Grant Funding for Austin Businesses is Here

Good news for small businesses suffering financial hardship due to COVID-19! On July 7th, applications opened for the City of Austin’s Small Business Relief Grant program, which provides assistance of up to $40,000 per qualifying business to be used for rent, payroll, and other approved expenses incurred between March 1 and July 7, 2020. $16.5 million in federal funding from the CARES Act has been set aside for this program.

To be eligible, businesses must be able to demonstrate an economic loss associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, have been in continuous operation for at least two years, have under $5 million in annual revenue, be located within a City Council District, provide one year of federal tax returns, and have fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees (full time = 30+ hours/week, and two half-time employees would count as one full-time equivalent employee.) The grant is open to businesses operating under various business structures such as partnerships, sole proprietorships, LLCs, cooperatives, etc. Businesses who aren’t eligible include those engaged in multi-level marketing, lobbying, those who receive more than one third of their annual revenue from gambling, religious institutions, businesses debarred from contracting with the federal government, government entities, individuals, and nonprofits (there is a separate City grant for nonprofits, up to $20k.) Full-time City of Austin employees are not eligible for the Small Business Relief Grant.

Eligible expenses include rent, payroll, facility and business modifications for safety compliance, PPE, sanitation and cleaning, inventory, business insurance, technology, business adaptation and worker training, operational costs, and more. The grant does not cover lost sales or sponsorships, merchandise sold for marketing purposes, or costs that have been paid for by other COVID-19 grants or loans.

Applications will close at 5pm on July 24, and no priority is given to early applicants. Half of the applications will be evaluated according to a scoring matrix, and the other half will be distributed according to a lottery. For more information about the scoring matrix and detailed eligibility criteria, visit https://www.austintexas.gov/department/austin-small-business-relief-grant. For complete resources on Covid-19 recovery, visit www.atxrecovers.com.

AIBA and the Local Economies Council are working with the City and the Better Business Bureau, the administers of the application and selection process, to get information and assistance to local businesses in Austin. Please reach out to us at hello@ibuyaustin.com or 512-441-2123 with questions or if you need technical assistance in completing the application.

New State and Local Orders Requiring Face Coverings and Limiting Outdoor Gatherings

From the City of Austin Communications Department (via email): “Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order No. GA-29 on July 2, 2020 requiring all Texans to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases, with few exceptions. The Governor also amended Executive Order No. GA-28 giving mayors and county judges the ability to impose restrictions on some outdoor gatherings over 10 people. Additionally, Governor Abbott’s amendment prohibits groups larger than 10, with few exceptions, and requires maintaining six feet of social distancing from others.
Consistent with the Governor’s Order, Mayor Steve Adler issued a new City of Austin Order on July 2, 2020 requiring everyone in city limits to wear some form of face covering that fits snugly over their nose and mouth. The Mayor’s Order also prohibits indoor or outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people, unless the gathering is expressly permitted by the Governor’s Order or a local Order.
Visit the City of Austin COVID-19 Information for Businesses and Industries webpage for helpful and up-to-date guidance for the most recent health and safety orders”

New Mask Order for All Austin Businesses

Per an order from Mayor Adler, all Austin businesses will be required to ensure that all workers and customers wear face masks or other face coverings. This order is supplemental to Adler’s earlier orderswhich the City extended to Aug. 15. The current order was set to expire on June 15.. This mask requirement goes into effect on June 18 lasts until August 15.

The order says businesses must develop and display a health and safety policy that requires a face covering while on the premises. Businesses have until June 23 to create and display this health and safety policy. Adler noted in his remarks that many Austin businesses have already implemented mask requirements for their employees and customers. This is a transition to a more “direct order on masks” does put the onus on businesses to enforce mask wearing on their premises, which will likely prove to be burdensome for some. For businesses who were already requiring face coverings under their own volition, this change provides a city-wide order to point to as back up if they are ever faced with resistance from the public.

We at AIBA are here to help locally owned business navigate any issues that arise and get them the support they need to make the new order work with their reopening strategies. Please reach out if you encounter any issues.

There are some exceptions to the order. A mask is not required when:

  • You are alone in a single, separate space
  • You are among people of the same household
  • You are eating or drinking
  • You are outdoors engaging in an allowed activity with social distancing
  • Wearing a mask poses a safety or health risk

 

Shop The Block Pilot Permitting Program

The City of Austin is committed to employing innovative measures that increase resiliency for small business owners and their employees, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and has a new pilot program to expand the space businesses have to use to encourage social distancing. The Shop the Block program was proposed by council member Pool and allows for retail, restaurant and cocktail to use outside space with a very streamlined permit process and more latitude than before. Details and application can be found here. This is a great way for retailers and restaurants to expand their social distancing capacity and give customers access to their wares in open air spaces (for both comfort and safety).

Shop the Block is a pilot program operational during COVID-19 to help businesses during the pandemic. It allows businesses to apply for a 30-day permit, renewable for up to 6 months during the pilot period. Businesses can expand their operations outdoors onto their private parking lots and public sidewalk – while maintaining ADA compliance – as well as onto the public parking spaces in front of their establishments, for customer waiting or service. Open air dining and shopping will serve to attract more business activity, help boost the local economy, and create a pedestrian-friendly environment.

Shop the Block permitting begins June 15, 2020 through December 15, 2020. Businesses must still operate safely with adequate social distancing measures to protect customers. This pilot program allows an adjacent retail store, restaurants and bars to sell or provide goods, food, and beverages on City streets, sidewalks, or rights-of-way, including city on-street parking spaces. Eligible applicants include: Retail stores, Restaurants, and Cocktail lounges, taverns & bars. A group of retail stores, restaurants, or cocktail lounges, taverns & bars that share a private parking lot or are located on the same two blocks of a street, sidewalk, or city right-of-way. The number of attendees may not exceed the occupancy limit for the retail store, restaurant, cocktail lounge or group of retail stores or restaurants.

More details and application are available here.

City Council Approved Grant Funding for Austin’s Small Businesses

Good news: federal funding from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act is coming to Austin in the form of grants for small business! After some discussion a revised spending framework was approved by City Council in early June. AIBA advocated for keeping the original amount of $23M on the grounds that small business in Austin is a huge economic generator (employing more than 300,000 people at more than 40,000 small businesses) and can work to get/keep our local economy healthy in these trying times. We also put out a call for stories from locals and want to thank council members and business owners who advocated for keeping original amount. Actions taken at the June 4th meeting can be found here.

$105.5 million will be devoted to “Emergency Response and Management,” which includes $68 million for department operating expenses, while $62.9 million will go to “Medical and Public Health Needs,” which includes protection of vulnerable populations, testing, planning and research, shelters, quarantine facilities, and more. $103.2 million will go to “Economic Support,” which includes direct financial support and food and rent assistance to individuals, as well as support for small businesses, non-profits, the creative sector, childcare providers, worker and customer safety, workforce development, and technical assistance. Of this $103.2 million, funding for “Financial and Other Direct Support” was increased by $12 million from the original proposal for a new total of $27.5 million (which does not include food, rent, or utility bill assistance.) Funding for the creative sector was decreased from $8.5 to $5 million, and funding for non-profits was decreased from $7 million to $6.35 million.

We are disappointed to report that the originally proposed $25.5 million for small business funding was reduced by $9 million to $16.5 million. As we reported in earlier newsletters, this funding will provide small business grants of up to $40,000 each. In addition, there will be $1 million available for commercial rent assistance. As soon as details are available about eligibility requirements and application details, we will post them. Please consider joining us on Tuesday mornings at 9:30 for quick updates. You can RSVP here to get meeting details. You can begin to prepare your application documentation now by taking a few deep breaths and gathering your financials and incorporation paperwork. Be ready when applications open!

Music and Creative Space Grant Program Application Dates

The City of Austin Economic Development Department announced two grant programs to support and sustain local creatives and organizations facing extreme hardships due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic: the Austin Music Disaster Relief Fund ($1.5 million in $1000 grants) for immediate emergency needs of Austin’s most vulnerable musicians and the Austin Creative Space Disaster Relief Program ($1 million in $50,000 grants) for organizations and independent artists facing displacement and difficulty paying rent for their commercial creative spaces. Details and application dates are below.

Austin Music Disaster Relief Fund
The Austin City Council approved Ordinance No. 20200423-067 on April 23, 2020 to designate $1.5 million for the Austin Music Disaster Relief Fund. Musicians that experienced an economic hardship due to COVID-19 may apply for a $1,000 grant to cover immediate emergency needs. The Austin Music Disaster Relief Fund application will be live and accepting eligible submissions through the MusiCares Foundation on a first-come first-served basis starting on Monday, June 8th, 10am CST. Austin musicians are encouraged to prepare their answers and documentation in advance by reviewing the checklist prior to the launch date. Visit ATXrecovers.com to preview program guidelines, eligibility requirements, and a checklist of application questions.

As part of an existing partnership with the City of Austin, the Austin Music Foundation will provide consultation to potential applicants needing help preparing documentation for the application. City staff is also working with additional local community organizations and music industry leaders to help promote the Austin Music Disaster Relief Fund. These efforts will ensure the most vulnerable musicians are aware of the opportunity and are prepared to apply once the application is live June 8.

These limited dollars are focused on the most vulnerable musicians in Austin, defined as those with two months or less in living expenses currently available. Those not eligible to apply are encouraged to connect with helpful resources and opportunities at ATXrecovers.com. Austin musicians who have already received a grant from the “MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund” are not eligible to apply.

Application Preview: Wednesday, May 27 – Sunday, June 7
Application Opens: Monday, June 8, 10:00 a.m. CST
Application Closes: Friday, June 12, 2020, 5:00 p.m. CST

For more information, including guidelines and eligibility questions, visit ATXrecovers.com or email MusicDisasterRelief@austintexas.gov or call 512-978-7769.

Austin Creative Space Disaster Relief Program
The Austin City Council approved Resolution No. 20200423-040 on April 23, 2020 to provide $1 million for the Austin Creative Space Disaster Relief Program. This grant will provide direct support to for-profit live music venues, performance spaces, art galleries, arts-focused nonprofits and individual artists facing temporary or permanent displacement.

Applicants may apply for up to $50,000 toward unpaid commercial rent and to defray rent hikes, property acquisition costs, or other space-related needs such as facility improvements or relocation-related expenditures. A Grant Review Committee comprised of public and private sector leaders in the arts, banking, and real estate sectors established by a Joint Working Group of the Music and Arts Commissions will evaluate the applications and make final recommendations for awards. The grants will be awarded on a competitive basis, and priority will be given to organizations or individuals confronting immediate and critical needs. Organizations serving historically underrepresented communities are encouraged to apply.

Application Opens: Wednesday, May 27, 2020 1:00 p.m. CST
Virtual Information Meeting: Tuesday, June 9, 2020, 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. CST
Application Closes: Wednesday, June 17, 2020, 5:00 p.m. CST
Grant Awardees Announced: Week of June 29, 2020

For more information, including guidelines and eligibility visit ATXrecovers.com or email CreativeSpaceRelief@austintexas.gov or call 512-974-7806.