Good Work Austin asking city council for $75 million for local businesses

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — It has been six months since the pandemic shuttered businesses and left many without work.

Thursday afternoon, Governor Greg Abbott will update the state’s COVID-19 response. Many restaurant owners are hoping the update will help with recovery. Austin City Council is also looking for solutions.

City council members could vote on a resolution Thursday to look at how to support some of Austin’s hardest-hit industries — childcare, music and art venues, restaurants and bars.

For Adam Orman and Kristen Heaney, navigating COVID-19 hasn’t been easy. Heaney owns Yard Bar and Orman co-owns L’Oca d’Oro.

“We want places to be able to open and in order to do that, we need a little bit of help,” Orman said.

They’re both members of Good Work Austin – an organization of hospitality and service industry owners. Orman, a founding member of the group, said the group is asking the city for $75 million in assistance to help them survive.

“Asking for assistance at this moment is certainly not for lack of trying,” he explained. “The amount that we know we’re asking for is going to be enough for people who are going to be out of cash reserves by the end of the year this will buy a couple more months of rent.”

At present, L’Oca d’Oro is temporarily closed to the public. Since late May, they have been providing 7,000 meals each week for student caregivers as part of AISD’s meal plan program. While they are glad to be a part of the program. Owners said they understand that not every restaurant is as lucky as them.

A University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs survey found that music and arts venues as well as restaurants and bars were most likely to shut down for good.

Austin City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan said he wants to ensure businesses stay open. However, he wants to explore innovative solutions that he says will result in long-term sustainability.

“Many of these industries were struggling even before the pandemic, and this is an opportunity to leverage an Economic Development Corporation as a tool to build back better and not just kick the can down the road,” Flannigan explained.

Yard Bar’s Heaney said they need help now.

“Without additional assistance from somewhere, and the city is sort of like the next place to start looking for answers, more and more are going to be closing down,” Heaney said.

The resolution, if approved, will give the Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk through the end of the month to look into ways to support these industries. He will then bring those findings before council.

Small business grants

Over the summer, the city approved over $16 million in funding for the Austin Small Business Relief Grant.

Businesses impacted by the pandemic were able to apply for a grant of up to $40,000. Owners could use the money toward rent, payroll and other economic needs.

A total of 2,526 business owners applied but the city was only able to award 885 grants. The restaurant industry had the most applications overall.

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