Senate Finance met to take up and consider SB 8 (Nelson) relating to making appropriations of certain federal coronavirus relief money. The committee substitute was voted out unanimously and will now head to the Senate floor for further deliberation.

This report is intended to give you an overview and highlight the discussions on the various topics taken up. It is not a verbatim transcript of the discussions but is based upon what was audible or understandable to the observer and the desire to get details out as quickly as possible with few errors or omissions.


Nelson Opening Remarks

  • Offers thanks to workgroup chairs, spent all day yesterday digging through requests and made recommendations
  • Committee Substitute 8 will reflect this work


CSSB 8 – $16.3 billion from ARPA

  • $15.8 billion from State fiscal recovery, $500.5 million is from Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund
  • Many items unchanged
  • $7.2 billion for UI
  • $500.5 million for broadband and $75 million for broadband pole replacement
  • $286 million to cover COVID related healthcare claims in TRS and premium holiday for retired teachers
  • Several items still in there such as cybersecurity, completion of Dallas State Hospital, Texas Child Mental Health Consortium, State Operation Center for Disaster, Crime Victim Servicers, and Foodbanks
  • New additions:
  • Reinforce front line workers – $400 million for one-time retention bonus, to retain staffing for nursing facilities, assisted living centers, home health services, community attendants, and emergency medical services;
  • $75 million in one-time grants for rural hospitals
  • $25 million to streamline Medicaid CHIP enrollment process and modernize eligibility system
  • $15 million to expand a Mental Health Facility in West Texas
  • $16.7 million to increase lab capacity in South Texas
  • $5 million for FQHC Incubator Program
  • $325 million for construction projects at institutions of higher education (contingent on passage of legislation)
  • $40 million to Texas Epidemic Public Health Institute
  • $20 million for 27 comprehensive regional universities
  • $15 million grants for reskilling and upskilling
  • $200 million grants to support tourism and hospitality
  • $35 million for upgrade to ventilation and filtration at Texas veterans Homes
  • $1.2 million to fund a new IT system for Children’s Advocacy Centers

Closing Remarks

  • Nelson – Confident strategic one time investment will bolster response to COVID
  • Hancock – Likes process of gaining input
  • West – was a process, highlighted concern on food deserts
  • West – just finished meeting with Sen. Taylor and Mike Morath, keep doing same thing over and over again trying to reduce learning gaps and thinks this is a good time to “look at a public boarding school pilot project” – none were recommended but will keep working on this
  • Lucio – will there be a methodology for how disbursements made for broadband? If people want to take part to ensure broadband brought into their areas. Are we going to look at per capita need? Working with private industry or bidding it out?
    • Nichols – this is why we created a broadband development office, mapping first and based on map determinations will be made on where to spend the money; agrees questions can be asked to them
    • Huffman – What is timeline?
    • Nichols – Maybe a year, appointees being assigned now, not even full board in place yet
    • Hancock – Money on pole replacement being appropriated is being more than doubled, way ahead of schedule on that item and millions behind it in federal and business funding as well
    • Perry – Lots of federal dollars already in the system, multiple infrastructure discussions being had, discusses RDOF (Rural Digital Opportunity Fund) funding and notes there are multiple sources of funding and buckets of funding available
    • Nichols – Another pot of money would be the counties also saving up funds for broadband

CSSB 8 Favorably Reported Out of Committee – 11 ayes and 0 nays