Gov. Greg Abbott today announced the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will provide a series of free online trainings to help local officials understand, acquire and administer federal assistance available to the state of Texas and local municipalities to help recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Financial assistance available through the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act and recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act, will be instrumental in helping governments and municipalities recover from the economic devastation caused by the pandemic.
Beginning today, AgriLife Extension will offer these trainings online to help local leaders navigate the federal funding process, and in turn, respond and recover as quickly and effectively as possible.
The first online training, Federal Relief: An overview for local governments, is available now. Additional trainings will dive into the specifics of individual programs, based on the needs of state and local officials. AgriLife Extension agents will be available to assist local leaders with questions throughout the training and subsequent federal funding application process.
In conjunction with the announcement, Abbott joined Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp and Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd for a series of calls with mayors and county judges, members of the Texas Legislature and the Texas Congressional Delegation today to provide details on the training, walk local leaders through the process, and answer questions about federal funding.
“Our local officials have done a tremendous job leading their communities throughout the COVID-19 response, and the state of Texas will continue to work alongside them and provide these leaders with the resources and support they need during this challenging time,” Abbott said. “These online trainings will assist local leaders in efficiently navigating the federal funding process and ensure that our communities receive the financial support they need in a timely manner.”
“One of the things we learned during our response to Hurricane Harvey was that federal funding is invaluable in the recovery process,” Sharp said. “However, it comes with all sorts of strings and requirements that can be confusing to those who don’t know the rules. AgriLife Extension agents are well-positioned to guide county judges, mayors and other local officials through the federal funding maze.”
Patrick Stover, Ph.D., vice chancellor of Texas A&M AgriLife, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, College Station, said helping local governments better understand the CARES stimulus package is in keeping with AgriLife’s mission and purpose.
“We provide quality, relevant outreach and continuing educational programs and services to benefit the people of Texas,” Stover said. “In helping educate and inform local officials about how to obtain badly needed federal funding, we will be doing a service in helping communities throughout the state recover from this crisis.”
There was a strong interest from local governments in receiving information about and assistance with COVID-19 relief funding, and AgriLife was well positioned to respond, said Angela Burkham, Ed.D., AgriLife Extension executive associate director, College Station.
“We knew we could draw from our experience in handling other disasters and emergencies as well as utilize our statewide network of agents and provide any informational resources needed,” she said.
Burkham said AgriLife Extension will provide online trainings for agents, government officials and others involved in the disaster response.
“Agents will make sure local officials, school districts and other stakeholders are aware of any upcoming applicable webinars, plus help facilitate answers to any remaining questions they may have after reviewing online training materials,” she said.
Monty Dozier, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension program director for disaster assessment and recovery, College Station, said AgriLife Extension agents will serve as an “information conduit and safety net” to help ensure anyone who is eligible knows how to apply for those federal relief funds.
“We’re applying a similar process as we did in dozens of Texas coastal and nearby counties in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, so we already have experience in how to implement this type of effort,” Dozier said. “However, in this instance, it’s going to be a statewide effort.”
The CARES Act authorizes approximately $2 trillion in federal stimulus funds to combat the crisis and stabilize the economy, including $150 billion to states, territories and tribal governments. This includes several programs to address the issues that state and local governments are facing as they work to protect their communities during this challenging time.