Austin Public Health Vaccination Pre-registration System

Austin Public Health launched an online COVID-19 vaccination pre-registration system. The pre-registration is only for the vaccines that APH receives, not for other vaccine providers in Austin-Travis County. A link  tree for other possible provider wait lists is available here. If you have private insurance, you are encouraged to call your primary care provider or pharmacy first. Please note that Austin Public Health is currently vaccinating only those residents who meet the criteria for Phase 1A or 1B, which includes healthcare workers, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, and individuals who are 65 years or older. If you meet that criteria and appointments are still available, you will be allowed to schedule an vaccination appointment. If you are not eligible or appointments are full, you will be placed on a waiting list and notified in the future if and when additional vaccines become available to APH. Appointments are required and, to protect patient privacy, locations will only be available to those with scheduled appointments. Citizens can pre-register here AustinTexas.gov/COVID19-Vaccines.

Governor’s Order (GA32) Drops Business Capacity to 50%

On January 10, the Governor of Texas announced additional COVID-19 occupancy restrictions due to worsening conditions in the region. Under Order GA 32, if any area has COVID-19 hospitalizations that represent 15% of overall hospitalizations for seven consecutive days, additional restrictions on businesses and hospitals must occur. Austin-Travis County is part of Trauma Service Area O, which encompasses 11 counties in Central Texas and is effected by this new order.

The restrictions outlined in GA 32 are required and are not optional for local jurisdictions. Businesses, including restaurants and retail, are required to move to 50% occupancy (from 75% occupancy). Additionally, hospitals are required to stop elective surgeries.

In a statement Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority, said “we are incredibly concerned that our area has hit the hospitalization rate which has resulted in the rollback on the occupancy of businesses. The projections have been concerning for some time, and this is just the latest reminder that Austin-Travis County is experiencing a deadly surge in cases as a result of holiday gatherings and gatherings thereafter. The additional restrictions placed by GA 32 alone, though, will not be enough to counterbalance this surge in cases and hospitalizations. In other jurisdictions that hit this point prior to the Austin area, cases and hospitalizations continue their uncontrolled rise. Dallas/Fort Worth is at 27%, San Antonio at 22%, and Houston at almost 20% and all three continue to rise. We need every person in this community to understand that exceeding our hospital capacity is now inevitable, but how far we exceed that capacity depends on all of us. Today is the day to decide to stay home and reduce risk to save our hospitals and save lives.”

This announcement comes one day after Austin-Travis County activated an Alternate Care Site (ACS) to take specific COVID-19 low-acuity patients in order to relieve stress on local hospitals. Stephanie Hayden, Austin Public Health Director, warns residents that “it is critically important that everyone follow protective measures at this time. Wearing a mask, washing your hands, watching your distance, and avoiding gatherings have been lifesaving measures throughout this pandemic. We will not be able to vaccinate or enforce our way out of the surge already happening, so we need to take it upon ourselves to protect our community.”

Questions about details of the Governor’s Order or the Governor’s announcement should be directed to the Governor’s Office and more information about COVID-19, visit AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.

Shop the Block Program Extended To June 2021

The City of Austin has extended the Shop the Block pilot program until June 2021 to help small businesses continue operations during COVID-19 restrictions. This pilot program, brought forth by Councilmember Pool, was originally conceived and implemented in the summer of 2020. The program allows food, beverage, and retail businesses to apply for a 6 month permit to expand their operations outdoors onto private parking lots, public sidewalks, public parking spaces, or roads and alleyways in front of their establishments to expand their ability to safely serve customers.

These permits are quick to apply for and affordable so that they are accessible to all business owners. The City has dedicated Austin Center for Events staff ready to help navigate the application and provide support. Contact them before you submit your application to ask questions, review site plans, or schedule a site visit. Email specialevents@austintexas.gov for help. Step by step directions and more resources are available at AustinTexas.gov/ShopTheBlock.

$325 Billion for Small Business in New Stimulus Package

Thanks to the SBA for putting this amazing outline together so quickly and for Local First Utah for bringing it to our attention. As additional information is released about how to access these funds, we will share it as soon as we get it. Stay strong out there, Local Austin!

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The Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act is a $325 billion aid package providing additional assistance to the hardest-hit small businesses, nonprofits and venues that are struggling to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The act provides funding for a second round of forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses and nonprofits experiencing significant revenue losses, implements programmatic improvements to PPP, funds grants to shuttered venues, and enacts emergency enhancements to other U.S. Small Business Administration lending programs.

The main points of the new Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act

Paycheck Protection Program Second Draw Loans:

– Creates a second round of PPP loans for eligible businesses.
– Defines eligibility for the PPP second draw as small businesses that have no more than 300 employees and demonstrate at least a 25 percent reduction in gross revenues between comparable quarters in 2019 and 2020.
– Establishes a maximum loan size of 2.5X average monthly payroll costs, up to $2 million.
– Allows small businesses assigned to the industry NAICS code 72 (Accommodation and Food Services) to receive PPP second draw loans equal to 3.5X average monthly payroll costs in order to helps these businesses combat onerous State and local restrictions.
– Maintains existing expansions in eligibility for businesses assigned to the industry NAICS code 72 (Accommodation and Food Services).
– Borrowers receive full loan forgiveness if they spend at least 60 percent of their PPP second draw loan on payroll costs over a time period of their choosing between 8 weeks and 24 weeks.
– Affirms the eligibility of churches and religious organizations and prohibits a future administration from making them ineligible.
– Preserves the application of affiliation rules to nonprofits, which makes Planned Parenthood ineligible.
– Includes set-asides to support first-time PPP borrowers with 10 or fewer employees, second-time PPP borrowers with 10 or fewer employees, first-time PPP borrowers who have been made newly eligible, and second-time returning PPP borrowers. Additionally, provides for a set-aside for loans made by community lenders.

Paycheck Protection Program Improvements:

– Expands PPP allowable and forgivable expenses to include supplier costs on existing contracts and purchase orders, including the cost for perishable goods at any time, costs relating to worker protective equipment and adaptive costs, and technology operations expenditures.
– Provides needed assurances to PPP lenders that no enforcement action could be taken against a lender who originated the loan in good faith, complied with all regulations, and relied in good faith on a borrower’s certification and documentation.
– Enhances borrower flexibility by allowing borrowers to select their loan forgiveness covered period between 8 weeks and 24 weeks
– Simplifies the forgiveness application process for smaller loans up to $150,000 while increasing SBA’s ability to audit and review forgiven loans
– Allows PPP borrowers to include additional group insurance payments when calculating their PPP payroll costs. This would cover insurance plans such as vision, dental, disability and life insurance.
– Allows borrowers who returned all or part of their PPP loan to reapply for the maximum amount applicable. It also allows lenders to recalculate borrower’s loan amounts due to changes in regulations regardless of whether SBA Form 1502 has been submitted.
– Establishes the loan amount calculation for farmers and ranchers to better align with recent years’ income.
– Provides Farm Credit System Institutions with greater certainty and equity in PPP lending participation.
– Defines “seasonal employer.”
– Expands PPP eligibility for certain 501(c)(6) nonprofits and Destination Marketing Organizations with 300 or fewer employees that do not receive more than 15 percent of their revenue from lobbying.
– Expands PPP eligibility to local newspapers and T.V., and radio stations previously made ineligible by their affiliation with other stations.
– Establishes a procedure in the bankruptcy process if the Administrator determines certain small business debtors in Chapter 11 are eligible for PPP loans.
– Eliminates the requirement that EIDL advances be subtracted from PPP forgiveness.

Emergency Enhancements to SBA’s Lending Programs

– Temporarily enhances the terms of the 7(a) loan program by increasing the loan guarantee to 90 percent and offering reduced or no fees for the borrower and the lender. Additionally, it would temporarily increase the 7(a) express loan limit and loan guarantee to provide access to needed working capital.
– Temporarily eliminates fees for the 504 loan program and favorable terms for refinancing loans.
– Increases the aggregate loan limit for microloan intermediaries in order to ensure intermediaries have increased capacity to make loans to under served and under banked borrowers.
– Extends the Small Business Debt Relief program, Section 1112 of the CARES Act, which would defer payments of principal and interest on new and existing SBA 7(a), 504, and Microloan programs for eligible entities.

Increased Transparency and Accountability in SBA Programs:

– Mitigates fraud by requiring new measures for the SBA to verify eligibility for EIDL Advance grants.
– Appropriates $20 million to the SBA Inspector General to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse in the Targeted EIDL Advance grant program.
– Increases transparency of SBA’s PPP forgiveness audit and review process by requiring the SBA to submit a detailed forgiveness audit plan to Congress within 30 days of enactment. Appropriates $50 million to support SBA’s PPP audit authority.
– Requires the SBA Administrator and the Secretary of the Treasury to testify within 120 days of enactment and twice a year for two years to the Senate and House Small Business Committees.
– Requires the SBA to comply with GAO requests within 15 days unless the Administrator provides the Senate and House Small Business Committees with a detailed justification for the inability of the Administrator to comply.
-Codifies the list of ineligible businesses for PPP, which includes: publicly-traded businesses; entities listed in 13 C.F.R. 120.110 except for entities from that regulation which have otherwise been made eligible by statute or guidance; entities affiliated with entities in the People’s Republic of China; registrants under the Foreign Agents Registration Act; and entities that are receiving a grant under the live venues grant program.
– Prohibits PPP loan proceeds to be used for lobbying activities.
– Requires the President, Vice President, the head of an Executive department, or a Member of Congress as well as their spouse to disclose this status when receiving forgiveness on a Paycheck Protection Program initial loan. Prohibits these individuals from obtaining a future PPP loan.

Support for Venues:

– Establishes a $15 billion grant program to support shuttered live venues, theaters, museums, and zoos that have experienced significant revenue losses.
– Provides enhanced verification and requires increased transparency of SBA’s oversight plans to ensure funds are directly benefiting eligible entities.

Increased Appropriations: $325 billion

– $284.45 billion for Paycheck Protection Program Second Draw Loans.
– $25 million for Minority Business Development Centers under the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) to assist minority business enterprises with technical assistance, such as applying for PPP.
– $50 million to SBA for PPP auditing and fraud mitigation purposes.
– $15 billion for grants for shuttered live venues, theaters, museums, and zoos.
– $20 billion for the EIDL Advance program, of which $20 million is for the SBA Inspector General.
– $3.5 billion for continuing the Section 7(a) Debt Relief program.
– $2 billion to carry out SBA lending enhancements.
– Of this amount, $57 million for the Microloan program for technical assistance and direct lending to underserved borrowers.
– Rescission of Unobligated Funds: $146 billion
– Rescinds $137.5 billion in unobligated funds from PPP.
– Rescinds $9 billion in unobligated funds from Section 1112 of the CARES Act.

Austin Live Music Preservation Fund Open

Good news for live music venues in danger of closing: the City of Austin Economic Development Department has opened applications for emergency relief grants from the Austin Live Music Preservation Fund, for which $5 million was mobilized through the Save Austin’s Vital Economic Sectors (SAVES) resolution, originally announced in September. The funds will be administered by The Long Center For The Performing Arts.

Eligible live music venues must be located in a City of Austin Council District and must meet or exceed the City’s COVID-19 safety guidelines. For those in immediate danger of closing, $20k grants will be available this month, with up to $140k in additional funding (up to $40k monthly) available for those who qualify. Legal and accounting services, real estate advice and guidance on lease negotiations, and other professional services and long-term planning from community experts will also be available to venues receiving emergency funding.

For eligibility guidelines and application, visit www.thelongcenter.org/saveaustinvenues. For questions and application assistance, contact the Long Center by email at saveaustinvenues@thelongcenter.org or by phone 512-457-5181.

Applications close Monday, January 11, 2021 at 5 p.m.

SAVES Fund Update

In October, the Austin City Council approved Ordinance No. 20201001-052, which authorized the development of three grant programs that together are referred to as Save Austin’s Vital Economic Sectors (SAVES). These programs seek to provide immediate relief for live music venues, art venues, restaurants and bars, and childcare facilities. 
The current plan is to expand and modify the Chapter 380 program to address the needs of the business community impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. A draft of the Chapter 380: Recovery Lease Incentive Program is available here (see item 11).  While not yet finalized, the preliminary list of eligibility requirements hints at a broad scope of eligible types of businesses by including those in adjacent sectors to those named in the original resolution.
This item was postponed at the November 12th Austin City Council meeting and should be on the December 3rd agenda. Stay tuned for updates!
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Global pandemic or not, AIBA works tirelessly to support and advocate for Austin’s local business community. Reach out to us via email at hello@ibuyaustin.com