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Over half the city’s Covid-19 relief programs enter funding distribution stages

Tuesday, September 29, 2020 by Savana Dunning

By the end of September, nine of the 13 established economic relief programs for those impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic will have entered their funding distribution phase, providing money to Austinites in need.

In a Sept. 23 progress report, Chief Economic Recovery Officer Veronica Briseño said the city has distributed over $37.5 million in financial support to the different sectors impacted by the pandemic.

Four of the city’s programs have entered the final stage of the Economic Development Department’s Five-Phase Program Development Approach. These programs – the Childcare Provider Relief Grant, the Creative Worker Relief Grant, the Music Disaster Relief Fund and the Small Business Relief Grant – have already delivered money to awarded applicants.

The Childcare Provider Relief Grant, which provided grants to child care centers, spent all of its $1.05 million, alongside an extra $148,000 allocation from Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza. In August, City Council approved an amendment to the program’s criteria, striking a requirement that made it difficult for many East Austin child care centers to apply, resulting in 72 awardees out of the 120 sites that applied, with an average of $14,556 given to each.

The Creative Worker Relief Grant awarded $3.36 million to individuals in the creative sector, with half of the funding going toward applicants who scored highest on the program’s equity matrix and the rest through a random lottery. The city awarded 40 percent of the 4,666 eligible applicants with grants of $1,000 or $2,000. The city staff team working on the project is asking Council to ratify its contract with the Austin Better Business Bureau, though the memo does not state what the amendment is for.

Having closed applications and chosen awardees, the Creative Space Disaster Relief Program and the Economic Injury Bridge Loan Program are in stage four. The Creative Space program, which offers grants to music and arts venues, is working to collect outstanding required items to execute the contracts.

Another program in the fourth phase, Relief in a State of Emergency (RISE), which offers $12 million to individual households, closed applications on Sept. 21 and plans to distribute funds by Oct. 30.

Other programs in stage four either still have applications open or are deciding on awardees. The Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants (RENT) program, which completed a pilot program in May, is keeping applications open until the full $12.4 million is expended, whereas the Austin Non-Profit Relief Grant closes applications on Oct. 9, having reopened to distribute leftover money.

There are still three programs that have been in the development stages since the economic relief programs were created. While the Commercial Property Owner Relief Grant is being incorporated into Save Austin’s Vital Economic Sectors (SAVES) that Council will vote on this Thursday, the other two have just begun meetings to discuss implementation. The Technical Assistance Program, which has $1 million allocated to create classes and coaching for grantees of other programs, and the Worker and Customer Safety Program, which contracts counseling services for Covid-19 mental health challenges, both have an expected implementation deadline in October, although that is subject to change.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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