AUSTIN, Texas - A task force has been created to honor public health priorities and focus on thoughtfully and safely reopening the regional economy.
Officials made the announcement at a news conference this morning about the formation of the Opening Central Texas for Business Task Force. Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, Austin Mayor Steve Adler, and Austin Chamber President and CEO Laura Huffman spoke about the task force and also discussed what the public needs to know and do before the economy is reopened.
“I know we can’t stay home forever, we need to find ways to adapt to COVID-19 and begin commerce in a mindful and measured way,” said Judge Sarah Eckhardt.
Eckhardt said what better partner is there to figure this all out, than commerce itself. “We've asked the Chamber of Commerce to be the host of a very big tent conversation about how we adapt our commerce to COVID-19,” said Eckhardt.
The task force will think of ways to safely and thoughtfully open up businesses in the region without hurting public health. As for the state, governor Greg Abbott is expected to announce broader reopening plans on Monday.
“I recognize the governor on Monday is going to issue orders and obviously that becomes a large part of our reality and we have to figure out how best to do whatever is ordered in our city,” said Adler.
The creation of the task force comes after the City of Austin launched an emergency loan program for small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Austin Economic Injury Bridge Loan Program provides loans up to $35,000 for daily needs like rent, payroll, and debt. The loan is intended to “bridge the gap” between the time a major catastrophe hits and when a business secures recovery resources.
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Officials are hoping both the task force and the loan program will offer some relief as many businesses continue to struggle.
Adler said nobody should take this announcement as a greenlight, he said we will be dealing with the virus for some time, and even when things reopen, it will not be business as usual.
“We have to find that place that protects public health and safety and at the same time allows us to adapt and move forward,” said Adler.
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