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New RISE 2.0 relief program offers $10M to individuals in Austin, Travis County

Thursday, September 10, 2020 by Savana Dunning

The city of Austin has expanded its original Covid-19 relief program and will be distributing a total of $10 million to individuals experiencing hardships in Austin and Travis County.

Applications open Sept. 14 online and over the phone for the new Relief in a State of Emergency (RISE) 2.0 program. Each household will be selected via a randomized selection process to receive $2,000 in emergency funds. The third-party vendors distributing the funds are answering questions about the program through the program’s phone bank (512-714-6950) until Friday, Sept. 11.

Among the list of eligibility requirements, applicants must be at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, experiencing hardship related to Covid-19 and must not have received other financial assistance in the past 30 days.

The original RISE fund – now RISE 1.0 – was established in April through a Council resolution to distribute $15 million in federal and state emergency funds to relief services and social service organizations to provide assistance to Austinites impacted by the pandemic. The fund awarded 20 organizations and agencies between May and June.

After RISE 1.0’s funds had been mostly exhausted, the city decided to direct some of the $270 million it has received in federal and local Covid-19 relief toward individuals in need, rather than businesses. The funds for this new direct relief lottery were approved in a June 4 City Council resolution. The amendment to expand and open the RISE fund to individuals in need came from Council Member Greg Casar, removing $9 million from the pool reserved for small businesses.

The resolution asks for the distribution process to be through a lottery or similar randomized system to reduce the inequalities that may result from a first-come, first-serve process. To do this, the city is launching an online application portal managed by Family Independence Initiative, one of the two third-party vendors the city chose through a request-for-qualifications process.

In addition to sharing the $1 million in RISE 2.0 administrative costs with El Buen Samaritano, the other RISE 2.0 distributor, FII was also a RISE 1.0 grant recipient, having been awarded $2.5 million. FII, a national nonprofit with a branch in Austin, has received over $3 million in funding from the city for social services and education and training consulting since May.

Austinites can also apply through a phone bank, which is operated by El Buen Samaritano. The Central Texas nonprofit was also awarded a RISE 1.0 grant and has been contracted by the city for social and educational services at least since 2008. All chosen applicants who applied via phone bank will receive the funds through a prepaid card distributed by El Buen Samaritano, and those who applied via FII’s portal can receive the money via bank transfer or prepaid card.

Applications close Sept. 21, but the phone bank will remain open for questions through Oct. 2. The city plans for the funds to be distributed between Sept. 23 and Oct. 30.

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