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”

Statewide Order Closes Bars and Reduces Restaurant Capacity

The Texas State Governor today issued an order that call for all bars to close after rampant spread of covid-19 over the past few weeks. The order also reduces indoor restaurant capacity to 50% but allows them to remain open for dine in service. Rafting and tubing businesses are order closed and gatherings of 100 or more people must be approved by local governments. According to a press release from the governor’s office, these orders are “part of the state’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. This decision comes as the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 and the number of hospitalizations have increased and the positivity rate in Texas increased above 10%, which the Governor previously stated would lead to further preventative action. The targeted, measured directives in the executive order are based on links between certain types of businesses and services and the recent rise in positive cases throughout the state.”

Governor Abbott said, “at this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars. The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and enhance public health. We want this to be as limited in duration as possible. However, we can only slow the spread if everyone in Texas does their part. Every Texan has a responsibility to themselves and their loved ones to wear a mask, wash their hands, stay six feet apart from others in public, and stay home if they can. I know that our collective action can lead to a reduction in the spread of COVID-19 because we have done it before, and we will do it again.”

The Governor’s office did not discuss additional financial assistance for those businesses required to close.

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

 

Travis County Small Business Grant Program Open

Travis County’s grant program for small business (using CARES Act funding) is open for pre-application eligibility screening. BCL of Texas is partnering with TravisCounty to launch the Travis County (TCTX) Thrive Small Business Program to offer grants of up to $40,000 to qualifying businesses in Travis County but outside of Austin city limits that have been financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses will need to complete a pre-application to determine if they’re eligible for the program. If eligible, businesses will be invited to submit a full application. If awarded, the businesses who participate in TCTX Thrive Small Business Program will work with BCL’s small business coaches to create a Business Continuity Plan and will receive no-cost business coaching throughout the program period.

The Travis County Commissioners Court approved funding for this new small business grant program due to the unprecedented impact of COVID-19. Businesses must submit the Pre-Application Eligibility Determination before July 3rd in order to participate in this program. Eligible Businesses must meet the following criteria:

  • Businesses located and headquartered within Travis County and further, located in unincorporated Travis County, in any city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ), or in another city or village within the county outside the City of Austin incorporated limits.
  • The business address identified on legal documents is used to determine the location of the business.
  • Have no outstanding tax liens or legal judgments. If on a payment plan, must be current. Exceptions may be made for businesses that have outstanding recent quarter 941s or sales tax reports to the Texas Comptroller due to financial difficulties related to COVID-19.
  • Have been in business since March 1, 2019
  • Fewer than 25 Full Time Equivalent Employees on March 1, 2020
  • Maximum net revenue of $500,000 annually
  • Businesses that use a Social Security Number, Employer Identification Number, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

They have a dedicated team available to respond to questions. For more information, you can call at 512-994-2280 or email us at info@traviscountythrive.com.

 

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!

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