Austin City Council working out how to spend federal coronavirus relief money

COVID-19 has hit Austin hard, both medically and economically. For example, there has been a projected $36.7 million drop in hotel tax revenue, as well as a $68 million decline in airport revenue and an $8.9 million decline in parking revenue. City budget staff is trying to plan for the next fiscal year, conservatively.

“We are taking many actions, hiring freezes, a reduction in discretionary spending, looking to the prudent use of our reserves,” said Ed Van Eenoo, deputy chief financial officer for the city of Austin.

The passage of the CARES Act gave Austin well over $200 million to help out.


“We are receiving multiple sources of funding from the federal government but we also have to be cognizant of the fluid nature of this pandemic and how we can be mindful and strategic about how to use those limited resources,” said city manager Spencer Cronk.

In a work session Tuesday, the council began to hash out where this money will be allocated, with a vote to follow soon. The budget staff proposed spending the most on economic support, like an artist relief fund, rental assistance, and the already approved RISE fund. However, there are concerns the RISE fund, in particular, is not getting enough money.

“We've approved specific allocations to various different kinds of funds and I see increases in almost all of those. I didn't see any increase to the RISE,” said mayor pro-tem Delia Garza.


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In addition to talking about solving the economic crisis, public health gave an update on nursing home testing. “We have completed 13 sites.  We've developed a plan to ensure to test all staff and residents of 32 nursing homes and 75 assisted living facilities,” said Stephanie Hayden, director at Austin Public Health.

Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott emphasized the fact that communities of color are the most severely affected. “We can see that this week our Hispanic population and our African-American population are overrepresented when it comes to hospitalizations," he said.

RELATED: City of Austin, pandemic response group distribute more than 400K masks

Escott said the curve is flattening, but he still hopes Austin can continue to practice proper distancing and precautions to prevent another surge in hospitalization.


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