June 19, 2024


Love your Curiosity

Dallas receiving $8 million to host immigrant teens in U.S. custody at convention center, officials say

Dallas is receiving $8 million to allow federal officials to use the downtown convention center to house unaccompanied immigrant teens in U.S. custody, according to city officials.

The current agreement is for 75 days, said Rocky Vaz, Dallas’ emergency management director. The deal allows the use of space at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, including its largest exhibit hall and a nearby lobby.

City officials revealed details of the leasing agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency during a meeting with The Dallas Morning News’ editorial board on Friday.

The emergency intake site was opened Wednesday and as of Friday morning was hosting 200 boys ages 15 to 17, according to the Human and Health Services department. Another 200 boys were to be bused to the convention center by the evening.

The Federal Protective Service is providing security outside the building while a third-party vendor hired by the federal agencies patrols inside, Vaz said.

The site in Dallas as well as one in Midland more than 300 miles west of the city have been opened to alleviate overcrowding at Border Patrol facilities and other HHS-run shelters.

About 4,500 children were in Border Patrol custody this week, and about 9,500 children were in care of HHS. The Dallas convention center has been leased to house up to 3,000 teens. Cots, blankets, hygiene items, masks, hand sanitizer and other items have been provided by the Red Cross.

Mark Weber, an HHS spokesman, said Friday that the teens who are bused into Dallas are tested for COVID-19 before being transported and tested when they arrive. All of the teens housed at the convention center will be tested once every three days and otherwise monitored in between, he said.

The agency hadn’t said as of Friday evening if one teens had tested positive for the virus. Anyone who does is to be temporarily isolated from the rest of the teens.

Workers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are on site, Vaz said.

Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax said during The News’ editorial board meeting that the city was one of several reached out to by federal authorities seeking temporary space to house unaccompanied children found at the U.S.-Mexico border. Broadnax said the city offered the convention center as an option and noted it has been used as a shelter space during past humanitarian crises.

“As we worked through the details, it was our understanding and belief that we should allow it,” Broadnax said. “And I think we feel good about the outcomes of it.”

The opening of the federal holding facilities have been met with criticism by Gov. Greg Abbott, who has blamed the situation on policies by President Joe Biden.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that authorities stopped taking children to the Midland site this week after more than 10 percent of the children there tested positive for COVID-19. FEMA officials said this week that at one point close to 500 children were being held there.

Dallas to get millions in latest federal stimulus package

Dallas expects to receive $377 million in relief funds from the latest federal stimulus bill to help cover COVID-19-related costs and replace revenue lost during the pandemic.

President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan into law last Wednesday. Last year’s CARES Act was $2.2 trillion, of which Dallas received $234.4 million.

The latest stimulus package earmarks $350 billion to state, city and tribal governments. Texas is expected to get $16.8 billion in state government funding and local governments to receive $10.4 billion.

A memo sent to Dallas City Council members on Monday stated that half of the latest round of local COVID relief funds will be allocated by the U.S. Treasury Department within 60 days and the rest in 2022. The money is to be available for spending until the end of Dec. 31, 2024.

Unlike CARES Act money, the latest federal infusion can be used to shore up fallen sales tax revenues and possibly property tax revenues, according to the memo, written by M. Elizabeth Reich, the city’s chief financial officer. The money can also be used as aid for households, small businesses and nonprofits, as well as improvements to the city’s water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

The city could also apply for hundreds of millions of dollars in grants through other federal programs covered by the American Rescue Plan, as well as have other COVID-related expense reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Brett Wilkinson, Dallas’ government affairs director, said Friday that city staff are still trying to figure out the plan’s full impact on the city. The City Council is scheduled to get a public briefing on the plan on April 21.

Vaccine distribution to end at Kay Bailey Hutchison center

Dallas will be distributing its final rounds of second COVID-19 vaccine doses at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center next week, the city’s emergency management director said Friday. All city-received shots will be given entirely at the drive-thru mass vaccination site at The Potter’s House parking lot in southern Dallas.

The city is scheduled to receive another 5,000 vaccines next week, according to Rocky Vaz. None of the doses have included Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. Vaz said the city has asked the state for the one shot vaccines, but continues to receive the Moderna and Pfizer brands, which require two shots.

The vaccination hub at The Potter’s House is open Thursday, Friday and Saturdays by appointment via registration with Dallas County online or by phone. The site is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Around 2,000 people are vaccinated on the weekdays and about 1,000 on the weekend, Vaz said. The site is managed by ambulance provider American Medical Response, which has said it has the capacity to give out 5,000 doses of vaccines a day.

“The challenge is just getting the vaccines,” Vaz said.

Nearly 26,000 vaccine doses directly given to the city have been put into the arms of the public since Jan. 28, city data shows. Almost 8,800 have been second doses.

The top three zip codes that have received those shots are 835 to 75248 in Far North Dallas, 645 to nearby 75081 in Richardson and 623 in 75218 in the White Rock and Casa Linda area, city data shows.

Dallas has administered more than 327,000 tests for COVID-19, the city’s emergency management director said Friday. But the last month has seen an average of about 1,000 tests a week compared to 18,000 to 20,000 tests on average months ago, Vaz said.

There’s around 10 city-affiliated testing sites where residents can be tested for free.

Dozens of Dallas homeowners apply for storm aid

A city program that could give homeowners up to $10,000 in repairs from winter storm damages has received more than 100 applications as of Friday, but all but six are from residents needing help paying for fix
es. The others already paid for repairs and are seeking reimbursement directly from the city.

Around 50 of the Emergency Home Repair Program applicants are having their cases assessed by Volunteers for America nonprofit Volunteers of America, said city housing and neighborhood revitalization director David Noguera. The nonprofit was chosen by the city and given $1 million to pay contractors who make the home repairs for eligible residents.

The group raised another $242,000 to add to their allocation, Noguera said Friday. Another $1 million will be given out directly by the city to homeowners through reimbursement.

The Dallas City Council on Feb. 24 approved funding the $2 million program to help residents pay for wall, floor and roof repairs, water damage from broken pipes and mold removal. Repairs to water, sewer and gas lines, and to electrical systems, plumbing fixtures and HVAC units are also eligible.

Only Dallas households that have experienced damage to their homes since Feb. 11 and earn at or below 80% of the area median income are eligible for the emergency home repair program. For a household of two in the Dallas area, that’s up to $55,200. For a household of four, it’s up to $68,950.

Residents will also have to provide proof of identification and household income, damages and home ownership. City landlords would only be eligible for repair funds to their own homes.

The city began taking applications on Feb. 23. The nonprofit began taking applications on March 8. Noguera attributed the amount of paperwork required as a factor in there not being more applicants.

Homeowners can apply for reimbursements through the city’s housing department Thursday by calling 214-670-3644 or filling out an online application and emailing it to [email protected]. The application is on the city’s website.