AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin and Travis County released a list of resources for people affected by the coronavirus outbreak, whether health-wise or economically.
On Tuesday, the city announced bars would close, restaurants could no longer use dine-in options and people could not gather in groups larger than 10.
The City of Austin has a coronavirus website with information and resources for health providers, businesses, travelers, those who are sick and families. This information is in multiple languages.
Below is a summary of services the city shared in a press release:
Utility services with Austin Energy will not be disconnected. The city also has Customer Assistance Programs for those with financial issues and serious serious medical problems. Residential and commercial customers can contact the Customer Care Contact Center at 512-494-9400 with any questions.
Texas Gas Service says it’s temporarily suspending disconnects due to nonpayment through April 15. Customers in need of assistance can call (800) 700-2443 for self-service or to speak to a representative.
A standing order with the Travis County Justices of the Peace says there will be no eviction settings until after April 1.
The city has eviction resources to help those who need legal assistance, emergency grants for rent or utilities, alternate housing, short-term motel vouchers or need to go to a local shelter.
Immediate Housing Needs
People can look to the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department for both information and assistance referrals. These include resources for homeowners and resources for renters, including resources to avoid mortgage foreclosure and assistance for paying rent.
The Parks and Recreation Department is partnering with Meals on Wheels to distribute 10 meals for a senior and another 10 for their spouse. These drop-offs will happen curbside for seniors. School districts are also providing meals.
Businesses with questions about the new restrictions in Austin should call 3-1-1. They can also turn to the Economic Development Department for free business coaching, emergency planning resources, and a Family Business Loan Program.
People can apply for unemployment benefits through the Texas Workforce Commission, which also has a guide for those undergoing the process for the first time.
Those without insurance who are experiencing coronavirus symptoms can call CommUnityCare at 512-978-9015. It asks people to call first before heading to a clinic to prevent any potential spread of the virus.
Feeling it firsthand
For 18 years, Brenda Pham has been runing Austin Alterations and Cleaners on North Lamar.
It’s prom and wedding season, typically her busiest time fo the year.
But many people have called off their big plans: most of these events are over the CDC’s recommendation which limits gatherings to 10 people.
“Right now it is super slow,” Pham said. “Whether you are a small business or big business, it’s still really scary for everybody.”
Businesses are feeling it just about everywhere you look.
Downtown shops aren’t getting the same foot traffic as normal, restaurants have been forced to close down their dine-in options for the foreseeable future and parking lots, typically packed, are empty.
It’s even easy to get down MoPac during the typical afternoon rush.
“Our intention is to have a healthy Austin economy. So we intend to provide these resources and look for additional resources for as long as necessary in order to obtain that,” said Veronica Briseno, the director of Austin’s Economic Development Department.
The city’s options for small businesses and people are meant for them to get through tough times. For shops like Pham’s, they are offering free leadership coaching, emergency resources and low-interest loans.
In order to qualify for the loan, you must be a small, for-profit business operating for at least two years. You must be able to demonstrate a profit to meet the repayment schedule and your business should either be in Austin or you should be willing to re-locate an out-of-town project to the Austin area.
“If the city can help small businesses like ours, we would love to do it. If they can help, it would be better than nothing,” Pham said.
Craig Enoch with the Austin Chamber of Commerce said it’s up to the owners to actually ask for the help they need. He said Austin has the best economy in Texas, and it will inevitably pull through.
“I see no shame in small businesses seeking out help in times of crisis,” Enoch said. “When this crisis passes, and it will, we are going to roll up our sleeves and get back to work.”