As the Texas Legislature dives into its third special session this year, Mayor Ron Nirenberg and other mayors of the state’s largest cities are calling for federal coronavirus recovery funding to be spent on priorities such as utility bill assistance, health care, and high-speed internet access.

In a Tuesday letter addressed to Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and House Speaker Dade Phelan, 13 Texas mayors thanked state leaders for putting American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding on the special session agenda; the Legislature will work on allocating $16 billion that the state received from the federal government. 

The mayors — including Nirenberg, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Austin Mayor Steve Adler, and Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker — urged state leaders to dedicate ARPA funds toward housing and utilities assistance, the health care system, high-speed internet access and development, business support, and early childhood education and childcare. The signatory mayors agreed to focus on those five priorities, which they said were disrupted to an “unprecedented level” during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Many businesses ground to a halt, impacting the wellbeing and livelihood of millions of Texans,” they wrote. “Schools were forced to provide education online, forcing educators to adjust to an entirely new way of teaching at a moment’s notice. Our health care system also faced challenges, which pushed the system beyond its limits.”

Though Texas has shown itself to be resilient in the current stage of the pandemic, there are still many issues that must be addressed and can be bolstered with federal relief dollars, they wrote.

“Collaboration at all levels of government will help the State of Texas recover and move forward in a post-pandemic world,” the mayors wrote.

San Antonio expects to receive a total of $326 million in ARPA funding for “fiscal and local recovery.” The first half of the funding was delivered in May, while the city expects the second half next year. That funding must be fully spent by 2026 and the city has already allocated $97.5 million to make up for lost revenue through 2023.

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.