James Noack, a Precinct 3 Commissioner in Texas, has been trying to grant citizens in Montgomery County an extra $500 stimulus payment amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. He announced his intention to grant this funding back in May. As the Montgomery County Gazette reported on Monday, Noack failed to receive approval for this initiative from the United States Treasury Department.
"I truly believe this money should go back to the taxpayers," Commissioner Noack said. "I am very frustrated that we could not get a simple yes or no in writing from the US Treasury, we cannot risk spending $65 million that the county may ultimately be on the hook for." Citizens in Montgomery County may have been looking forward to this stimulus check. Still, several local attorneys that have analyzed the CARES Act noted that Noack's plan was an overreach on his part. CARES Act funds are specifically for any coronavirus-related expenses and are not allowed to cover budget shortfalls or capital expenditures.
Noack's plan initially received unanimous support from the Commissioners Court when he unveiled it earlier this year. County Attorney B.D. Griffin explained that they would need approval from the U.S. Treasury to implement this plan. The County Attorney's office was then asked to prepare a resolution that would be sent to the U.S. Treasury. They presented a resolution in court regarding this matter on June 9. The Montgomery County Gazette reported that letters were subsequently sent to Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. John Cornyn, and Rep. Kevin Brady to ask them for assistance in seeking the Treasury's approval for this initiative. Although, according to Open Records Request, there were no letters sent directly to the U.S. Treasury from Montgomery County.
States have been trying to take matters into their own hands lately as Congress has not been able to agree on a second stimulus package. In Oregon, lawmakers have implemented a program that will grant $500 to citizens. The state started a program in which individuals who are still waiting on unemployment benefits can receive a one-time check worth $500. The program, which totals $35 million, was approved by state lawmakers in mid-July. Under this plan, up to 70,000 Oregon residents who are dealing with issues associated with the coronavirus pandemic can receive aid. Oregon's program will use funding from the CARES Act to implement this initiative.