This week, we have a lot of interesting community news, but let's focus first on some new COVID-19 relief programs for rental assistance and economic recovery to support community members who are severely impacted. The Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants (RENT) assistance program is now open for applications. You can find more information below in the newsletter or at the RENT webpage...
Message from Council Member Pool
This week, we have a lot of interesting community news, but let's focus first on some new COVID-19 relief programs for rental assistance and economic recovery to support community members who are severely impacted. The Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants (RENT) assistance program is now open for applications. You can find more information below in the newsletter or at theRENT webpage.
Additionally, the City just launched the Austin Creative Worker Relief Grantfor local creative sector workers who can submit applications online between now and Friday, Aug. 28, 2020 at 5 p.m. If you’d like to apply, I encourage you to do so as soon as possible. More information is provided below.
In other news, the Austin Parks Department is now accepting artist proposals for ArtsResponders: Social Practice Responds to COVID-19, an upcoming outdoor ‘art action’ exhibit, October 5, 2020 - March 31, 2021. One proposal will be hosted in an outdoor space in our own District 7, and we’d love to see a District 7 artist represented. See below for further information.
I’ll continue to provide all of you with updates on COVID-19 support and assistance through my newsletters, and I encourage you to continue checking in with the City’s COVID-19 Information page.
If you ever need help navigating the City’s COVID-19 assistance, you can contact Austin 311. And as always, please feel free to reach my team at District7@austintexas.gov whenever you need support in District 7.
Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants (RENT)
RENT Assistance Virtual Press Conference
Austin Public Health FREE In-Home COVID Testing
Assistance for Small Business
New Relief Grant to Support Creative Workers in Austin Impacted by COVID-19
City of Austin Announces New Relief Grant for Local
Creative Workers and Industry Staff
AUSTIN, TX — The City of Austin Economic Development Department announces a new grant for local creative sector workers that have been financially impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. The Austin Creative Worker Relief Grant is a $3.5 million fund providing $2,000 grants to help Austin’s creative sector workers offset expenses like rent, bills, and groceries.
The grant program is designed to provide immediate and equitably-focused grants to individual creatives and industry support staff in Austin. For purposes of the Austin Creative Worker Relief Grant, “creative worker” will be defined as an individual whose current or primary occupation is or has been within arts, music, film, fashion, museums, preservation, and more. This includes both practicing artists and associated personnel within the creative industries.
“Austin’s creative community, which significantly contributes to the fabric of the City’s cultural and economic ecosystem, is facing unprecedented hardships due to COVID-19," notes Sylnovia Holt-Rabb, Acting Director for the City of Austin Economic Development Department. “This program will ensure individuals will receive some level of financial support.”
The Economic Development Department is also partnering with several local community organizations to help promote the grant programs to creative sector workers. These efforts will ensure the most vulnerable creative sector workers are aware of the grant opportunity.
Creative sector workers can submit applications online between Monday, August 17, 2020 at 10 a.m. and Friday, August 28, 2020 at 5 p.m. Applicants are encouraged to visit ATXRecovers.com to preview the application and review eligibility requirements, frequently asked questions, and additional grant details.
To be eligible, creative sector workers must be at least 18 years old, must be able to verify an economic loss associated with the COVID-19 global pandemic, must live in a City of Austin City Council district, and must have been actively working in the creative sector during the past two years. A complete list of eligible creative sector disciplines can be found via ATXRecovers.com. Musicians who already received a grant from the Austin Music Disaster Relief Fund may still apply for an Austin Creative Worker Relief Grant, but they are only eligible for a $1,000 grant.
As part of a partnership with the City of Austin, Austin Better Business Bureau will collect, review, and score applications on behalf of the Economic Development Department. Every eligible application submitted before the deadline will be evaluated against a scoring matrix that includes criteria for economic vulnerability and equity. Half of the funds for this program will be allocated to applicants that score the highest according to this matrix. The remaining funds will be awarded by random lottery among eligible applicants. The City of Austin has also partnered with Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts to provide consultation services and assistance to complete an application.
For eligibility questions and assistance completing an application, contact Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts by email CreativeWorkerGrant@talarts.org or by phone 512-588-9971.
Now Accepting Artist Proposals for Upcoming Exhibit ArtsResponders: Social Practice Responds to COVID-19
The Austin Parks and Recreation Department’s Museums and Cultural Programs Division welcomes Austin-area artists to submit proposals for ArtsResponders: Social Practice Responds to COVID-19, an upcoming outdoor ‘art action’ exhibit, October 5, 2020 - March 31, 2021. Artists will be commissioned to train in social practice, a collaborative and participatory approach to public art, then organize and engage community in an artistic response to COVID-19. Participating sites include the Dougherty Arts Center, Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, George Washington Carver Museum, Cultural, and Genealogy Center, Asian American Resource Center, Elisabet Ney Museum, and Oakwood Cemetery Chapel.
Social practice, according to the Tate Museum, “describes art that is collaborative, often participatory and involves people as the medium or material of the work.” It can include “any art form and involves people and communities in debate, collaboration or social interaction.” Social practice uses the participatory element as the artwork, integrally developing an idea and turning it into public will. Examples and conversations about social practice can be found in this video.
ArtResponders proposals can be from any artistic discipline and will be hosted outdoors, one in each of the ten City Council Districts. Exhibits must comply with and promote accurate COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, and will receive a $2,000 stipend, inclusive of all materials and labor. Artists are encouraged to submit a proposal via the online application by September 13, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.
A panel of City staff members, including members of the Museums and Cultural Programs Division, Safety, Parks Rangers and Community Engagement Divisions, will assist with adjudicating and selecting the artists. Site managers will make the final selections and artists will be notified no later than September 30, 2020.
For more details regarding the application details, scoring rubric, and FAQ, please visit the website.
City Launches Program to Provide Accessible
Storage to Unsheltered Homeless Community
Guided by those with lived experience and success stories around the country, program helps people navigate challenges of homelessness without the burden of carrying all of their possessions with them.
NOTE to Media: Photos and B-roll available on request. Package includes interviews with Chris Shorter, Ken Snipes and Steve Harrell
The City of Austin has launched the Violet KeepSafe Storage program to provide storage to people experiencing homelessness. Located in the HealthSouth parking garage in Downtown Austin, access to storage will help people who live unsheltered attend service provider appointments, doctor’s appointments, pursue employment, and get some rest without worrying about the safety of their most treasured possessions.
The new facility is opening with a referral system, assigning 96-gallon violet bins to those referred by the Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST) or the Downtown Austin Community Court (DACC). The City is currently making 85 bins available but hopes to expand the program with up to 200 additional carts, and decentralized locations, which will allow more organizations to refer clients to participate. City officials will work towards employing more people with lived experience of homelessness to staff future facilities.
“This operation is all about investing in the health and dignity of our neighbors experiencing homelessness,” Ken Snipes, Director, Austin Resource Recovery said. “As I saw working with folks in Seattle and was confirmed here by the Austin Homelessness Advisory Council, offering a storage bin and a lock does more than alleviate physical burden or fear of theft. This service builds trust and lines of communication between our institutions and the people who rely on them to build a better life.”
"This is important for anyone going to a job or job interview but who may not want to show up with a shopping cart or a rucksack or backpack full of their personal effects," said Assistant City Manager Chris Shorter. "This is a major step forward for our support system in response to our homeless population. And it's just a first step. Our plan is to add additional sites and carts across the city. We are expanding citywide and will be able to serve hundreds more."
Inspired by similar programs around the country, this program was developed through collaboration by the Office of Design and Delivery, Austin Homeless Advisory Council (AHAC) and members of the Austin design community. This included prototyping operations in a parking lot for people experiencing homelessness to give their input and feedback on how it should work.
Steve Harrell, who had been living unsheltered since 2012, was a champion for creating the program through his role in AHAC. Recently housed, Steve works at the storage center as a clerk, continuing to shape how this resource best serves the members of our community who still need it.
“They got me from the streets and now look where I’m at. It’s a good income job through the City of Austin. It’s an insurance policy that I’m making for myself, so I don’t have to come back to homelessness,” Harrell said. “This helping people, that’s all we need to do.”
The new Program builds on an initiative by FrontSteps, which accepted 157 new purple storage bins from the City of Austin, quadrupling their available storage at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH). While safety during COVID-19 has impacted their availability to offer storage beyond shelter residents, those who have used the carts have found the large, waterproof and lockable units helpful.
“Having safe, accessible storage makes it possible for our clients to hold onto meaningful items, often received as donations, like full sized blankets, without carrying around that bulk and weight year-round. It’s also a place to store clothes and work boots for when they find work in kitchens or construction,” Amy Price, Director of Development and Communications at Front Steps said. “Not only does it reduce the physical strain of carrying every belonging in bags, but it helps individuals avoid the stares or other negative reactions from people who immediately recognize someone as homeless when they are carrying all of their possessions with them.”
The Violet KeepSafe Storage program highlights ways in which the City is supporting our most vulnerable neighbors. During COVID-19 the City of Austin is following Centers for Disease Control guidelines to allow people who are living unsheltered, or in encampments, to remain where they are at this time, to minimize community spread of the disease and maximize access to services. Individuals who are violating applicable laws that lead to the erosion of public health and safety, or are in unsafe areas may be asked to relocate. When individuals are asked to relocate, the City will make efforts to ensure that they are offered and connected to appropriate services.
Pilot Project for New Water Metering System
My ATX Water to Bring New Benefits to Customers
Austin Water will begin a systems testing pilot for My ATX Water: Austin’s Smart Water Meter System. The pilot includes nearly 5,000 water meters that were chosen to test the system capabilities and tackle challenges across various terrain, aging infrastructure, and a variety of dwelling types and meter sizes.
The systems testing pilot will allow Austin Water to ensure that the technology, connectivity, and data transfer systems are set up and working properly before investing in full implementation of the project. The systems testing pilot includes all, or a portion of, River Place/Glenlake and Long Canyon neighborhoods (about 1,920 meters) and Windsor Park/Mueller neighborhoods (about 2,840 meters).
The Austin City Council approved contracts on March 26, 2020, paving the way for Austin Water to modernize its water metering system. Over the next five years, the project will replace more than 230,000 analog water meters with electronically read water meters connected to a wireless network. The project will also develop a customer portal with daily water use data where customers can sign up for customized notifications.
Since 2016, Austin Water staff have evaluated new water metering technologies, known as Advanced Metering Infrastructure, and conducted small-scale pilot projects. “The analysis we’ve done over the past few years has helped Austin Water prepare to implement the best metering and data communication solution for the utility and our customers,” said Rick Coronado, Assistant Director of Operations, Austin Water.
“Austin Water is committed to affordability for our customers and has worked with the Texas Water Development Board to secure low interest loans to fund the majority of the project,” said Greg Meszaros, Director, Austin Water.
“This project will provide our customers and the utility much more data about water use, allow easier communication with customers through the new customer portal, and will improve billing accuracy. We look forward to bringing this improvement to our customers over the next five years,” continued Meszaros.
Following the 1-year systems testing pilot, meters will be installed throughout the Austin Water service area in phases over four years. Once fully implemented, the project will eliminate the need for manual water meter reading.
Austin Water will notify customers when their installation is scheduled with mailers, door hangers, community engagement opportunities, and other methods. Customers can expect to receive much more information in the coming months.
Learn more about the project at myatxwater.org.
Information about Google Fiber Construction
Google Fiber is beginning construction in some parts of the Allandale and Brentwood neighborhoods. Construction is expected to continue over the next few months. Here is some information about Google Fiber's construction processes:
Residents can expect to receive a Google Fiber door hanger on their front door, letting them know that construction will begin on their street soon.
Construction will take place from 7:00 am - 7:00 pm everyday, including weekends.
Construction will take place in the public right-of-way.
Construction crews will comply with any applicable regulations regarding safety, social distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE).
Construction crews will place “No Parking Signs” on the street at least 48 hours in advance of construction in the right-of-way, as required by the City of Austin.
When the vehicle needs to be moved, the crews will make a reasonable effort to contact the vehicle owner in order to let them move it. This may include knocking on the doors where the vehicle is parked.
As a last resort, if vehicles remain in “no parking” areas during construction and crews are unable to access the public right-of-way, vehicles may be temporarily moved.
If a vehicle is moved, the owner is NOT CHARGED with the tow and the vehicle is generally put back where it was.
If a resident is having an issue with construction, they can give us a call at 877-454-6959 to let us know the issue. This is a 24/7 hotline dedicated to construction issues.
If you'd like to be notified when you're eligible for service, you can sign up at the Google Fiber website.
Shoal Creek Conservancy: Creekside Neighbors
Have you checked out @shoalcreekconservancy’s newest program, Creekside Neighbors? This program provides you, residents living within the watershed and along Shoal Creek, with the tools and resources needed to take an active role in improving Shoal Creek’s water quality! Visit Shoal Creek Conservancy to view @AustinWatershed programs and rebates, and info on how you can host your very own neighborhood cleanup!
Shoal Creek was once home to popular swimming holes and through Creekside Neighbors, we can lay the groundwork for Austinites to return to Shoal Creek for a safe, free place to fish, swim and cool off during our hot summer months.
Austin Area Urban League
From: Ken Snipes, Director, Austin Resource Recovery
August 20, 2020
Curbside service day change for some
Austin Resource Recovery
The purpose of this memo is to inform Mayor and Council of the upcoming curbside solid waste service day change for 9,295 Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) customers beginning the week of September 21.
This modification aims to rebalances routes and maximize route efficiencies by making fewer trips to the landfill and processing facilities, reducing wear and tear on collections vehicles, shortening excessively long workdays for operations staff and ultimately providing better customer service.
ARR will notify impacted customers in the following ways:
Customer notification letter and email four weeks before the service day change
Reminder postcard two weeks prior
Reminder cart tag one week prior
Customers who have registered to receive ARR service-related notifications using My Schedule or the Austin Recycles App will also receive notifications of their new collection day through those tools.
ARR operations staff will run both previous and new collection days for four weeks after the transition as customers adjust to their new service day. They will place tags on any carts set out on the incorrect collection day to remind them of the change.
If you have any questions, please contact Gena McKinley or (512) 974-1915.
Census 2020 Campaign Goes on Tour
On Monday, Aug. 24 and Monday, Aug. 31, Austin Public Library's Bookmobile will visit Austin school sites to spread the word about the Census and help register voters
The Bookmobile is becoming a traveling Census 2020 canvassing strategy for the local effort appearing on-site at socially distant or drive-through events providing materials, iPads with wifi to fill out the Census 2020 on-site, and answering questions. On Monday, August 24 and Monday, August 31, these groups will be on-site at local school locations providing food, books, Census 2020 completion, and voter registration.
Monday, August 24, 2020
Navarro Early College High School
1201 Payton Gin Rd.
Austin, TX 78758
Monday, August 31, 2020
Dobie Middle School
1200 E. Rundberg Ln.
Austin, TX 78753
"Voting is one of the greatest privileges for citizens in this country. The library has a long history of registering people to vote and giving citizens an opportunity to make their voices heard," said Austin Public Library Director Roosevelt Weeks. "This year is doubly important because this is a Census year. Everybody can participate in this effort to make sure we can get the resources we need. Let’s make sure we are heard this year by voting and taking part in the census."
About the Census
Every 10 years, the Census counts all people living within the United States. For every person counted, our neighborhoods receive $1,500 per person per year to support community needs. On August 3, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that the Census 2020 response deadline had been moved up to September 30, a month earlier than the previous deadline of October 31. This means that field data collection and self-response options will end on September 30.
As August 17, Austin is experiencing a low response rate in comparison to comparable large cities, with a response rate of only 63.2%. Texas overall has a response rate of 58.9% and ranks 39th out of all of the states in the United States. According to the Austin-Travis County Complete Count Committee, this means that if Census 2020 were to end today, our community would lose over $350 million. To see how many households in Austin have responded, view this map created by the City of Austin and another map created by the Census Bureau.
There are many ways for organizations, businesses and individuals to help reach communities at risk of being undercounted: