FALSE STATEMENT: Cities in Montgomery County were entitled to a specific amount from the CARES Act.
This false claim was repeated for over a year, based on a faxed worksheet with no cover sheet that merely showed mathematical calculations for various per capita reimbursements. There is no provision that entitles The Woodlands to any given amount from the Counties. From the start, The Woodlands was instructed to work with the counties to obtain reimbursement, since each county established its own procedures based on the needs in the county.
As a community of <500,000 pop., situated in two counties of >500,000 population, the CARES Act allowed The Township to request COVID-eligible reimbursements from each county. Each county had the discretion to reimburse funds for COVID-eligible expenses in the manner best suited for each county. A letter dated May 11, 2020 and signed by the Texas Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House, and Chairs of Senate and House Finance and Appropriates Committees was sent to County and City Leaders, including Chairman Bunch to provide guidance on CARES Act. It directed us to seek funding directly from our counties. Senator Creighton sent a letter addressed to Chairman Bunch the following day stressing “First, it is critical that each jurisdiction works together to address expenses that cross jurisdictional lines. Second, just like with other disasters, the federal government requires strict bookkeeping: keep receipts, track all expenditures and make sure you know eligible uses for these funds.” He then provided the link to Treasury Department Guidance and clearly stated that the counties should address expenses in both incorporated and unincorporated parts of the county.
Instead of working with the counties, the Chairman used a faxed worksheet that showed mathematical calculations for cities in Montgomery County based on various per capita amounts. The Woodlands showed “0”. The Chairman apparently claimed the worksheet was attached to a letter from the Governor, but was actually faxed from an unidentified person in the Speaker of the House office – with no cover sheet, memo or letter. “Woodlands Officials Fear Not Receiving CARES Act Funds from Counties,” Villager, 5/22/20. The Chairman used this unofficial worksheet to demand $21M from Montgomery County, but for some time failed to submit any reimbursable expenses.
Montgomery and Harris are very different counties composed of unincorporated areas and different sizes and number of cities. Not surprisingly, each county took a different approach in order to achieve the best outcome. Harris County retained a consultant to establish a Small City Assistance Program for its 34 cities, including The Woodlands. Montgomery County asked governmental entities, including The Woodlands, to submit requests for reimbursable expenses. Both Harris and Montgomery directly reimbursed The Township for expenses of almost $1M and also provided assistance in other ways.