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Travis County launches new coronavirus relief grants for nonprofits

Thursday, October 1, 2020 by Jessi Devenyns

With $61.1 million to spend and the clock ticking ever closer to the expenditure deadline of Dec. 30 set by the federal government for coronavirus relief funds, the Travis County Commissioners Court authorized a new grant program called TCTX Serve to assist area nonprofits.

The county already has $560,000 allocated to support organizations that provide a safety net for the community. County staff urged commissioners to give the green light to their ambitious timeline for rolling out this new program and its associated funding for area nonprofits. On Sept. 29, the Commissioners Court unanimously approved the timeline and program parameters.

Travis County will open applications for grant funding to nonprofits from Oct. 5-16. By Oct. 30, the county will select grant recipients following an internal eligibility-determination process in collaboration with Business and Community Lenders of Texas. County staffers will present the recommendations to the commissioners in November for final approval before distributing payments.

Organizations receiving grants will have until Dec. 10 to submit an invoice to the county for reimbursement of expenses incurred between March 1 and Nov. 30 due to the pandemic.

Qualifying nonprofits are located within Travis County and must provide at least half of their services to county residents. An additional criterion requires applicants to serve residents in areas of Travis County that were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. “We’re trying to make sure that they are agencies or ZIP codes that have been identified as being most impacted by Covid-19,” said Lawrence Lyman with the Health and Human Services Department.

Although the county is hoping to fund agencies that are serving the most affected populations, the selection system will be a lottery process. The county will award selected nonprofits up to $50,000.

Lyman said while the nonprofits will have just over half a million dollars to spread out into the community, “our goal when we first brought this forward was to put at least $1 million into the community with this program.”

In order to achieve that goal, he said county staff will evaluate other programs that are underspending their allocations in order to determine whether they can move the unused dollars into the TCTX Serve program.

As of Sept. 23, Travis County had only spent 17.2 percent of its federal coronavirus relief funds. The $10 million rent and mortgage assistance program, in particular, has seen an underspend with barely 20 percent of its total dollars used. Only 75 percent of the $7.3 million in small city grants were executed.

Conversely, Travis County was successful with its TCTX Thrive program, which the Planning and Budget office expects to be fully executed by mid-October. This newest grant program mirrors the parameters of TCTX Thrive, even working with the same lenders to ensure a smooth rollout.

Commissioners heartily expressed their support for the program, with Commissioner Brigid Shea saying she wished the financial support was more robust. “I’d hoped it would be more, but I’m glad we’re getting this out,” she said.

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