarter of the years, the state will allocate the rest of the money in a fiscally responsible manner, in consultation with the chairs and vice-chairs, just as it has always done,” said John Wittman, the governor’s communications director.

The Governor’s Office said, so far, the state has allocated “more than one billion dollars in PPE, testing, and staffing and $600 million on schools.”

Abbott is making a campaign stop in Dallas on Thursday to address a new legislative proposal on public safety.

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