How To Get Help (And Help) In Austin During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Mar 17, 2020

We'll keep this post updated on how people can help and get help in the Austin area during the coronavirus pandemic. Know of something missing from this list? Email Andy@KUT.org.

Food

Get Help: The Central Texas Food Bank has a map of locations where you can get hot meals and groceries in Austin. Enter your location to find what's available near you.

Milan, 4, and Myden, 3, select meals from Austin ISD, which is passing out curbside lunches while schools are closed.
Credit Michael Minasi / KUT

Austin Independent School District is providing breakfast and lunch for students under the age of 19 and their parents or caregivers Mondays through Fridays while schools are closed. Bus drivers will deliver meals to 54 community locations between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Curbside meals will also be available for pickup from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 16 school sites. More information and pickup locations can be found here.

Help: The Central Texas Food Bank anticipates a dramatic increase in the need for its services in the coming weeks and months. The food bank says a $25 donation provides 100 meals for neighbors in need. You can donate here.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul Diocesan Council of Austin, a charity network, is seeking donations to help those in need. It’s looking for canned vegetables, non-perishable snacks and meals, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, toiletries and more. Donations can be dropped off from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 901 W. Braker Lane, Austin. 

​The Austin Ed Fund is asking for donations to help make sure kids and families in Austin ISD have meals while school is out. The fund aims to expand AISD’s existing food preparation and delivery and provide weekend food packs. People can donate online.

Job Loss/Businesses

Get Help: The coronavirus outbreak has caused many businesses to shut down and lay off employees. If you were laid off – or even if your hours were just cut back – you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Navigating the system can be challenging, so we've put together this resource.

Small businesses and nonprofits hurt by the pandemic can now apply for emergency loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The loans became available in Texas after the state received a federal disaster declaration over the coronavirus.

Jobs have also cropped up to help meet needs during this time. Grocery stores like H-E-B and Whole Foods Market have opened temporary positions like stockers and cleaners. Capital Metro also announced it is hiring more bus drivers and cleanersAmazon is seeking applicants for delivery drivers, shoppers and warehouse workers. The company is adding an additional $2 per hour to these wages through the month of April. More current job postings can be found at Austin Chamber of Commerce.

The United States Bartender Guild is offering assistance to bartenders. The foundation recently received $500,000 from Jameson to help bartenders who are experiencing job loss. The money is distributed as a lump sum and distributed based on need. The application can be found here.

The nonprofit Southern Smoke is offering charitable assistance to those who’ve lost their jobs in the service industry. The application for English can be found here and for Spanish can be found here

Help: You can still support local businesses while you’re stuck at home. Though you can’t go out to restaurants and bars right now, you can still order food and alcoholic beverages to-go. Nonessential businesses have been ordered to close for now, but if you want to support your favorite store, you might be able to buy a gift card online to use later on. 

Music Industry

Get Help: The Austin Creative Alliance has set up an emergency fund to support local artists during the coronavirus pandemic. The Artists Emergency Relief Fund allows artists to apply for up to $500 to replace lost income due to event or project cancellations. Applications will be reviewed every day on an ongoing basis.

The group says priority will be given to ACA members and people experiencing housing or food insecurity. Artists who receive funding will be asked to make a donation such as artistic work, creative services or volunteer time.

The Texas Music Office lists other grants for music industry professionals dealing with lost income amid COVID-19 cancellations, such as the American Guild of Musical Artists Relief Fund and Facebook’s COVID-19 Small Business Grants Program.

The Stand with Austin Fund has partnered with the Entrepreneurs Foundation to assist those who were affected by Austin’s SXSW cancellation. The fund is accepting applications until April 17 at 5 p.m. Donations are also being accepted to support the funding.

Help: KUT's sister station, KUTX, has an entire guide devoted to helping Austin musicians and the businesses that support them. National organizations like MusicCares and local nonprofits like HAAM can provide a safety net.

The SIMS Foundation is a local group dedicated to providing mental health and substance use recovery services for the Austin music community. For immediate support, call 512-472-HELP (4357) — a 24/7 helpline for those in mental health crisis in Travis County. 

For fans looking to support local artists, I Lost My Gig and the Red River Cultural District's Banding Together ATX campaign are just some of your options.

Older Adults

Get Help: Several grocery stores, like Whole Foods and Fiesta, are implementing preferential queuing policies to allow older individuals to shop in small numbers before the doors open up to the public. Find out what else stores are doing to help vulnerable populations here.

H-E-B and Favor Delivery launched a new service called Senior Support Line. Adults over 60 are able to choose from a specially curated list of essentials and can place their orders over the phone by calling 1-833-397-0080, via the Favor app or on Favor’s website. More information can be found here.

Family Eldercare has a phone program called Lifetime Connections Without Walls to help people 55 and older deal with social isolation. It provides social and educational sessions and will also have programs on COVID-19.

Age of Central Texas has resources on COVID-19 and has made a library of activities and resources online for older adults and caregivers who are quarantined at home. 

Drive A Senior West has a free emergency food pantry for any senior in its service area (downtown Austin, Central Austin, Old West Austin, Hyde Park, Rosedale, Tarrytown, Allandale, Northwest Hills and North Shoal Creek). Seniors can call the office at 512-472-6339 to register for temporary services. 

Help: Aspire to Age is seeking volunteers for 20-minute virtual and phone check-ins with seniors. Drive A Senior West needs volunteers for its food pantry, as well as food and paper-good donations.

Aging Services Council of Central Texas lists more services and volunteer opportunities on its website

Austin law firm DC Law is hosting a virtual donation drive for AGE of Central Texas through April 14. The organization is in need of adult pull-ups and body wipes to help support low-income seniors during the COVID-19 crisis. To support, you can buy adult pull-ups or body wipes via Amazon and ship them to 3710 Cedar St., Ste. 100, Austin, TX 78705. Then, send a digital copy of your receipt and contact information to nathan@texasjustice.com. The law firm will then randomly select one donor to receive a $250 Amazon gift card.

Health Care

Get Help: Those who have endured health insurance loss may be eligible for local health coverage programs such the Medical Access Program (MAP) or MAP-BASIC provided by Central Health. Central Health is available to Travis County residents at 512-978-8130. The MAP applications can be found and downloaded here in English and Spanish. Federal programs like Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) might also be options. 

Help: Austin Disaster Relief Network is asking people to drop off personal protection supplies for health care workers. It is accepting donations of hand sanitizer, antibacterial soap, N95 masks, surgical masks, thermometers, disinfectant wipes and more. As of April 7, homemade masks will also be accepted, provided they follow clinically requested specs. People can drop off donations at ADRN Headquarters, Hope Family Thrift, 1122 East 51st Street. 

The Austin EMS Association has set up a donation page to help medics affected by the pandemic pay for meals, supplies, pet care or other expenses. All money collected by the Austin EMS Relief Fund will go to medics who have been exposed to COVID-19, are symptomatic, are quarantined or are unable to work because of it.

We Are Blood, Central Texas' blood bank, says it is in serious need of blood donations as more and more people stay home and blood drives are canceled.

"We urge our community members to donate blood or platelets now to help us prepare for further impacts from the coronavirus," the blood bank said in a tweet.

We Are Blood has updated its safety measures for donors and staff, including cleaning surfaces after each donor's visit.

Internet Access

Get Help: Charter Communications is offering free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who don't already have a Spectrum broadband subscription. To enroll, call 1-844-488-8395. Installation fees will be waived for new student households.

Housing

Get Help: Evictions have been paused in the Austin area for the time being. Landlords can still file evictions during the pandemic, but Travis County judges are not hearing these cases. Judges suspended eviction hearings until at least May 9 as part of the effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

In an attempt to further slow the eviction process in Austin for renters who’ve lost wages because of COVID-19, Austin City Council members approved a measure March 26 to essentially stall eviction filings against tenants for two months. 

Austin Energy has also said it would suspend all shutoffs of utilities due to unpaid bills. For most customers, this includes electricity, water, trash collection and recycling. Read more about this from KUT's Audrey McGlinchy.

Help: Austin-Travis County EMS Explorer Post 247, an organization for youth to learn about careers in emergency medical services, is raising money to buy supplies for homeless people who no longer have services because organizations have been forced to close their doors. The group is accepting donations through Venmo (user name: Explorer_Post_247). It says its goal is to help 10,000 people.

Salvation Army of Austin is seeking donations for cleaning supplies. You can make donations by buying available supplies at Salvation Army's Amazon wish list.

Lifeworks Austin, which serves younger Austinites experiencing homelessness, is asking people to donate gift cards for grocery stores – specifically H-E-B, Walmart or Target. You can mail in or drop off gift cards at Lifeworks on 3700 South First St., Austin.

Foundation Communities, a local nonprofit that provides affordable housing and support services in Austin and North Texas, is seeking donations for its Emergency Assistance Fund. The fund will help residents who are experiencing health concerns or lost wages to afford rent, utilities, household items, transportation and more. Donate at FoundCom.org.

Animals

Help: Austin Animal Center is closed to the public now due to COVID-19 concerns. The center is not completing adoptions during the closure but is still looking for people to foster animals. Its goal is to get at least 50% of shelter animals into foster homes during the closure. To foster one, email animal.foster@austintexas.gov or go to austinanimalcenter.org.

Austin Pets Alive! is also looking for people to foster animals. People can adopt pets or make monetary or in-kind donations. The organization is looking for supplies like towels, leashes, bleach, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes and more during this time. 

Alyssa Weinstein contributed to this post.

This post has been updated.