Austin Mayor Pro Tem working on resolution to boost rental assistance, other types of aid


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Direct financial assistance may be coming soon for people living in Austin. Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza told KXAN she’s working on a resolution that would provide help to Austin residents who are struggling financially during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Last week, the Austin City Council passed an emergency anti-eviction ordinance that gives people a 60-day grace period to work out a payment plan with their landlords if they can’t pay their April and May rent.

Garza said, however, the council heard “loud and clear” from people who are worried about not being able to pay their rents even after the 60-day grace period because they’ve lost their jobs.

Garza explained, “We’re not re-inventing anything. We’re just seeing an incredible increase in need for things families needed help with before this even happened.”

According to the Mayor Pro Tem, the resolution will include “cash payments for rental assistance, vouchers for diapers, vouchers for food” and help for domestic violence victims to find an alternate place to stay during the Stay Home Work Safe Order so they’re not staying home with their abusers.

The city is not allowed to give money directly to its citizens; therefore, Garza said, the proposal will utilize existing and new nonprofits.

The city would give those organizations funding. Then the nonprofits would distribute vouchers to people who qualify.

“If we started a whole new program, it would take months for the city to create the system, create the rules, to create the framework,” Garza said. “The goal is this is fast, reach those who need this aid as quickly as possible.”

Jazz pianist Austin Kimble told KXAN any type of immediate assistance is welcome, especially for artists in the city.

“All of my work suddenly stopped with the exception for being able to teach some private lessons,” he said.

Kimble said he tried to file for unemployment, but was told by the Texas Workforce Commission  the federal stimulus package qualifying self-employed people for unemployment insurance is not in effect yet.

“I think what really needs to happen is they need to get that connection [with the federal government] so that we can get some answers,” Kimble said. “Right now, I don’t even know should I re-apply for unemployment. Do I need to wait a little bit? There’s not really any guidelines or descriptions as to what to do or how to proceed.”

He said he also worries about the future of the arts industry.

“Hopefully things will come back to normal-ish, but I’m worried that a lot of these connections might not exist anymore. Maybe some of the venues that were playing are going to be shut down and not reopen,” said Kimble.

He said artists who lost their gigs need help now. “Right now, we’re in this waiting period. We know there’s help out there. It’s not really making its way to us and it needs to get here soon.”

The city council would have to approve Garza’s proposal at its April 9th meeting for it to go into effect. There’s also an item on that day’s agenda asking banks to waive late fees and give people more time to make mortgage payments.

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