Administrative Issues Lead Judge Blackburn to ‘Re-Declare’ COVID-19 Disaster

Belton, TX – On Friday, August 13, Bell County Judge David Blackburn announced that he had reissued a local disaster declaration regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. This declaration, which effectively reinstates the local disaster declaration that he had issued back in March of 2020 and revoked on June 1st of this year. 

Judge Blackburn first issued the 2020 Local Disaster Declaration on March 18, 2020, following Governor Greg Abbott’s proclamation for the State of Texas. The local declaration was extended indefinitely by a unanimous vote of the Bell County Commissioners Court.

In June, Judge Blackburn terminated the declaration based on communications from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) that the Governor’s state-wide disaster declaration was sufficient for seeking federal and state aid associated with the pandemic.

The decision to make a new declaration comes after recent conversations on the issue left some uncertainty as to whether a local declaration does, in fact, need to be in place in order to continue to seek federal and state funding for pandemic-related eligible expenses.

“The choice to once again declare a local disaster is based entirely on better insuring  that Bell County, and city governments within Bell County,  may all benefit from resources and reimbursements that would only be available to entities with active disaster declarations,” Judge Blackburn said. “It is simply an administrative measure.”

The new declaration will be discussed during Monday’s meeting of the Bell County Commissioners Court. Under state law, the County Judge may issue disaster declarations, but they are subject to Commissioners Court review and approval.  The Commissioners Court will be asked to approve the declaration.

Download and read the declaration here.