News6 Investigates


Nueces County Hospital District's appeal for $500k COVID study denied by FEMA, again

Posted at 5:02 PM, Apr 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-27 18:16:42-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied an appeal by the Nueces County Hospital District (NCHS) seeking reimbursement for a $503,000 study looking at the overall health of the county, as well as COVID-19's impact on the community.

In late 2020, then Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales asked the NCHD for help in getting the study Advancing Health Equity in Nueces County Amid and Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic funded.

Funds for this study came from the hospital district's general operation fund, which, if not recovered, will impact indigent care, or Nueces County taxpayers.

As KRIS 6 News reported, recordings from public meetings and interviews with 6 Investigates reveal the hospital district's board of managers and Chief Executive Officer believed that money would be reimbursed by the county.

"It was clear that the county was going to work with the district to get reimbursement for this work," Jonny Hipp, CEO of the district said in an interview with 6 Investigates last year.

This is the third denial by FEMA in requests seeking reimbursement for these funds. The first two denials were issued back-to-back in October 2022.


Following those first two denials, the hospital district requested help from the county in getting reimbursed and appealed to FEMA with the help of Hagerty Consulting, a company utilized, until recently, by Nueces County.

John Valls, chairman of the hospital district's board of managers said the district paid Hagerty Consulting around $50,000 to assist with this appeal, but has ceased the use of its services.

He said Thursday that the district has two options following the latest denial. It can file another appeal, or ask for arbitration.

"We can file an appeal but if they denied us once what’s going to change their minds," Valls said. "The likelihood of success goes down and down after a denial."

Valls, who is one vote on a board of seven, said he would prefer arbitration in hopes of at least getting a portion of the funds reimbursed.

He also said that should any additional appeal or arbitration be denied, the district may consider seeking reimbursement from the county.

The next NCHD board of directors meeting is scheduled for May 23. 6 Investigates will be at that meeting and report back once a determination is made on how to move forward.

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