New Stage 3 COVID-19 Risk-Based Guidelines for Austin

A press release from the City of Austin (and Travis County) yesterday announced the move to Stage 3 risk restrictions for our area. It goes with out saying that residents and business owners but continue to be vigilant and practice good hygiene, social distancing, wearing face coverings and adhering to occupancy requirements to ensure we continue to reduce the COVID-19 positivity rate. The authorities request that individuals “continue to act as if we are still in Stage 4 as much as possible so that we can be in a better place as school starts.”

As noted in the provided Risk Based Guidance Chart, Stage 4 called for expanded essential businesses only to open. In contrast Stage 3, calls for essential and reopened businesses to return to operations. Everyone, regardless of risk, should avoid social gatherings and any gatherings greater than 10 people. Occupancy guidelines by business type can be found here.

The release from the city notes that “one of the goals we are trying to reach is to have a positivity rate (defined as the number of positive cases divided by the number of overall tests being performed) below five percent by September 8, when most Austin-Travis County students start their school year. In addition to an overall positivity rate below five percent, every individual race and ethnic group in Austin should have a positivity rate below five percent.”

For the latest information and updates, visit AustinTexas.gov/COVID19

Updated COVID-19 Orders from Austin-Travis County

The City of Austin and Travis County have extended the “Stay Home, Mask, and Otherwise Be Safe” Orders to stay in place through December 15, 2020. Among other things, these orders require residents of  Austin and Travis County to continue to practice social distancing, increased hygiene, and face-covering behaviors for the remainder of the year. In addition to these personal hygiene guidelines, both orders also suggest that social gatherings up to 10 people be avoided or minimized, and that socializing in groups of 10+ individuals outside of the same household is prohibited. You can get more details by reading the full City of Austin and Travis County Orders at these links.

Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants (RENT) Program To Launch August 19

Another round of rent relief is coming to the citizens of Austin from our city government. Please share this with your employees and staff who are struggling to pay rent due to reduced income caused by COVID-19. A full explanation of the program and program requirements is below from the City of Austin “Recent News” email:

“The City of Austin’s Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department (NHCD) and the Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA) are launching the Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants (RENT) Assistance Program, a $17.75 million program providing $12.9 million in direct rent support for income-eligible Austin renters who are financially impacted by COVID-19.  The RENT program will also offer related support for tenant stabilization, eviction prevention and direct community outreach.

The RENT Application Portal will open Wednesday August 19, 2020 at 8:00a.m. (CST) and remain open through January 2021, or until funds are expended.  Eligible renters may submit their application for random selection.  If selected and the application qualifies, a payment will be issued directly to the landlord in the full amount of the contracted rent.  All applications, regardless of when they are submitted after the initial opening of the application period, will be given an equal chance for random selection.

One month of paid rent may be available to households whose income is between 30 percent and 80 percent of the Median Family Income.  Up to three months of paid rent may be available to households whose income is between 0 percent and 30 percent of the Median Family Income.

“The City and Housing Authority are thrilled to be able to offer this critical support to help Austin renters stay in their homes during this difficult time,” said Michael Gerber, CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of Austin. “Mayor and City Council provided much needed funds for this emergency rental assistance program as a critical step in assisting with the financial impacts of COVID-19 in our community.”

NHCD Director Rosie Truelove “We are thrilled to partner with HACA to move funds quickly to help as many Austin renters as possible, recognizing that while the $12.9 million provided by the RENT program is not enough to meet the overwhelming need, it is a proud step we can take to help Austin renters in need.”

The Austin Apartment Association Executive Vice President Emily Blair shared support of the RENT program stating “Austin Apartment Association members work closely with our renters in the community to help connect them with resources and meet immediate needs.  Working together, the RENT program will provide much-needed assistance to Austin renters impacted financially by COVID-19 and help keep Austin’s supply of rental housing intact.”

RENT Assistance Program Eligibility Requirements:

• Applicants must live within Austin’s full purpose city limits;
• Applicant household gross annual income must be 80 percent or less of the Median Family Income (See income chart below)”

Small Business Relief Grant Preliminary Metrics

The City of Austin has posted preliminary metrics taken from applications for the Small Business Relief Grant Program, which closes tomorrow, July 24 at 5PM. As of Tuesday evening, July 21, there were 1,333 applicants. 67% of these businesses have been partially operating during the pandemic, 22% have been completely closed, and 11% have been fully operational. The vast majority (784 applicants) are LLC’s, with 231 being sole proprietors and 237 operating under a different business structure. 1,105 applicants have received some other form of recovery funding, reporting an average of 6.9 employees with an average annual revenue of $974,000.

44% of businesses applying for funding have been in business for five years or under, 24% for six to ten years, 17% for ten to twenty years, 10% for over twenty years, and 4.35% for less than a year. 49% of executives applying are white, 18% are Asian, 14% are Hispanic/Latino, 7% are Black/African American, and 5% prefer not to answer. 700 executives are male and 606 are female. 440 applicants are between the ages of 30-39, 436 are between the ages of 40-49, 255 are between the ages of 50-59, 139 are over 60, 55 are between the ages of 20-29, and 8 prefer not to answer.

The top ten industries applying for the grant are, in order: Restaurants, Commercial Kitchens, Bars (268); Personal Care Services such as Barbers, Salons, Nail Salons, etc. (149); Arts, Entertainment, Recreation (145); Other Services (137); Retail (118); Health Care and Social  Assistance (112); Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services (77); Educational Services (70); Information, Software, Telecommunications, Media, etc. (43) and Finance, Insurance, Real Estate Rental and Leasing (42).

You still have a little over 24 hours to apply for this grant. If you are unsure if your business qualifies, take a minute to go over the eligibility criteria and grant FAQ, which has been updated with a list of questions received from businesses (refresh your browser window!) This page also contains charts of the metrics mentioned above. If you still have questions after reviewing the grant information page, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Better Business Bureau, who is administering the grant. They can be reached at 512-318-2683 and businessreliefgrant@austin.bbb.org. You can also reach out to us at for assistance at hello@ibuyaustin.com .

Gather your documentation, take a deep breath, and good luck!

 

Small Business Grant Scoring Matrix

The Austin Small Business Relief Grant is the available to help businesses impacted by COVID-19 recover some costs. Eligible businesses can apply for up to $40,000 toward their business needs including rent, payroll and other economic necessities. In order to be eligible for the grant, businesses must be able to demonstrate an economic loss associated with the COVID-19 global pandemic and must be headquartered inside the city of Austin (in a City of Austin Council district).

The program is being administered by the Austin Better Business Bureau and will continue taking applications through July 24th at 5pm. The grant program is unique in that it is offering reimbursement funds for expenses incurred during the months of March, April, May and June. Expenses submitted for this grant must not being covered by PPP or EIDL funds previously received. Because of the reimbursement nature of the grant, lost sales, donations and sponsorships are not eligible for submission. However, a wide range of other expenses, including operation expenses, are eligible for the grant.
Another unique facet of the program is that the funds will be dispersed by evaluating each application against using a scoring matrix that assesses need, vulnerability of the business, and equity considerations. Half of the funds will be distributed to those scoring highest on this matrix and the other half of the funds will be distributed using a random lottery (among ALL eligible applicants). This means that if a business does not score high enough on the matrix to receive funding from that half, they have an equal chance to everyone else to receive the other half of the funding. For this reason, businesses owned by members of historically marginalized communities are especially encouraged to apply.

The application scoring matrix includes 15 total points for race and/or ethnicity of ownership, gender of ownership and location in a low to moderate income areas of town. An additional 15 total points are available for number of employees, annual revenue and years in operation. Lastly, 20 total points are available for what is called urgency. This includes COVID-19 response, the ability to stay in business during stay at home orders, working capital reserves and likely impact of not receiving the grant.

This scoring matrix and distribution plan attempt to reach those small businesses hardest hit by the pandemic. We are available to answer any questions you may have about the process or to provide assistance in filling the application itself out. Reach out if you need us – we are here for you!

New Emergency Rules for Worksites

Last week, the Austin City Council approved two new public health ordinances in an attempt to reduce the continuing spread of COVID-19 in Austin and the surrounding areas. These new emergency rules are in effect now and will be in effect through November 12, 2020. Of note to business owners is that they include, in addition to specific requirements for construction sites, broader requirements for all work sites and individuals.
To increase compliance, failure to follow these public health requirements may result in legal action and civil penalties and could ever lead to a work site being identified as a Public Health Nuisance and becoming subject to civil suit. Individuals can be fined up to $2,000 per day if they do not follow the requirements. These new orders are an attempt to gain compliance from the public and give work site administrators rules to point to when dealing with customers, not to punish businesses.
The text of the rule that details the requirements for work sites is below. Highlights are face cover requirements, social distancing, cleaning, and signage. AIBA can help with resources to get and keep business owners in compliance with these new rules if needed. We are just a phone call or an email away.

3.2. A person in control of a site must:
3.2.1. require each individual to wear a face covering except as provided in 2.1.2;
3.2.2. clean and disinfect high touch items at least twice per day;
3.2.3. limit the number of individuals who gather or stand together to ten or less;
3.2.4. require at least six feet between groups of individuals except when the groups are seated at tables that are at least four feet apart and separated by a solid barrier;
3.2.5. conduct a general health pre-screening of each worker every day before the worker begins his or her shift;
3.2.6. keep toilets clean, sanitary and operational at all times and ensure proper disposal of waste from these facilities;
3.2.7. provide single use disposable paper towels and no-touch trash receptacles in restrooms and breakrooms;
3.2.8. mandate workers wash their hands for at least twenty seconds at the following times:
3.2.8.1. before workers begin work;
3.2.8.2. after workers remove gloves;
3.2.8.3. before and after the use of shared items such as tools, electronic;
3.2.8.4. devices or multi-user devices;
3.2.8.5. before and after any meal or restroom breaks; and
3.2.8.6. after a worker’s shift or work time ends; and
3.2.9. for workers confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, follow all directions from Austin Public Health concerning that worker and other workers that may have come in contact with the infected worker.
3.3. Signs required. A person in control of a site shall post:
3.3.1. at least one face covering signs at or near each entrance;
3.3.2. at least one Austin Public Health “Help Prevent Disease” signs at each entrance and on each restroom door (available for download and print at: http://www.austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/Health/General%20Hygiene%20Flyer%20Final2-1-eng-051120.pdf ); and
3.3.3. where information for workers is customarily posted, at least one sign in English and at least one sign in Spanish that explains the requirement to remain at least six feet apart and the requirement to wear a face covering.

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