In September 2021, the Odessa City Council voted unanimously to provide $3
million in ARPA funds to Medical Center Hospital (MCH) and $1 million to Odessa Regional Medical Center (ORMC) to help cover the costs each hospital had incurred fighting COVID. The payment made to MCH came along with a promise from MCH that the full amount would be repaid once the hospital was reimbursed by FEMA.
Odessa Mayor Javier Joven tells Odessa Headlines that he spoke with MCH CEO
Russell Tippin early in the week who confirmed the check would be delivered, and it was.
“MCH has always been a very reliable partner in our community and the timing for the repayment of the COVID funds could not have been better. It has always been my intention to use these funds to help bolster the funding of our emergency services” stated Mayor Joven. “The City’s frontline emergency response workers did an incredible job during the pandemic supporting our community and the City of Odessa expended a huge amount of our budget meeting the overtime demands while serving Odessans during the pandemic. While the City Council understands that this $3 million is a one-time payment, I am committed to using these funds to bolster the pay of our OFR frontline while we seek to provide permanent funding for the raises they deserve. Using ARPA funds to support our emergency workers is exactly what ARPA funds were meant for.”
Two more members of the city council were pleased with the news of the refund, and stated they are also committed to ensuring the funds go towards Odessa firefighters.
“As everyone knows, I have been fighting to get our fire and EMS pay levels increased to a competitive level and I along with Councilmember Matta and Mayor Joven have been repeatedly rebuffed in our efforts to give OFR what they deserve.” At-Large Councilwoman Denise Swanner stated. “I have done my research and there have been numerous cities across the US that are using ARPA funds to help fund fire and EMS salaries. For example, the Houston City Council allocated ARPA funds to support an 18% increase in their fire and EMS salaries over a three-year period.”
Swanner also told Odessa Headlines that she fully plans to continue to bring her pay increase proposal back to the Odessa City Council in the near future and to continue fighting for increased public safety funding.
District 1 Councilman Mark Matta also reacted to the news with a statement thanking Tippin and MCH.
“MCH has always been a good partner and I had no doubt that Russell Tippin and the MCH Board would repay the $3 million ARPA funds as promised. This repayment came at the right moment as we are currently seeking to give our hard-working emergency responders the raises they deserve. We on the Council realize that this money is not the end-all solution to fund these raises moving forward but it does allow us some time to finalize permanent funding solutions.” stated Councilman Mark Matta. “I would like to reassure our emergency personnel that the incoming Council will work feverishly to grant them the raises they deserve, and I would like to personally thank them for their unselfish work.”
Odessa Headlines spoke with Tippin, who said a check was hand delivered to the city manager’s office this past week, and that he owes a debt of gratitude to the city for being a strong partner for the hospital.
“Thank you, thank you to the city,” Tippin said, adding, “When no one else was willing to help us, they stepped up and got us through a difficult time. We are thankful they have faith in use, and we are happy to fulfill our obligation and repay the funds.”
The refund comes after Ector County Commissioners rejected multiple requests by MCH for ARPA funds that the county would have been reimbursed for, to the benefit of Ector County taxpayers.