$15M from Austin’s reserve fund will be released to help people pay their bills

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council is officially dipping into its reserve fund to help people pay their bills.

The “Relief in a State of Emergency” — or RISE — fund sends $15 million to local organizations that already work with the city to coordinate vouchers for housing and food.

The resolution passed unanimously at Thursday’s City Council meeting.

“We’re all worried for each other and ourselves right now,” said Patches Brashear who lives in Austin. “[It’s] definitely time to use the money for people that need it the most.”

Brashear told KXAN neither she nor her husband are able to work right now.

“We survived last month on money I had saved from my vehicle, which means now my vehicle will continue to be in disrepair. It’s like you’re living in an emergency mode.”

And she’s not the only one.

The City Council heard from many people in similar situations during public comment.

One woman said, “The biggest issue we have right now is paying the rent. People getting evicted, that’s one of the biggest scares right now.”

The RISE fund is designed to help those in desperate need.

“Many people have never experienced this level of job loss in the community ever before, and the city really needs to step up in a really big way,” said Austin City Council member Greg Casar.

The fund can be used to:

  • Improve food access
  • Provide rental or mortgage assistance
  • Provide assistance with necessary bills, such as utility bills to enable children to attend school remotely
  • Assist with medical expenses
  • Assist with the purchase of diapers and baby formula and other child-care expenses
  • Assist survivors of domestic violence

Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza said the Austin Public Health staff will coordinate with service providers to get the fund distributed.

“They think they can start getting the aid out in about two to three weeks, and they’re hoping that families, by about April 20, should see that extra assistance,” she said.

According to the resolution, the service providers will prioritize people:

  • Who make less than double the federal poverty guideline
  • Who suffered significant hardship during the virus outbreak
  • Who are ineligible for federal aid or are not receiving adequate aid

Some people who are low-income haven’t had to file tax returns, and some people don’t have Social Security numbers. Those people likely will not receive a federal stimulus check.

City officials more details on how to apply for the city relief fund will be released in coming days.

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