Council extends COVID-19 disaster declaration, approves relocation for hotel residents

The COVID-19 threat is everywhere. Austin City Council acknowledged that at their regular Thursday meeting

“I do think it's important we actually make it possible for people to do safe practices including staying home, including quarantining themselves,” said Ann Kitchen, district one council member.

Kitchen asked the city manager what steps the city is taking in case it's own employees become infected with coronavirus. “The health and safety of our employees is the number one priority. We have been working closely with our HR department to create forums for HR managers to ask those questions and provide answers to our employees as they come up,” said city manager Spencer Cronk. 

In line with the Travis County Commissioners Court, city council approved extending the city's disaster declaration over concerns about coronavirus. There is not yet a confirmed case in Travis County.

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“We also play a huge role for the rest of the city in terms of helping slow down the spread,” said Kitchen.

Additionally, city council unanimously approved to help 11 people relocate from the Rodeway Inn to permanent housing. The city says they will close on the hotel next month and turn it into a home for the homeless.

“What we will do, starting tomorrow, is start working with those individuals that we've identified as some of the longer-term residents of the hotel,” said Alex Gale, interim office at the Office for Real Estate Services.

Gale says the city will help these people become eligible for relocation benefits. Each person would get around 32-thousand dollars, but it won’t be cold hard cash, “It's a rental assistance payment, moving payment and a contingency. They don’t necessarily get that right off the bat but they do have to go find a replacement home to then move to, we can help them,” said Gale.

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Austin resident Gustavo Pena hopes the city keeps it's word. “There is not enough affordable units. I hope the City of Austin does comply but I will tell you what, it's a horror story right now. I wish and hope that it's true they will house them rapidly. I just don’t believe so. After the money is depleted, what are they going to do? They are going to get kicked out,” said Pena

Taking a proactive measure, the city did approve an agreement with Catholic Charities to provide housing stability services to people at risk of being homeless.