Austin-area musicians rally for answers on SAVES relief funding

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Local musicians and owners of live music venues are calling for answers from the City of Austin on the rollout for ‘SAVES’ relief funding or Save Austin’s Vital Economic Sector.

The ‘closed’ sign at Mohawk Austin has been up since March, which is when Jeannette Gregor of The Amplified Sound Coalition was furloughed from the live music venue. She, along with members of her coalition and the Austin Texas Musicians advocacy nonprofit turned up the volume at City Hall Thursday to urge city leaders to distribute the SAVES funding on a faster timeline.

“We lose our jobs, we lose our identity, which is intrinsically tied to those positions, we lose our family, because we spend so much time in these buildings, I’ve lost count of how many punches to the gut it is,” said Gregor.

Mikey Wheeler, Mohawk Austin’s general manager, said the future of the business depends on bridge funding like SAVES until they can get more dollars from the federal government.

“There hasn’t been a way that’s financially feasible for us to open up and be profitable, so we need help,” Wheeler explained.

In October, Austin City Council allocated $5 million for the Austin Music Venue Preservation Fund and $5 million for the Austin Legacy Business Relief Grant. City council allocated $1.5 million from the Business Preservation Fund to be used for the emergency relief for these programs. A project team was assigned for each program, and the project teams are working to launch Phase One of the program.

Timeline of SAVES Program Development Activities To Date 

Sept. 17: Council adopted Resolution No. 20200917-062, directing staff to explore and identify funding opportunities for supporting Austin’s vital economic sectors, including revising the Chapter 380 Policy. 

Sept. 28: Staff sent a memorandum to mayor and council providing recommendations to support Austin’s vital economic sectors. 

Oct. 1: Council adopted Ordinance No. 20201001-052, which allocated $15 million for the SAVES programs. Council also directed staff to proceed with the programmatic work of using the full $15 million as proposed in staff’s memo to mayor and council. 

Oct. 15: Staff presented draft program guidelines to council in response to Resolution No. 20201001-052. Council adopted Resolution Nos. 20201015-073, 20201015-074 and 20201015-075, which approved initial guidelines for the Austin Childcare Provider Relief Grant, Austin Live Music Preservation Fund and the Austin Legacy Business Relief Grant Program. Council also directed staff to develop enhanced guidelines for council consideration prior to fully implementing the Legacy Business and Music Preservation programs. 

Oct. 22: Staff sent a memorandum to mayor and council providing next steps to implement the Austin Childcare Provider Relief Grant, Austin Live Music Preservation Fund, and Austin Legacy Business Relief Grant. 

Oct. 29: Staff sent a memorandum to mayor and council providing recommendations for modifying the Chapter 380 Policy and draft guidelines for a Recovery Lease Incentive Program and a Restaurant Relief Program.  

Nov. 12: Staff sent a memorandum to mayor and council outlining a tentative technical assistance model for the Austin Legacy Business Relief Grant and the Austin Live Music Preservation Fund. 

Nov. 18: Staff sent a memorandum to mayor and council providing recommendations for enhanced program guidelines for the Austin Life Music Preservation Fund and Austin Legacy Business Relief Grant.

City officials say live music venues should be able to apply within the next few weeks and see funding within 45-60 days.

“That puts us at the end of the year, ideally is the 45 (day) end of that, and the 60 day would be the middle of January, but our goal is to have it by the end of the year,” said Veronica Briseño, Chief Economic Recovery Officer, City of Austin.

That’s for the first round of funding, which is an emergency grant of $20,000. Another round of funding in February will grant up to $40,000 for up to six months. For context, the city says it has taken about two months to get other relief programs off the ground.

“We’re moving fast; I would not say it’s delayed. Our goal is to get this money out as quickly as possible, and do it in a way that’s respectful of taxpayers dollars,” said Briseño.

On Dec. 3, city council will review and approve enhanced guidelines for the program, and the city will launch the technical assistance portion in February 2021, which is the second round of funding.

The city is also looking for a third-party administrator that will review applications. This is typically assigned to a nonprofit.

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