In a year when canceled performances and venue shutters destabilized the so-called live music capital, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians remains an argument for the latter to stick around. You play here, you live here, you get free or low-cost health insurance. The golden ticket is HAAM membership, open to any working musician, music teacher, or DJ living within 50 miles of the city.
Alongside the ability to sleuth out an in-network ophthalmologist for your favorite hypnagogic pop vocalist, the nonprofit stepped up offerings after the city called off South by Southwest. Within days, HAAM expanded assistance to food, rent, and prescriptions for the community in crisis – as if their legendary custom-fit earplugs weren't enough. The number of calls for assistance doubled, and Executive Director Reenie Collins brought in trauma training to help her small team endure the intensity.
In a spring survey of over 2,600 HAAM members, almost 80% of recipients said income losses due to the pandemic would "drastically affect their ability to meet basic needs" in coming months. The dire results fueled emergency city funding. Leader Collins spoke with the Chronicle in September, ahead of annual HAAM Day, a concert fundraiser aired both online and on Fox 7 Austin, featuring Jack Ingram, Reckless Kelly, Asleep at the Wheel, Band of Heathens, Jackie Venson, Gina Chavez, and more.
"The calls [from musicians] are so much deeper than, 'I don't have any gigs.' It's, 'My whole means of existence is gone,'" she explained. "Musicians already lived in a really fragile ecosystem. Now more than ever, it's important to have good health care and access to it."
Facing their own funding gaps, HAAM successfully rallied for support from Austin Economic Development and Travis County's Central Health. New partnerships carried HAAM's first-ever virtual insurance enrollment to close out 2020. The nonprofit's unique ability to stretch funds in the notoriously inefficient health care system makes it a great candidate for donations.
Every dollar donated is leveraged into $7 of direct services to Austin musicians. – Rachel Rascoe
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