Austin households impacted by COVID-19 can now apply for $2K in city financial help


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Starting Monday, Austin and Travis County residents who need financial help during the COVID-19 pandemic can apply for the second round of relief funding through the City of Austin.

Individuals selected through this application process can receive up to $2,000 per household.

A total of $10 million in Relief in a State of Emergency (RISE) funds are available through what the city is calling RISE 2.0.

Austin Public Health expects the dollars from RISE 2.0 to help out 4,500 households.

While the city doesn’t know yet exactly how many people will apply for this funding, it anticipates that interest in the funding will be high.

Laura G La Fuente, Contract Management Supervisor for Austin Public Health said she was told by the vendor the city is working with that within the first three hours the application was open, more than one thousand people applied for this funding.

“We know there are large populations of people who are under the federal poverty level, I think with the pandemic probably that number has grown,” La Fuente explained. “We really don’t have an idea of the demographic information or where families are going to fall with this and how much of an increase [in need], but we anticipate that people who maybe weren’t eligible before probably are going to be eligible now because of what happened to the economy.”

How to apply

From September 14 to 21 at 7 p.m., Austin and Travis County residents can apply for this funding through an online portal in English and Spanish. Residents can also apply through a phone bank (which has more language options available) by dialing (512) 714-6950.

Who can apply

In order to be eligible for this funding, applicants must:

  • Be at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level
  • Be a resident of Austin or Travis County
  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Be experiencing a hardship related to COVID-19
  • Have not received more than $1,000 in financial assistance in the past 30 days

La Fuente explained that no applicants will be required to know where they fall on federal poverty levels, they just need to enter the total amount of their recent monthly income.

A family of four, for example, with a monthly income of $4,367 or less would qualify for this funding.

Applicants are also required to have government-issued identification — though that identification does not have to be issued by the US government.

Recipients will be selected at random which means that each applicant has an equal chance of being selected, La Fuente said.

How the funds will be given out

If you applied online and were selected for the funding, you can receive the funding through a direct ACH bank transfer, a virtual prepaid card sent through email, or a mailed prepaid card.

Those who chose the bank transfer option will get their money sooner. If you applied through the phone bank and got selected, you will get your funding through a prepaid card distributed by El Buen Samaritano.

Dollars going to individuals

The city already distributed $15 million RISE dollars in a first round of funding during May and June. But those dollars went to 20 nonprofits and social services, who in turn passed the dollars on to community members in need. Most of the funds sent to those 20 beneficiaries in the first round of RISE funding have already been exhausted, the city said in a release last week.

Instead of going to social services agencies, the RISE 2.0 funding will go to people who apply and are chosen through a randomized selection process.

A phone bank to answer questions about RISE 2.0 was launched last week and will remain open through October 2. That phone bank can be reached at (512) 714-6950.

Between September 23 and October 6, the city says a randomized selection process will be carried out and residents will be notified who is being given the relief funding.

Between September 23 and October 30, the city says the funds will be given out.

In early June, Austin City Council approved the $10 million for RISE 2.0. Around $1 million of those dollars will be paid to two third-party organizations, El Buen Samaritano and Family Independence Initiative, who were chosen to handle the distribution process.

“We want to remove barriers and make sure our community can easily access the services and finances we have available,” said Stephanie Hayden, Austin Public Health Director, in a release sent out last week.

La Fuente added that at this point she doesn’t have any information about whether a third round of this funding could be made available in the future.

For more information about RISE 2.0, people can visit the City of Austin.

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