Council Recap: (A Little More) Help Is On Its Way

April 10, 2020
Austin Chronicle

At its meeting Thursday, April 9, City Council approved unanimously $15 million of relief for low-income Austinites thrown into financial turmoil by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money is intended primarily for people left behind by federal relief packages, or who simply need more help than those efforts will provide. The resolution authorizes City Manager Spencer Cronk to expand existing contracts with the city’s nonprofit partners to distribute the aid.

“We’ve heard loud and clear from our communities that people need help now,” said Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza, who introduced the resolution in collaboration with Council Member Greg Casar. The goal is to get those in need relief with a focus on “equity and expediency,” Garza added, and the best way to do that is through existing social service contracts.

Earlier in the week, the city’s economic forecasters projected the Austin metro area could lose more than 260,000 jobs during the COVID-19 economic downturn. The workers hardest hit will be in the food and hospitality industries.

How the aid will be distributed, and to which nonprofits, is still being worked out. At Thursday's meeting, Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden said her office would release more information on the application process today April 10. APH plans to begin disbursing the money in the Relief in a State of Emergency (RISE) fund by April 20, in time to help people pay rent on May 1.

A Friday morning press release said APH would be working with the city’s Equity Office to “ensure funds are provided to community-based organizations providing services to our marginalized communities.” Social service providers should email RISEFunding@AustinTexas.gov for more information.