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Economic Development Department to update progress on CARES Act relief funding programs

Tuesday, July 14, 2020 by Savana Dunning

As of June 29, five of the eight grant programs approved by City Council to provide economic relief to Austin’s economic sectors through the CARES Act had not yet passed the development stages in their funding allocation plans.

The Economic Development Department is tasked with updating Council every 14 days on how the eight assistance programs are developing. The deadline for the EDD update passed on Monday. The memorandum for the next update is being finalized and will be released within the coming days, according to a spokesperson for the city, although no specific date is set.

On May 7, Austin passed a resolution to develop a program that would allocate money the city received from the federal CARES Act to financially support nonprofits and small businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic. Three funds were established: the Childcare Support Fund, the Commercial Loans for Economic Assistance and Recovery (CLEAR) Fund and the Austin Nonprofit and Civic Health Organizations Relief (ANCHOR) Fund.

The memorandum sent to Council on June 29 outlined progress made on the eight current assistance grant programs. The upcoming update will have more information about additional recovery programs.

The EDD set out a five-phase plan to “ensure each grant program complies with the CARES Act and to achieve overall success.” As of the June 29 memo, five of the eight programs were either in the Pre-Phase One or Phase One stage, the development stage where the department gathers and analyzes data and then drafts plans to deploy funding to the designated group. The Creative Sector Relief Grant, Commercial Landlord Relief Grant, Workforce Development Relief Program, Technical Assistance Program, and Worker and Customer Safety Program are all in this stage.

The memo explains what work has been done since the previous update on June 5 and what work was planned to be done within the 14 days until the next update. The EDD states in the memo that the two programs in Pre-Phase One stage, the Workforce Development Relief Program, which has $2 million to allocate to “training and skills development,” and the Worker and Customer Safety Program, a $1.5 million contract with counseling services to expand resources for workers dealing with mental health issues during the pandemic, have reviewed current work contracts and were tasked with “identifying direction” for the next 14 days.

The Creative Sector Relief Grant program, which is to provide $5 million in grants to creative sector workers, and the Commercial Landlord Relief Grant program, which will give $1 million in grants to landlords who agree to enter long-term leases with tenants “that provide community benefits,” were both in Phase One as June 29 and tasked with drafting guidelines for their programs and establishing administration for the next 14 days.

The Technical Assistance Program, $1 million designated to providing workshops and classes to those in need, is also in Phase One and needs to draft deliverables and discuss with community partners for the next 14 days.

The largest program, the Small Business Relief Grant, the second largest, the Non-Profit Relief Grant, and the Childcare Center Relief Grant were all in Phase 3 as of June 29, and opened application processes for their grants on July 7. The Childcare Center Relief Grant, administered by United Way of Greater Austin, allocates $2 million to eligible child care centers in Austin.

The Small Business Relief Grant, formerly known as the CLEAR Act, will provide eligible small businesses with grants up to $40,000 out of a pool of $16.5 million and is being administered with help from the Better Business Bureau. The Non-Profit Relief Grant will provide eligible Austin nonprofits with grants up to $20,000 from a pool of $6.35 million.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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