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Community Groups Calling on Austin City Council to Allocate $10 Million to Help Families Facing Financial Hardships Due to COVID-19

March 26, 2020

Organizations say communities of color and immigrants are most impacted by efforts to stop the spread of the pandemic

Austin, TX — With social distancing measures in place followed by the recent shelter-in-place order issued by Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt in effect through April 13, thousands of Austinites are out of work and don’t know when, or if, they will be able to return to their jobs. While the federal government continues to work on a stimulus package that will benefit millions of Americans across the country, community advocates fear the most vulnerable communities will be left without the much-needed economic relief. 

In a letter sent today to Austin council members, community-based groups, including Communities of Color United for Racial Equity, urge bold solutions from the city of Austin to not only stabilize our community but to ensure Austin’s Black and Brown communities will not be left out of recovery efforts.

The organizations behind this effort believe the time to act is now. They are requesting Austin City Council to allocate $10 million for cash assistance to be given in a one-time cash transfer of $1,000 to 10,000 unique families experiencing financial hardship brought on by COVID-19. Unrestricted cash transfers are the best option to support our friends and neighbors right now. They know best what their families need. 

“If power is money, then we must give power to the people. People in our communities are smart, resilient and strong. We need to stop guessing what they need and give them the freedom to decide what works best for them in any situation,  now more than ever,” said Ivanna Neri, director of Family Independence Initiative Austin, one of the organizations behind this effort.

A stimulus package given by the federal government will only benefit individuals with a social security number, which means undocumented families, some of our most vulnerable residents, would be excluded. Unemployment benefits do not cover undocumented families, contractors or small businesses that may not have unemployment insurance. A direct cash transfer can help fill in the gap that may mean the difference between being able to keep a roof over a family’s head, seek medical help, or feed a family in this dire time. 

“We have 200 members in our Central Texas network of domestic workers who are being affected economically by this crisis. They are hard-working people who deserve dignity and respect. We know that the only way to get by is by putting cash into our hands,” said Rosario Nava, leader with Mujeres Inspiradas en Sueños, Metas y Acciones (MISMA), an organization supporting this effort. 

“There are more than 100,000 undocumented people in the Austin metro area who are currently living with an immense weight on their chest not knowing whether they will be able to keep their family fed, sheltered, or safe in the next month because of COVID-19’s effect on their jobs,” said Alicia Torres, member of ICE Fuera de Austin, a community member group of Grassroots Leadership, “If there was ever a moment for the city of Austin to let the undocumented community know that they too are part of Austin’s community at large and will also be protected, that time is now.” 

Advocates believe the city must act fast and give all residents what they really need now: cash. In the last 26 days, Austin has canceled all major conventions and festivals, including SXSW and ACL. Many Austinites have experienced a sudden and unexpected loss of income and the potential loss of their job in the long-term. 

"Direct and immediate financial relief for the people most negatively impacted by this crisis will be critical to communities' capacity to organize and engage in driving the longer-term systemic changes that our society desperately needs to be healthy," said Carmen Llanes, executive director of Go! Austin, Vamos! Austin.

We respectfully with urgency ask the Austin City Council to support funding in this cash assistance initiative to help reduce the fear and instill hope,” said Ofelia Zapata, leader with Advocates for Social Justice Reform.

 

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Contact: 

Ofelia Zapata, Advocates for Social Justice Reform, 512-669-0809

Ivanna Neri, Family Independence Initiative, 512-998-3648

Rosario Nava, MISMA (Spanish Speaker), 512-791-5020

Maria Reza, Grassroots Leadership, mreza@grassrootsleadership.org