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.

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

City Council Approves SAVES Resolution for Vital Economic Sector Assistance

The Austin City Council approved the Save Austin’s Vital Economic Sectors or “SAVES” Resolution late last night. The resolution (item 62 here) calls for the city manager to investigate a wide variety of funding sources that could contribute to financially supporting local music venues, art venues, restaurants, bars, and child care centers as the economic fallout from the pandemic continues. 

Acknowledging the need for creative ideas, there were many funding ideas proposed. Detailed plans regarding those proposals will be investigated by the city manager and presented at the September 29th work session for voting at the October 1st council meeting. While funding is not immediately available, this is an important step towards more financial support from the city for Austin’s struggling service industry. 

Imminent and generous state and federal funding are still needed to ensure the recovery of these and other hard hit industries in Austin.

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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

Austin Small Business Relief Grant Stats

The City of Austin’s Small Business Relief Grant Program awarded grants to 885 small and local businesses with a total of $16.2 million in funds dispersed. The demand far outstripped the supply of funds almost immediately, and 35% of applicants received funds.  The top sector, with 180 grants awarded, was Restaurants, Clubs and Bars with $4.3M in grants. Arts, Entertainment and Recreation businesses, with 101 grants awarded, received $1.4M followed by 104 Personal Care Services businesses who received $1.3M. Further details about the funding received by sector are available here.

This grant program provided much needed financial help to small and local businesses who were selected, but the need for more funding like this is urgent and ongoing. 

Austin City Council continues to explore other ideas to provide more assistance to Austin’s small and local businesses. 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

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