Austin City Council approves millions for struggling businesses

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Here’s what happened at this week’s Austin City Council meeting.

“SAVES” funding for businesses – approved

Austin City Council approved a $15 million proposal to help struggling businesses. The money aims to help three sectors deemed vital in the city: music venues, legacy businesses and childcare providers.

In the days leading up to Thursday’s meeting, there were still questions about where $15 million would come from. The original proposal sought to take more than half of the money from two sources: the Pay For Success program, a public-private partnership investing in long-term housing for those experiencing homelessness; and fees paid by contractors to the Austin Transportation Department.

That changed following an afternoon amendment. Council is asking city staff to explore using $8.5 million of that money from sales tax revenue.

Changes to public drinking laws – ordinance approved

The Austin City Council approved an ordinance Thursday that would remove unequal restrictions on public alcohol consumption in historically minority neighborhoods. It means people are now allowed to drink in public in more areas in the city.

City Code had previously banned public drinking downtown and in several historically minority neighborhoods in east Austin.

Tighter rules for contractors

One item would authorize city staff to create a contractor registration program for building and demolition permitting. Development Services Department documents say the proposed program would include requirements for bonding and insurance and an exemption for the owner of a one or two-family homes with an active homestead exemption.

Council is also expected to approve requirements for neighbor notification prior to demolitions. Three years ago, an audit found safety risks involved in the city’s demolition process. The items are being heard again after they were postponed prior to last council meeting.

Mental health response team – approved

Council voted to invest an additional $4 million for a mental health crises response team to work in collaboration with first responders.

The money was reallocated earlier this year from the Austin Police Department.

That team is made up of first responders who try to get to people experiencing a mental health crisis within 10 to 15 minutes. Its goal is to avoid jail bookings and admissions to emergency rooms, and to provide short-term resources to help stabilize people in need.

The new funding will increase staffing to ensure 24/7 access and also pay for 500 tablet devices for first responders.

Another $137,000 in new funding will go to the homeless outreach street team.

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