The Dallas City Council approved nearly $5 million in new coronavirus spending Wednesday in the midst of a $33 million dollar budget shortfall.
Only about a third of the spending is covered by federal money the city has received for coronavirus relief. The rest comes from the city’s own tax money.
The new spending may help reach people in new ways for the coronavirus fight.
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Until now, most people went to a coronavirus testing site. With $660,000 of the federal money, up to 60 mobile tests a day will be offered to people who have no transportation in five high coronavirus zip codes, 75211, 75215, 75216, 75217 and 75227.
“It’s our hope that this additional testing will fill the void of those individuals who currently do not have the means to travel to an existing site,” Assistant Dallas City Manager Jon Fortune said.
Officials said they are looking for other ways to boost testing to make people feel more comfortable about returning to normal activities.
“It is crucial that we continue to ramp up testing in our city,” said City Council Member Jennifer Gates.
To screen people entering city buildings when they reopen, $884,500 of the Federal money will buy 100 infrared thermometer kiosks. They will be used like metal detectors to find people with fevers.
The city of Dallas received $234 million from the US CARES Act, but there are restrictions on how the money can be spent. Under current rules, it can not be used to fill the sudden city budget shortfall caused by coronavirus.
“We're trying to use that money as efficiently as we can and have the maximum impact we can for the people of Dallas,” Mayor Eric Johnson said.
Internet support for the city housing assistance program was funded with $376,535 of the Federal money, but the city’s own money paid for $345,827 of telephone support.
The City Council approved $620,560 of Dallas tax money for the Wyndham Garden Inn on LBJ Freeway, where homeless people from the Dallas Life Shelter who tested positive or required quarantine were temporarily housed.
City money also paid $78,124 for support at the temporary homeless shelter at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and $1,874,318 for cleaning and decontamination of city buildings.
Amid all this spending Wednesday, Mayor Johnson launched a crusade he calls “Dallas First” to limit city spending to Dallas based companies.
“I’m not comfortable spending city of Dallas tax dollars outside the city of Dallas right now. I’m very, very sensitive to the pain that has been put upon our community,” Johnson said.
For individual review of the vendor locations, Johnson pulled 16 routine items from the City Council agenda that would normally have been approved in a group with all the others.
Nearly all of them were indeed Dallas companies. Others were at least North Texas or Texas vendors.
At the same time as coronavirus spending rises, future tax revenue that might help offset it is being delayed.
The city of Dallas Wednesday agreed to let ride-sharing company Uber extend the deadline on a deal to provide big city incentives in return for new jobs and tax base in Deep Ellum.
“All we're doing here is accepting the reality of COVID, the economic reality of our new calendar. Uber is still coming. We’re not writing a check out front,” Councilman David Blewett said.
Uber has been reducing employees for the time being, and the city of Dallas has been forced to do the same.
Nearly 500 city workers were placed on unpaid furloughs last week to help combat the budget shortfall which is chiefly the result of plummeting sales tax revenue from so many businesses closed by coronavirus.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.