Early City Council takes no action on COVID vaccination expenses

Special to the Bulletin
City of Early

EARLY — The Early City Council took no action recently on an agenda item to contribute funds for COVID-19 vaccination expenses for the months of March and April.

The council could have voted Tuesday night to contribute to the Brownwood/Brown County Health Department, according to the agenda. No motion was made by the council to take the matter to a vote.

Early City Council member Leland Acker said via email:

"The City of Early is supportive of efforts to get vaccines to those who wish to be vaccinated. As such, we have begun a public awareness campaign so that residents know where to go and how to go about obtaining a COVID vaccine. Ultimately, everyone who wants a vaccine will receive a vaccine. Our discussion is about the proper way to accomplish that goal.

By state law, Brown County is responsible for providing public health services to all residents of Brown County. For many years, the county has outsourced public health to the City of Brownwood. However, by law, and by the contract between Brownwood and Brown County, it is the county's job to provide public health services. 

Early residents pay taxes to Brown County to have these services rendered. 

COVID response, including vaccination clinics, are a normal function of the public health department under the public health preparedness (PHEP) office, which has been largely funded by federal grants to prepare for a pandemic such as this. As such, the responsibility for funding COVID vaccination clinics ultimately falls on the Brown County Commissioners Court. 

The COVID relief funds referenced in previous media coverage concerning this issue are unavailable. The deadline to expend those funds passed in December. Furthermore, the City of Early has yet to receive a reimbursement for COVID related expenditures under the Cares Act.

During the meeting, I stated that taxpayers have the right to hold those accountable who spend their tax dollars. By providing funding to the health department outside an established accountability structure, the citizens of Early would be unable to hold those responsible accountable for how their tax dollars are spent. 

The private sector has stepped up to get vaccines to the public, and coordination between Hendrick Health systems and the health department are already underway with great success. There is no reason why these efforts cannot continue with appropriate levels of funding coming from the appropriate channels."

The health department has asked the cities of Brownwood, Bangs and Early, as well as Brown County, to contribute to expenses related to vaccinations based on the population of each entity.