COVID-19 Latest: More Than $20 Million In Relief Funds Distributed To Austin Businesses, Residents

Aug 27, 2020

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, Aug. 27. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Travis County sees 122 new cases and three more deaths

Austin Public Health reported 122 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Thursday, up from 100 reported the day before. The seven-day average of daily new cases is 127. Three more deaths were reported, bringing the county’s death total to 374.

There are now 159 people reported hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell), one more than yesterday. APH reported 25 new COVID-19 hospital admissions in the region Thursday. The seven-day average of new admissions is 18.9.

Local officials use that average and other metrics to make recommendations about safety guidelines. Austin-Travis County moved from stage 4 to stage 3 of APH’s risk-based guidelines on Tuesday. Officials are still encouraging people to avoid social gatherings and groups of more than 10 people.

Austin ISD to distribute 17,500 backpacks with school supplies

Austin Independent School District’s Back to School Bash is moving online this year. The annual event typically serves as a chance for families to connect with services and receive backpacks with school supplies before classes start.

This year, families can access those services through the “Bash Virtual Backpack,” a listing of about 60 community organizations that can provide support.

The backpack distribution will look different this year. While in past years, 4,500 backpacks were given out, this year 17,500 backpacks will be given out at individual campuses. Schools have been given backpacks for 40% of the students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, according to the district.

"I am proud to join a community that comes together to support our students in this year of unprecedented change," Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said in a press release. "The supplies and services available to our families through the virtual Back to School Bash will help our students prepare for the year as we work together to adapt to our new normal."

The district says campus leaders will determine how and when to distribute them, possibly through drive-thru pickups.

Backpacks include a wide-ruled spiral notebook, pink eraser, a mask, pencils, a glue stick, a ruler, a pencil box, pens, a pencil sharpener and a packet of additional information on resources for families.

Austin has passed out more than $20 million in relief funds to individuals and businesses 

The City of Austin says it has distributed more than $23.7 million in relief grants and loans to people and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in the last five months. Another $9.3 million will be distributed in the next few weeks.

The money has been given out through several relief programs created by the Economic Development Department. Here’s a breakdown of what money went where:

  • The Austin Childcare Provider Relief Fund: $900,000 went to 72 child care providers.
  • The Austin Creative Space Disaster Relief Program: $987,943 went to 32 live music venues, performance spaces, art galleries, arts-focused nonprofits and artists facing displacement.
  • The Austin Economic Injury Bridge Loan Program: $645,000 in short-term, low interest loans went to 19 small businesses.
  • The Austin Music Disaster Relief Fund: $1.5 million has been distributed among 1,500 musicians.
  • The Austin Non-Profit Relief Grant: $3.5 million went to 217 nonprofits.
  • The Austin Small Business Relief Grant: $16,243,367 went to 885 small businesses.
  • The Austin Creative Worker Relief Grant: $3,342,500 will go to more than 1,600 workers in the creative sector. This is in progress.

Officials recognize there is still more need. The department plans to launch additional grants in the coming weeks focusing on support for commercial property owners, nonprofits and the mental health.

“We've seen $128 million in requests for funds from small businesses which far exceeds the amount of money currently available,” Susana Carbajal, assistant director for the Economic Development Department, said in a press release. “Until other federal recovery funds are allocated, we are working to meet industry needs through other services – including providing free online coaching and classes for business owners, and updating our recovery website, ATXrecovers.com, with new information about grants, loans, tax assistance, legal aid, and more.” 

Food bank to host food distribution Thursday and Saturday morning

The Central Texas Food Bank is hosting food distribution events Thursday and Saturday for families facing food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pre-packed boxes of food are handed out via drive-thru. The food bank asks that people make space in their vehicle’s trunk before arriving.

Thursday’s distribution ran from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Toney Burger Stadium, 3200 Jones Rd., Austin. Saturday’s distribution is from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Travis County Expo Center, 7311 Decker Ln., Austin.

More than 52,000 Texans applied for unemployment last week

New numbers out this morning show about 52,300 Texans applied for unemployment benefits last week. That's about 9,000 fewer claims than the week before.

Since mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic started hitting the Texas economy hard, just about 3,494, 240 Texans have applied for first-time unemployment benefits.  

Texas will not be contributing $100 a week to go along with $300 in additional weekly unemployment benefits President Donald Trump announced earlier this month.

COVID-19 Dashboards

What's happening statewide? Check out special coverage from KERA for North Texas, Houston Public MediaTexas Public Radio in San Antonio and Marfa Public Radio.

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