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Austin 'Excited' By Number Of Applicants Seeking Money For Equity-Based Projects

Gabriel C. Pérez

Austin officials say they’ve received more applications than expected for a newly developed program to level the playing field for groups seeking money for quality-of-life initiatives.  

The Equity Office Mini-Grant Program was created under the $4.1 billion budget Austin City Council passed last month. Its aim is to support innovative projects of small or new community-based organizations.

The program includes a $75,000 Equity Mini-Grant Fund. About $10,000 will be awarded to seven groups with projects focused on eliminating structural barriers and/or improving the quality of life of vulnerable populations. The projects had to align with the city’s Strategic Direction 2023. (An eighth group could be awarded a smaller amount.)

The city received 125 entries during the application period from Aug. 23 to Sept. 10. Equity Officer Brion Oaks said that number is far beyond what was expected.

“With this sort of being a new concept, you know, we thought we maybe would have like 30 to 50 applications,” he said. “When we got 125, we were all excited!”  

Oaks said he thinks it shows the "level of community-based organizations that are out there who see the importance of doing equity-based work and who are really trying to take on the challenges that our city faces."  

The Equity Office worked with Austin Public Health to make the application process easier. Many organizations that had applied in the past called the old process “dense,” “challenging,” “unclear” and costly.

“If we can really demonstrate that this [grant program] works well and that it’s providing impact, it can really open up the conversation of maybe how we can fund it more,” Oaks said.

In response to feedback, the Equity Office made the application available online instead of requiring a digital and paper copy. The city will also award funding to organizations upfront, instead of requiring receipts for reimbursement.

A review panel made up of one member each from the African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian-American and LGBTQ quality-of-life commissions will review and recommend organizations they think should receive the mini-grants. Awards are expected to be announced next month.

“We hope that this process goes really well and that we have some really great projects to be able to demonstrate that they’re making a difference in the community,” Oaks said.

DaLyah Jones is a former assistant producer for All Things Considered and evening host. She is also co-host of the Two & Fro podcast.
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