Dear Hays County Residents,
You may have heard the disturbing news that the U.S. Treasury Department took back almost $800,000 from Hays County in December 2021 because—according to the County itself—it failed to meet “targeted milestones for distribution” from the federal Emergency Rental Assistance program. This money was intended to provide rent and utility assistance to help low-income residents and families in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is unacceptable.
Wesley Matthews, former Hays County manager of the program, said that the initiative “was set up for failure.” He said that the County failed to provide the resources necessary to administer a program of this size. This was clear from the fact that Hays County received the grant in January 2021, by the end of November, had disbursed only about 7 percent of it. The federal spending target for November 2021 was 40 percent. Which begs the question, “How many Hays County families went without heat and a roof over their heads because of this failure?”
Brandon Burleson, Democratic candidate for Hays County Judge agrees with Erin Hahn, a research analyst for the nonprofit housing advocate Texas Housers, who cautions that “This is the start of a piecemeal process of Hays County potentially losing a lot of money every two months . . . until it’s all gone.”
“This is is about leadership,” said Burleson. And the individual who should have been leading the charge to protect those who need these benefits most, County Judge Ruben Becerra, was missing in action on this issue.
It’s all well and good that Becerra is now begging Hays County congressional representatives to restore the funding he let run through his fingers. But apparently, the welfare of needy Hays County residents wasn’t that important to him until it became an issue in his reelection campaign.
But when it came to feeding at the County trough, Becerra made sure that he got his share. He received a stipend of $25,000 a year in both 2019 and 2020—on top of his salary of more than $88,000—claiming he spent at least 40% of his time on “judicial functions.” According to a Hays County court administrator, Becerra has never presided over a Hays County court docket. While a lawsuit challenged Becerra’s windfall and sought his removal for taking money for work he did not do, it was dismissed: not because Becerra established that he performed any judicial functions but on a pair of technicalities. The law in question did not define “judicial functions.” And because of that squishiness, the case does not involve a “clearly defined duty or obligation” as required by Texas Law for removal of a County Officer from Office. So, Ruben Becerra, king of the loopholes, rides again!
Burleson pledges that he would never request or accept the court stipend without performing actual and specific judicial duties to earn it. Further, he made a clear commitment that “If elected, I will work with my fellow Commissioners to ensure the allocation of 100% of federal grants intended to assist our residents, and I will work tirelessly with our federal representatives to have the Emergency Rental Assistance grant funding restored to Hays County. This must never happen again.”
Candidate for Hays County Judge