Mission hopeful for more coronavirus relief funds

The city of Mission is still holding onto hope that municipalities will receive a larger portion of coronavirus relief funds, continuing to work off a proposed budget amounting to more than what the Hidalgo County commissioners allocated to them.

Mayor Armando O’Caña said he was instructing City Manager Randy Perez to continue preparing a $14.8 million budget for expenses related to COVID-19 although the county commissioners only allocated about $9 million to the city.

Hidalgo County received $151 million in coronavirus relief aid and of that, the county commissioners voted to share $63 million on a reimbursement basis for COVID-19 related expenses.

Cities with populations of 30,000 people or more will receive $110 per capita from the county while those with smaller populations will receive $80 per capita.

Through that formula, Mission, with a population of more than 84,000 people, will receive approximately $9.3 million.

“If the county would have used the same…formula that was used by the federal government, which was $174 per capita of the 2018 census, we should have received $14,801,463,” O’Caña said during a special meeting Wednesday.

“My direction to the city manager has been that he will prepare a budget for $14,801,463 which is establishing the needs for the city of Mission, just in case,” O’Caña said to before the city council members, adding that if the county only funds $9 million, the city will focus on the high priority expenses and look for alternate sources of funds for the other items.

The expenses in the current $14 million budget include about $5.1 million in machinery and equipment which encompasses upgrading technology, disinfecting equipment and securing city buildings.

At city hall, they had to expand the drive-thru service at their vital statistics department by adding two lanes because of congestion caused by moving services to be drive-thru only.

They’re also looking at processing purchase orders and work orders online and upgrading their software so that employees can work remotely.

On Thursday, O’Caña addressed the commissioners regarding the funding during a special commissioners court meeting held that morning.

“I told them that my initial position is still my position on behalf of the city and that is that they need to allocate $174 per capita based on the 2018 census which is about 85,000 citizens of Mission,” he said Thursday.

O’Caña said two-way communication between the county and the municipalities seemed to be opening up with the apparent interest in creating a county-wide subcommittee on the issue.

“I think there’s an intent about creating a subcommittee to be able to determine the value of the request of each of the 22 cities,” O’Caña said.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez did not return a request for comment.

Additionally, the Mission city council voted earlier this week to explore legal options to obtain more funding.

While the city does not appear to be giving up on the issue, Council member Jessica Ortega Ochoa requested that the city currently focus on the $9.3 million that was already allocated to them to ensure their expenses will qualify to be covered by those funds.

“I understand that this are our wish list and it’s great, you all worked very hard on all the things that you all put together, but if they come back and they don’t really meet the qualifications … I would like for us already to start discussing that and not wait,” she said during the special meeting held Wednesday.

“In other words, I don’t want us to give any money back.