Federal Funds Flowing Into Central Texas for Housing, Transit
Doggett announces $122 million in COVID-19 relief
By Mike Clark-Madison,
6:00PM, Fri. Apr. 3, 2020
Housing and transit agencies in Austin, Travis County, and San Marcos are the beneficiaries of $122 million in federal funds delivered under the CARES Act coronavirus relief package, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, announced this week.
Doggett, the only Democrat representing the Austin area in Congress, has served since 1995, chairs the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, and has enough clout in the majority party to make sure Central Texas got its due in the CARES Act. "Like the cavalry coming over the hill," said Austin Mayor Steve Adler in a press release, "the good news that Congressman Doggett and Congress are delivering federal funds for Austin and those hit hardest is much-needed real action and concrete support.”
The lion's share of the new funding goes to transit – $104 million in Austin, $6.4 million in San Marcos. This funding through the Federal Transit Administration (which does not require the usual local match) is to "maintain essential transportation services, enhanced cleaning, and to avoid excessive layoffs." Capital Metro, which has seen ridership decline by two-thirds since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, is also looking at major revenue shortfalls from the 1% sales tax that funds its operations. "Capital Metro is grateful for the work done by the Central Texas delegation in Washington to deliver the support our frontline staff needs in this crisis," the agency said in a statement.
Housing agencies in Austin, Travis County, and San Marcos will receive a total of $8.4 million in additional funds through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's main local funding programs – Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG), and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA). On top of this, Austin Public Health will receive $4.1 million in HIV emergency relief funding, which director Stephanie Hayden says will also "allow us to help more clients find and maintain stable housing."
Doggett said that beyond this needed relief for public services in his district, "my first priority remains trying to speed up urgently needed help for those suddenly jobless or struggling to keep a small business afloat." The House is widely expected to pass another, even larger relief and recovery package before too long, which can't come soon enough for those who serve the most vulnerable in Austin. "The CARES Act is a great start in meeting some of our needs resulting from COVID-19," said Michael Gerber, CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of Austin. "I know we can count on [Doggett's] continued help, since the hard reality is that we will need more resources as this pandemic unfolds."