Fort Bend County

Fort Bend Commissioners Approve $157 Million In COVID-19 Relief, Over County Judge’s Objections

County Judge KP George said the plan to use $157 million in federal aid included spending on numerous government projects unrelated to pandemic recovery and rigged the selection process for organizations to receive grants.

Outside the Fort Bend County Courthouse on Aug. 28, 2020.

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Fort Bend County will spend $157 million dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds, after a majority vote of county commissioners passed despite the objections of Fort Bend County Judge KP George.

George was the only member of the commissioners court to vote against the spending plan, funding for which would be allocated under the American Rescue Plan.

The county judge said the plan approved by Fort Bend County’s four commissioners – two Republicans and two Democrats – includes many items that have little or nothing to do with helping the county recover from the pandemic, including a multimillion-dollar courtroom expansion and new government buildings, government vehicles, and government audio-visual tools.

"They cut (a) deal behind the scenes and came and voted on it, and $157 million, the debate was less than one minute,” George said. “That explains a lot. So, unfortunately...I had to stand by principle. I know that I am alone in this."

Houston Public Media reached out to commissioners Vincent Morales, Grady Prestage, Andy Meyers, and Ken DeMerchant for comment. None were available by press time, as the court was meeting all day Wednesday to discuss budget matters.

George went up to the line of accusing the commissioners of breaking the law in the way they came to their decision on how to spend the funds,

"Everything was decided already, which is even in my opinion, a violation of (the) Open Meetings Act," George said, before walking it back slightly, saying he had “no proof.”

George also said the plan picked winners and losers, by singling out specific organizations for relief funding instead of using an open application process.

“This commissioners court meeting, there is five nonprofit organizations,” George said. “I called them, and I work with them every single day. They came and spoke and said, ‘you know, why are you not giving us a piece of it?' And then some people are getting up to $4 million. In my opinion, that is absolutely not OK.”

In a follow-up statement, George clarified his position.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that requires us to include the community's input," George wrote. "While I support those organizations and some of the items included in the preliminary proposal, this should be a transparent process in which members of the community and community organizations have an opportunity to actively participate."

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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