$271.6 million. That's how much money Austin City Council unanimously approved Thursday, to help people impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. This comes after council was criticized for not helping people enough.
Faith leaders called out city council last month, saying they weren't helping Austinites pushed to the breaking point by the COVID-19 crisis. City council responded with a list of line items that add up to $271.6 million in city and federal dollars. It includes $27.5 million in direct financial support – something that was popular during public comment.
"The ways in which people have used direct assistance when the $2 million was allocated to the equity office will absolutely insure people's safety," said Austinite Anna Defretes, who called into public comment.
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The total also included almost $24 million in rental assistance. Last month, city leaders set aside $1.2 million for rental assistance, which helped about a thousand renters – not nearly as many as those who needed it. That was on top of $15 million in relief that city council approved in April, but that wasn't solely devoted to rental assistance.
Cities like San Antonio and Dallas had set aside between $23 and $25 million -- and faith leaders in Central Texas had asked for $40 million. They didn't get all of it, but council members sounded like this financial relief package isn't the last of it, and it includes $105.5 million for the COVID-19 emergency response -- and $62.9 million for medical and public health needs.