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.

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.

 

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!

AIBA Membership Survey Results

AIBA conducted our annual membership survey in November and the results are in (read the entire survey here.) Thank you to everyone who took the time to take the survey. We take your answers seriously and use the survey to guide us in the coming year. We also have three award winners drawn from survey participants. Sisters & Brothers, Inc won an additional year of membership, Body Business won a membership upgrade and Texas Ponds & Water won a $50 Gift card to Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill. Congratulations to our winners but we must admit, AIBA is the real winner for having such great members who so generously gave us their time.

The survey proved amazing support for AIBA and all our activities. According to your answers, we are definitely on the right track in providing the resources you need. We appreciate the ‘kuddos’ and ‘good job’ responses. These make us feel fabulous (I secretly read them when I’m still working at 2am) but it’s the constructive criticism that makes us a better organization for you.

Highlights from the survey show that:
79% think that AIBA’s marketing members on social media is valuable (up from 58% last year).
69% have utilized other AIBA members for their business needs. Way to go buying local yourselves!
69% also said they had made valuable connections at an AIBA event and 67% think AIBA events are important or crucial. This shows members are really benefiting from the AIBA Community.
60% said their business has benefited from information received from AIBA (up from 52%b last year).
97% would recommend membership in AIBA to another business. Go ahead a recommend us!

And advocacy is important:
88% say AIBA’s Advocacy is important to crucial.
87% are satisfied with AIBA’s advocacy or want us be more Vocal for Local.
60% say our advocacy has benefited their business (up from 54% last year).
51% are dissatisfied with city council.
87% volunteered to be active in our new advocacy program.

There’s always room for improvement and members made the following suggestions:
Members want more promotion of services and B to B businesses. We’re on it.
Sometimes the sound could be better at restaurant events. We’re looking into obtaining a small portable sound system (any member who can help with this?)
You’re looking for more information on business regulations and local opportunities to grow your business. Watch for the new AIBA HUB coming soon where you’ll find all the latest info.
More events in North Austin—help us find great locations and we’re on it.

There is a wealth of information in the survey that we will be acting on throughout the year. Thank you respondents for all your guidance.

The AIBA Blog

The AIBA Blag

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Building our community instead of dividing it

There’s a movement afoot.
The recent rise in activism for workers’ rights was born partly of frustration over the economic inequality sweeping the nation.
Capitalism is a tremendous driver of innovation and growth. But left unchecked, it can harm the many for the gain of the few. Many of America’s biggest corporations are examples of this. We all know that Walmart and Amazon employ millions of people but also cause harm to workers and local businesses alike. These business goliaths don’t build communities—like local businesses do—they build only profit. Employees are often seen as a disposable workforce rather than a valued team.
Local businesses are a crucial part of our community. Entrepreneurs with the vision and drive to create small local businesses exemplify the hopes and dreams of everyone who wants to control their economic destiny. Their employees are part of their team, some consider them family. Local business owners care for their team in every way they can. We’re stewards of culture and commerce.
Austin politics today are divided—workers vs. business, or more directly, workers are good and business is bad. This is unnecessarily divisive and destructive. Our community faces challenges in dealing with employer-employee issues such as paid sick leave, livable wages, and predictive scheduling. We have a great opportunity to come together to address these issues and find solutions. We are a smart, creative city. We can find solutions to even the most difficult problems—if we work collectively and respectfully.
The recent destructive battles over paid sick leave left Austin at the mercy of lawsuits and the Texas Legislature—never a desirable outcome. AIBA refused to take part in any legal action against the ordinance. If the courts or the Legislature overrides local control, Austin loses. AIBA was never opposed to paid sick leave, per se. AIBA objected to portions of the ordinance and the rush to enact it without due process. We sought to contribute ideas that might work for everyone, such as establishing a risk pool for very small businesses. We asked that the ordinance be given time for review. Instead it was rammed through in 17 days from initial draft to passage. We asked that implementation be delayed until January instead of the October 1st because businesses hadn’t budgeted for it this year. We proposed an exemption for the smallest of local businesses. We proposed providing incentives rather than regulations punitive to local business. In a political climate that only provides for black and white—business is bad, workers are good—our reasonable concerns fell on deaf ears.
No one wants to go to work sick and no employer wants sick people at work. But the issue was framed, not as a compromise achieved by discussing the best ideas, but as “for the workers” or “against the workers.” In the process, local business was demonized as the enemy of the worker. Local businesses can’t survive without employees and with Austin’s low unemployment rate it’s increasingly difficult to even find enough people to allow businesses to flourish. And employees need the jobs that local business provides. It is a symbiotic relationship. The idea that employees are being systematically exploited by all businesses is not only wrong but counterproductive. To succeed, the employer-employee relationship must ensure mutual benefits.
It seems likely that if the courts don’t override this ordinance the Texas Legislature will. If that happens, nobody wins. We haven’t helped one person. We’ve divided our community for absolutely nothing. It’s time to look for a better way.
Cooperation will achieve the best results
A few months ago, AIBA formed a Better Process Committee with a few of our members who are interested in working on these issues. We began by researching other cities and other states to find better alternatives to achieve our shared community goals. What we found led us to create a proposal for a better process to address employer-employee issues.
First, we propose a local study of each issue to identify the full scope of the problems. This will lead to better, more targeted, solutions that won’t give lawmakers cause to deprive us of home rule.
The second step is to convene a Workplace Task Force of organizations representing all segments of business and employee organizations. This task force would be charged with reviewing a problem and finding solutions to recommend to the City Council.
The third step is to take the time to do an impact study of any proposed policies. The speed of enacting the paid sick leave ordinance created an ordinance fraught with unintended consequences.
Good government governs in the best interest of all the people, not just one group. Local policy should not provide benefits for one segment by punishing another. By working collectively, other communities have found ways to address their issues that worked for everyone. AIBA is proposing that Austin do the same.