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HAAM seeks city help to offset expected $1M shortfall

Monday, June 8, 2020 by Chad Swiatecki

The Health Alliance for Austin Musicians is forecasting a $1 million shortfall by the end of 2020, which could mean cutting health care services for around 1,000 local musicians next year.

Leaders of the nonprofit, which currently provides health care services to more than 2,600 members, spent last week appealing to city leaders for possible access to funds for nonprofit groups included in the city’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The appeal came because the recently created Austin Nonprofit & Civic Health Organizations Relief, or ANCHOR, fund prevents foundations and membership organizations from receiving any of the $6 million allocated for groups that provide direct services to vulnerable populations.

Reenie Collins, HAAM’s executive director, said a combination of decreased donations and increased costs for health care and insurance plans in the coming year will likely create a $1 million shortfall.

During comments to the Music Commission and City Council last week, she said the group would like to be able to apply for ANCHOR funds or receive other money from the city budget to help offset the shortfall.

“I am coming to the Music Commission to ask you to help us find solutions, because I’m so worried musicians are going to lose life-saving health care services. I’m here giving you a direct and sincere request,” she said during last week’s Music Commission meeting.

“That is not the way I usually like to do things, but I’m concerned about HAAM being able to continue to deliver the kind of services that we do to our community. I honestly believe that live music in Austin is at stake because we’ve heard from lots and lots of musicians that one of the reasons they stay in Austin is because of the support services we have.”

Commission members said they would support any city funding for the group and would speak with their individual Council members on its behalf.

Commissioner Graham Reynolds said that directing city aid to music-related nonprofit groups could be the focus of a possible second round of funding for the Austin Music Disaster Relief Fund.

Council recently approved the first round of aid for that fund, with $1.5 million available to provide $1,000 grants to musicians who have been impacted by the shutdown of the city’s live music economy. The commission is set to discuss more details of the second wave of disaster relief at a forthcoming meeting.

“It’ll be pretty easy to get our vocal or written support on supporting the essential service that you provide … I wonder if we want to propose looking at a second phase of the Austin Music Disaster Relief Fund,” Reynolds said. “I don’t know what the city’s capacity is for continued help, but the first one focused on individual musicians and perhaps a second phase could focus not just on HAAM but essential services and organizations that help sustain the industry here.”

After Collins’ comments at Thursday’s Council meeting, members Kathie Tovo and Alison Alter spent time adjusting the wording in the allocation of the ANCHOR funds as part of the larger framework for how the city will use federal money related to Covid-19 relief.

“Our intention was to allow any 501(c)(3) that provides direct services to be able to apply for the ANCHOR funds. The mere use of the word ‘member’ or ‘foundation’ in the program name should not automatically disqualify an organization,” she said.

“We wanted to disqualify organizations that were foundations in the traditional sense, that provide grants to nonprofits, and disqualify membership organizations where members pay into an organization that provides advocacy on behalf of their members. From my view, HAAM and SIMS Foundation would both be eligible to receive ANCHOR funds under the intention Council was trying to convey in the resolution authorizing that program.”

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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