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Local leaders relate COVID-19 relief benefits

Local leaders at media conference with Roger Williams

Marble Falls Mayor John Packer (left) details the impact of COVID-19 relief efforts on the city during a media conference Wednesday, Sept. 9, led by U.S. Rep. Roger Williams. Staff photo by Alex Copeland

Local leaders and business owners shared their pandemic recovery success stories at a media conference with U.S. Rep. Roger Williams on Wednesday, Sept. 9, at the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office in Burnet. They praised the CARES Act, the Paycheck Protection Program, and other relief for those suffering financial stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the local leaders invited to speak at the event were mayors Crista Bromley of Burnet and John Packer of Marble Falls, who both praised the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act for providing them funding to purchase PPE, not only for city personnel but also for local businesses.

“A lot of our businesses are small or family-owned businesses, and they just don’t have the ability to sustain a closure very long,” Bromley said. “So, when they were able to open or open partially, having the masks, the PPE, and the thermometers was a huge deal for them.” 

Packer explained during his report that some of the relief dollars have gone to covering shifts and overtime for police officers when they are put in quarantine due to exposure. 

“The biggest thing is there are just things that we don’t plan for or budget for, and they can really affect us in a negative way,” Packer said. “We appreciate all the help very much.”

Marble Falls Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Chris Allen echoed that message, saying that staffing is what enabled the district to maintain social distancing and implement safety protocols. Burnet County schools have received $1.1 million to help ensure a safe environment for students and staff.

“Those funds are used to maintain our current level of staffing,” Allen said. “We’ve been able to maintain our level of staffing even though we don’t have the same number of students attending in person.”

Karen Litterer, vice president of Ascension Seton Highland Lakes, spoke about the financial crunch caused by rules restricting the number of procedures the hospital was able to perform under COVID-19 mandates and how relief efforts helped it weather the storm.

“That really decreased our revenue, but we were very committed to our associates,” Litterer said. “We did not let go or furlough any of them. The CARES Act, in replacing some of our revenue, allowed us to at least stay somewhat whole. That was very important.”

Also representing the private sphere, Amber Cardenas, co-owner of Bill’s Burgers in Burnet, spoke about the pain of having to lay off staff and close the Marble Falls location. With help from the PPP, however, she was able to hire back some staff and maintain the Burnet location.  

“Because we were able to get the PPP loan for the Burnet location, that money is what we were able to use to hire up to 22 employees from just eight and stay afloat when we would have had to close that store as well,” Cardenas said. “There is no way we would have been able to stay in business without it.”

Williams, who represents Texas’ 25th Congressional District 25, including Burnet County, closed the media conference by citing low interest rates and low tax rates as evidence the economy is ready to “explode” and return to normal.

“We are not living in the new normal,” Williams said. “We’re going back to the norm, sooner rather than later. This economy is coming back thanks to stories we’ve heard today.”