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EDD provides a breakdown of federal funds under its purview

Friday, August 13, 2021 by Amy Smith

While the Covid-19 pandemic has posed a host of unprecedented challenges for the city, it’s also led to an influx of federal funds under the American Rescue Plan Act. A recent breakdown of these dollars shows how the portion of funds managed by the city Economic Development Department are being spent based on City Council’s spending framework direction.

In a memo to Council Thursday, Chief Economic Recovery Officer Veronica Briseño provided a status report on the first allotment of relief funds received in May. The city anticipates a second allocation of federal funds in May 2022.

Funds Council designated for homelessness ($106.7 million) and rental assistance ($35.3 million) are managed by the office that handles homelessness services and the Housing and Planning Department, respectively.

First up is the Community Navigator Program, a federal initiative designed to assist small businesses, creative professionals and civic groups. On that front, EDD is finalizing a request for proposals to be issued to prospective contractors to provide a range of services to small businesses, from technical assistance to marketing and outreach support. EDD expects to publish the RFP by September.

Working in partnership with Central Health, EDD is completing the scope and timeline for engineering and constructing infrastructure for the Colony Park Sustainable Community Health Center in Northeast Austin, an area that experienced disproportionate health impacts from the pandemic.

Child care and early childhood education are also getting a boost. EDD and Austin Public Health are co-managing this year’s allocated $8.5 million to go toward a wide array of programming with the expectation that Travis County will want to partner with the city with additional dollars.

With food security and food access issues becoming more visible during the throes of the pandemic, $3 million has been allocated toward tackling these problems. EDD is joining the Office of Sustainability and Public Health to develop a framework that will include $2 million for emergency food access needs, $500,000 for regional food systems planning and another $500,000 to help jump-start at least one community-owned or community-controlled grocery store.

The city and county are collaborating on workforce development investments to cover the cost of contracting with community partners to train residents for careers in the health care industry and to provide training for members of the creative community in areas ranging from media production to content generation.

Another workforce development initiative focuses on the creative sector, an effort that is still taking shape with extensive input from the city’s Arts Commission, according to Briseño’s memo.

As expected, the number of applications from arts and culture nonprofits seeking one-time $20,000 grants far exceeded the $2 million in available funding. The city contracted with the Austin Better Business Bureau to serve as third-party administrator as well as the Austin Revitalization Authority and Mission Capital to provide application assistance. A scoring matrix was used for selecting the applicants.

Using the federal funds, EDD will spend the next two years launching programs and services for artists, musicians and related organizations, providing $10 million for arts, $6.5 million for music and $4.21 million for both sectors in the 2022 budget year.

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