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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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Friday, March 12, 2021 by Jo Clifton
Rescue plan gives Central Texas $500 million
According to U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), Travis County is set to receive $247.08 million and the city of Austin an estimated $195.8 million under the American Rescue Plan, approved by Congress and signed yesterday by President Joe Biden.
The money for states is generally determined by population, while also using unemployment as a criteria. That puts Texas second in line behind California, the nation’s most populous state. California state and local governments are set to receive $42.3 billion, with $14.6 billion going to local governments. Texas will receive $27.3 billion for the state and local governments. Central Texas governments are poised to receive more than $500 million.
Although the federal government has not released guidelines for spending, City Council members who spoke to the Austin Monitor were hopeful that the funds could be used for the city’s most critical needs.
Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison said via email, “After more than a year of this dual public health and economic crisis, we are finally limping toward the finish line. This federal relief package is a big boost, but our needs are even bigger. Our top priorities should be stabilizing those residents and businesses that have been hardest hit as well as building a more robust community that has the resiliency to stand stronger through the next big crisis.”
Mayor Steve Adler said via email that he hoped that the city would focus on “things like ending homelessness and providing housing to those most in need. The federal money should address things like what happens at the end of the eviction moratorium and also help build back the hospitality/restaurant/entertainment industries that have been so badly hurt. We need to exit the pandemic a more just city than we entered, so it would be appropriate to invest in things like training people for new middle-skills jobs, child care, health equity and getting digital accessibility to all.”
Council Member Alison Alter said in an email, “I believe it is critical that we invest this money to increase the resilience of our community. While some portion will likely provide immediate relief and cover vaccine costs, we need to use these funds to invest in people and the future in ways that strengthen our institutions and ecosystems and offer pathways to better quality of life for Austinites. For me, this means spending on programs like the Austin Civilian Conservation Corps, workforce development (upskilling), child care, our nonprofit ecosystem, our venues and artists and our health care infrastructure.”
Council Member Kathie Tovo was thinking about how to help people in need of basic necessities, such as food and shelter, but like Alter, she is also interested in helping people get jobs and keep the jobs they have. She told the Monitor, “I’m going to look toward what I would regard as the most critical needs, support for food and meals programs, housing, and rental support.” She said Council would probably have conversations similar to those from earlier in the pandemic about how to balance immediate needs with long-term solutions.
Tovo said it was important to her to invest in programs that could meet the needs of more than one group, such as funding caregiver meals provided by restaurants needing financial support. She said it was also important to help quality child care facilities that would in turn allow parents to get back to work.
In addition to Austin and Travis County, Doggett named several other Central Texas communities he expects to receive funding. That includes Hays County, which can expect about $44.64 million; San Marcos, which can expect a little over $18 million; Kyle, which can expect $10.55 million; Buda at $3.69 million; and Lockhart at $3.08 million.
Doggett said in his news release, “With our local leaders overcoming state failure after state failure, along with those from the Trump administration, I am so pleased to announce that over half a billion dollars in reinforcements for their efforts are expected to come directly to our Central Texas governments from this rescue package.”
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.