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Local groups call for $10 million to help struggling families

Monday, March 30, 2020 by Nina Hernandez

Last Thursday, a coalition of community groups called on City Council to allocate $10 million in emergency spending to be distributed to families struggling financially due to the Covid-19 crisis.

“By allowing impacted families experiencing financial hardship brought by Covid-19 to help supplement lost wages,” the letter reads, “we are inviting others to respect people’s agency and allow them the opportunity to decide what works best for them.”

The organizations behind the letter include Communities of Color United for Racial Equity, Grassroots Leadership and Family Independence Initiative.

Ivanna Neri of Family Independence Initiative told the Austin Monitor that the groups advocating for this cash assistance have the families that will be left out of the federal stimulus package in mind. “They might not be eligible for unemployment,” she explained.

She stressed the necessity of ensuring that people, particularly low-income Austinites, are able to stay at home, helping the city avoid a spike in Covid-19 cases. “If you want to keep people at home, you have to make sure they have the means to stay at home.”

Many working families have lost jobs or are temporarily out of work this month. “They don’t know when their next paycheck is going to be.”

Neri also said that the city has to trust low-income communities to know how to spend this cash payment. “We know that low-income communities will stretch it further than anyone.”

During Council’s virtual session Thursday, both Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza and Council Member Greg Casar expressed interest in the resolution. Garza asked whether it should be in a budget amendment and whether the resolution language should be stronger to ensure it covers vulnerable communities like undocumented people.

Casar noted that it “seems like the bill is headed to pass the House soon, but upon reading some of it seems like a lot of people may not get their check for four months or even longer. There are going to be people who don’t qualify for unemployment.”

He continued: “There will be people who don’t get a check at all. So while we need to be looking at helping people with housing and medicine, I think direct cash assistance is something that the city should figure out how to fill in the gaps, especially for the people who get left out.”

Photo by Arthur Rothstein for the Farm Security Administration/Public domain.

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