Rep. Gonzalez touts federal funds heading to UTRGV nursing program

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, is touting $2 million from the Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration headed to the city of Pharr to fund the construction of a facility expanding the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s School of Nursing, a project he says will increase access to healthcare in the area.

The project’s goal is to address nursing shortages in the Valley and prepare it for COVID-19 response, a release from Gonzalez’s office read.

“This historic investment underscores our commitment to addressing future pandemics and increasing health care access in the 15th District of Texas,” Gonzalez wrote. “I am proud to have supported the CARES Act to provide relief to the American people. I will continue to work with our federal partners and local leaders to secure additional resources to address nursing shortages in South Texas.”

The federal funding for the state-of-the-art facility will be matched with $24 million in local investment, the release stated, and the project is expected to create 750 jobs and $30 million in private investment. It’s unclear from where the $24 million local investment will come.

“We are happy to be involved with the grant and to partner with the City of Pharr to expand UTRGV’s School of Nursing,” UTRGV President Guy Bailey wrote in the release. “One of the university’s top priorities is to serve as a catalyst for improved health care and well-being in South Texas and beyond, and this grant and partnership will allow us to do so. Thank you to Congressman Gonzalez and everyone else who played a part in obtaining this grant.”

Pharr Mayor Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez wrote that he’d seen nursing shortages first-hand and that the nursing program would be a solution to that problem.

“The existing critical healthcare realities can be directly addressed by expanding the UTRGV nursing program in Pharr, Texas,” he wrote. “With direct access to an interstate highway and proximal to every local hospital, the program can not only graduate much-needed registered nurses, but also conduct vital research in the region and target those critical epidemics that continue to plague our communities.”