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Austin opening up relief program for live music venues affected by Covid-19

Friday, December 11, 2020 by Andrew Weber, KUT

Austin’s ailing live music venues have been thrown a lifeline ahead of the year’s end.

The city will begin accepting applications Friday for short- and long-term grants through the Live Music Preservation Fund. The money, which the city says it hopes to dole out by the end of the year, will be distributed by the Long Center for the Performing Arts.

Getting to this point took some time. Absent federal relief, City Council set aside city money in October to provide $5 million through its Save Austin’s Vital Economic Sectors (SAVES) program, which also aims to assist child care providers and longtime restaurants and bars.

The wait has been frustrating for struggling businesses, staffers and musicians who depend on the live music scene, which likely won’t come back in full force for another year. Members of the community pointed to the quick turnaround on similar programs in cities like Nashville and Houston, while the city argued it wanted to provide long-term relief to ensure businesses survive after the pandemic, not just a quick check.

The grant program’s opening comes a week after Council approved guidelines for it and well ahead of the Economic Development Department’s tentative timeline to provide relief. The department initially expected to open up applications and distribute money by February.

Venues can apply starting Friday at 10 a.m. To qualify, they must be within city limits and show they’ve lost income as a result of Covid-19.

Venues can apply for emergency relief of $20,000 or long-term relief of up to $140,000 (with monthly installments). Businesses receiving long-term help must go through so-called technical assistance, which includes a financial evaluation and legal guidance. They’ll also be required to commit to Austin’s equity plan, which the city hopes will increase opportunities for people of color working in the live music community.

To apply, go to the Long Center’s application site. The deadline is Jan. 11. The city says it hopes to begin distributing money by the end of December.

The city has yet to finalize a third party to distribute grants for a separate fund for so-called legacy businesses, which could include bars, restaurants and arts venues that have been operating in Austin for at least 20 years.

Photo caption: Musician Andrew Noble attends a rally in support of the city’s SAVES program in September.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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