Subject: Austin Civilian Conservation Corps and New COVID-19 Funds

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Dear Neighbors,

This past week marked an important milestone in our history: the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe and the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. As I think about this moment, I am grateful for the sacrifices of so many who came before us and I take inspiration for the ways all of us can come together to meet the challenges we face today.

One inspiration for me is Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) which provided jobs and gave hope to many. The CCC left a legacy in the trails, trees, and parks we still enjoy in Austin and all over the country. Last Thursday, City Council unanimously passed my proposal (Item 61) to create the Austin Civilian Conservation Corps (ACCC or A Triple C).

The ACCC is a workforce development and economic relief program which will employ Austinites who have lost their jobs or have faced a significant economic impact as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Participants will work on a range of conservation projects, prioritizing those that can be done safely while observing social distancing, with a lasting positive impact on the community. Participants will also receive training and professional development opportunities to better position themselves in the workforce after their service.

This spirit of community cooperation also motivates my work to support small Austin-run businesses, nonprofits, and childcare centers. In recent weeks I've met with local business and non-profit leaders to understand how the City can partner to help see these critical institutions through these tough times.

Nonprofits shared that they faced fundraising shortfalls, a dip in donations, the cancellation of annual giving events, and operational challenges that reduced their ability to collect fee-based revenue. Our childcare centers and local small businesses were also threatened by closure if they didn’t receive aid.

To meet this urgent need, I partnered with my colleagues to bring a resolution to Council (Item 23) that would bring fast financial relief to local small businesses, area non-profit organizations, and childcare centers.

The resolution establishes three funds, with $11 million allocated to the Commercial Loans for Economic Assistance & Recovery (CLEAR) Fund for local small businesses, $1 million for the Childcare Support Fund, and $6 million for the Austin Nonprofit & Civic Health Organizations Relief (ANCHOR) fund to provide loans, grants, and technical assistance to eligible entities.

Moving forward, we will need to deploy a variety of tools and strategies to keep our economic ecosystem responsive and strong, and these programs are a step towards keeping our community safe and resilient.

Below you will find a recap of other important steps the City Council took last week to support the health and economic well-being of our city, information about new state and city orders, additional COVID-related updates on city programs, ways to donate, new data on Austin's census response rates, and notice of upcoming Project Connect virtual open houses.

Please continue to use my office as a resource. We are here to help. Email if we can be of assistance.

Take Care,

Alison Alter
Council Member, District 10 
Table of Contents
  • Council Recap
  • New State and Local Orders
  • New Parks and Recreation Modifications
  • Expanded COVID-19 Testing
  • Antibody Testing: Statement from Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority
  • ATXRecovers – Economic Recovery Website 
  • Non-COA Utilities Relief Measures
  • Public Input on Federal CARES HUD Funding Allocation
  • Urbānitūs Article on Rebuilding Cities After the Pandemic 
  • Drive-A-Senior Updates
  • SAFE Austin – How to Get Help and How to Donate
  • Project Connect Virtual Open House & CapMetro Community Meetings
  • Complete the 2020 Census!
Council Recap

I described these two items briefly in my opening letter and invite you to learn more about both items in this Austin American-Statesman article and the ACCC in this CBS Austin story.

I would like to thank my co-sponsors Council Member Paige Ellis, Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, Austin Mayor Steve Adler, and especially Council Member Jimmy Flannigan with whom I co-led the establishment of these three funds (Item 23) and my co-sponsors Council Members Leslie Pool, Kathie Tovo, Greg Casar and Mayor Adler for their support of the ACCC (Item 61).

I also want to note that in addition to creating the ACCC, Item 61 directs the City Manager to update our telecommuting policies and goals to incorporate what we’ve learned as the City works from home. It is my hope that this work will lead us to rethink the role telecommuting can play in city business, opening up new ways for us to reach our carbon neutral goals and to rethink our anticipated office space needs post-COVID-19. 

Now, more than ever, it is clear we must fortify our plans and strategic investments to ensure our community is resilient to shocks and stressors, including pandemics and environmental catastrophes, we will face in our future. I was proud to co-sponsor Item 22 which directs the City Manager to coordinate and implement a comprehensive community resilience plan. This effort builds on our climate resilience work while seeking to more deeply address the chronic stressors that undermine community resilience and that place some of Austin’s individuals and families at greater risk, as clearly evident during this pandemic.

This resolution is the next step in our resilience planning and anticipates partnerships with Austin’s business and philanthropic community and collaboration with various regional and intergovernmental entities. I want to thank Council Member Leslie Pool for her leadership on this item along with my fellow co-sponsors Council Member Kathie Tovo, Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, and Mayor Steve Adler. 

Item 58 seeks to leverage the infrastructure and resources of our school districts to maximize our investments in ensuring food security for families impacted by COVID-19. The Council authorized the City Manager to allocate up to $2.2 million in emergency dollars through the CARES Act to provide approximately 50,000 daily meals for caregivers facing food insecurity. These meals will be delivered in partnership with the Austin Independent School District and Del Valle School District’s student meal distribution sites during the months of May and June. This initiative also seeks to partner with local businesses who could prepare caregiver meals, thus filling the gap of food insecurity while supporting economic recovery efforts. (Additionally, we directed the City Manager to initiate conversations with other area school districts to determine their interest in and need for caregiver meal distribution.)

As previously shared, Anderson High School is a food distribution site in District 10. Information about AISD meals can be found here.

Our most vulnerable community members include individuals over the age of 65 and nursing home residents. Recognizing the unique public health needs of our nursing homes, Council approved a resolution directing the City Manager to take action to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among the residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. This means swiftly facilitating testing of all staff and residents at nursing homes, assisted living centers and long-term care facilities that experience a cluster of COVID-19 cases. A cluster is two or more positive cases at one location. The City then will work to test all staff at all nursing homes, assisted living centers and long-term care facilities located in Austin as soon as possible. We are also seeking to provide a funding mechanism for retention and hiring incentives to employees providing nursing, care assistance, food preparation, and janitorial services at these facilities and to provide personal protective equipment for nursing homes.

I cosponsored Item 60, which directs the City Manager to bring forward a spending framework for the use of all COVID-19 federal and state funding in a way that leverages and maximizes the benefits of those funds. The spending framework will identify funding for:
  • immediate operations;
  • protection of vulnerable populations;
  • support to mitigate the economic impacts of the pandemic; and
  • recovery and resiliency activities.
We anticipate this framework will be on the May 21st Council agenda.

As we spend more time at home, many of us have experienced a deeper appreciation for our open spaces and green spaces. Investing in our parks and recreational facilities have long been top priorities for me. This week, Council approved a resolution directing the City Manager to create a Healthy Streets program to facilitate safe, socially distanced outdoor exercise and active transportation on neighborhood streets during the COVID-19 pandemic. The streets selected for this program will still allow local vehicular traffic. The concept would be to select and support safe, socially distanced walking, bicycling, and other outdoor exercise and active transportation on neighborhood streets and discourage automobile “cut-through-traffic” on those streets. 

City staff will initiate a process to solicit ideas and community feedback for this concept including suggestions on streets. We hope this will allow more individuals to safely spend time outdoors at an appropriate distance from one another without being worried about vehicular traffic during these challenging and unprecedented times. Please know this does not replace our other long-term efforts to provide safe neighborhoods by investing in sidewalks and other infrastructure, but is meant to be a swift intervention while so many of us are at home in the short-term. As they launch, we will share community input opportunities and updates on this program. 

Many in our community are struggling to meet their financial obligations for rent and mortgage. A few weeks ago, Council passed a resolution requiring landlords to give tenants a “Notice of Proposed Eviction” that allows them to respond and offer payment plan options if they have lost income from COVID-19. Council took action this week to extend these notice requirements. This does not mean tenants do not owe their rent; it adds a notice requirement before eviction proceedings can begin. 

In a parallel effort to help those affected by the pandemic, the Texas Supreme Court paused all eviction proceedings until after May 18, and the execution of writs until after May 25, except for cases involving a threat of physical harm or criminal activity.

Tenants can still be evicted for not paying rent when the courts resume those proceedings if they fail to pay rent under the terms they agree to with their landlord. More information and housing resources can be found here.

For home owners, the National Housing Law Project has created this summary of information related to foreclosure protection and mortgage payment relief.  

Council continues work to provide emergency temporary lodging to individuals needing to quarantine or isolate themselves due to COVID-19, and to provide temporary protective lodging facilities to shelter people experiencing homelessness who are at high risk if they become COVID-19 positive. Item 43 ratified an emergency contract for the City’s third protective lodging facility. All three protective lodging facilities we have contracted are near capacity at this time. 

Council took action to accept and allocate just over $400,000 in federal funds for COVID-19 related expenses for persons living with HIV. The funding will be disbursed to local non-profit organizations to provide for food and medical assistance as well as medical-related transportation expenses. 

On May 7th, Council approved several contracts to local non-profit organizations to provide direct relief and direct financial assistance to Austin/Travis County residents impacted by COVID-19. Organizations providing assistance will provide food access, case management, behavioral health services, mortgage or rental assistance, assistance with utility bills, assistance with medical expenses, diapers and baby formula, and other essential needs.

The following agencies have demonstrated experience providing community-based services and financial assistance and were approved on the May 7th agenda:
  • Austin Voices for Education and Youth: $450,000
  • Goodwill Industries of Central Texas: $1,255,487
  • The Arc of the Capital Area: $250,000 
  • Wright House Wellness Center: $35,063
Please visit the City's RISE website to find eligibility requirements and or call 2-1-1 for assistance.

Council started the May 5th work session with a presentation from Dr. Mark Escott and Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden with updated COVID-19 data for Austin/Travis County and details about response strategies. We then heard from Assistant City Manager Chris Shorter and former executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness Matthew Dougherty regarding immediate and long-term support for those experiencing homelessness, both as part of the City's COVID-19 and as part of our longer term and ongoing strategic planning efforts.

Council was also briefed on our COVID-19 budgeting and economic recovery efforts by Deputy Chief Financial Officer Ed Van Eenoo, Economic Development Director Veronica Briseño, Intergovernmental Relations Officer Brie Franco, and Homeland Security Management Office Director Juan Ortiz.

You can watch our work session here.
New State and Local Orders

Last week, Governor Abbott issued a new executive order continuing public health requirements and recommendations, while also allowing certain businesses to re-open under specific conditions. In conjunction with the statewide orders, Mayor Adler and County Judge Eckhardt extended their Stay Home, Work Safe orders. I understand there is confusion about which orders are active and which ones should be followed. It is important to note that the local orders are not in conflict with the statewide orders; they complement one another. The local orders reinforce the public health measures included in Governor Abbott's order, provide additional mitigation measures, and incorporate the statewide order into local rules, as required by State law.

Both the statewide and the local orders alike require that residents continue practicing social distancing and hygiene guidelines and minimize contact with individuals outside their household as much as possible. Our efforts to reduce the spread of the virus are working, and we must continue these efforts to minimize the immediate and long-term impact of COVID-19 on our community's health and economy. Thank you for your dedication, patience, and persistence as our medical experts work to end this pandemic.

City Press Release (May 8, 2020)
New Stay Home-Work Safe Order Asks 
Austin Businesses to Help Track the Spread

Austin and Travis County residents have been urged to stay the course and continue modifying their behavior to keep themselves and others safe from the spread of COVID-19 – particularly as person-to-person interactions increase following the Texas Governor’s Orders.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt warned that now – after the community has done so well in flattening the curve – is not the time to let up and allow the disease to overwhelm our community and our health care system.

On Monday, May 4, the Governor lifted restrictions on a range of high-contact businesses and activities and has signaled plans to continue to relax some rules that have so far helped to slow the spread of COVID-19 across Austin and Travis County.

Today, the Mayor and Judge adopted their own updated Orders which incorporate these actions into local rules – as legally required by State law.

But the local orders, which went into effect at 12 p.m., also include provisions aimed at sustaining support for the community’s Stay Home-Work Safe efforts.

The modified Orders continue to:
  • Ask individuals to stay home and refrain from attending social gatherings of any size outside a single household, subject to stated exceptions.
  • Require face coverings in public, while making it clear that no civil or criminal penalty will be imposed for failure to wear one.
  • Ask individuals to practice social distancing, maintaining at least a six-foot distance from other individuals, and to wash their hands regularly with soap.
The Orders reflect concerns that residents are at higher risk of becoming infected by COVID-19 today than when the City and County first introduced its Stay Home Orders on March 24.

Austin’s Order warns: “Relaxing stay-at-home measures too quickly and without adequate testing and tracing could result in an overwhelming surge of hospitalizations and deaths.”

To help prevent this, the Order states: “All individuals anywhere in the City of Austin are required to continue to stay at home or their place of residence except as allowed by this Order.”

View the City of Austin Order, which expires May 30, HERE.
View the Travis County Order, which expires June 15, HERE.

“This virus is as infectious today as it was a month ago – it spreads quickly,” said Mayor Adler. “Everybody should be minimizing physical interactions absolutely as much as they possibly can as we dip our toe to increase commercial and social interactions. That’s what this Order does.”

“We have to stay the course,” said Judge Eckhardt. “Even as we venture out, we must keep limiting our person-to-person contact. Our lives or someone else’s life depends on it. We've seen hospitalizations begin to rise again. Every day ask yourself what’s essential for me today? Who am I coming in contact with? How can I keep them safe?”

Activity Logs to Help Contact Tracing

Under Mayor Adler’s Order for the City of Austin, businesses that reopen are asked to help Austin Public Health track and trace customers who may have been exposed to COVID-19. All restaurants allowing dine-in service as well as all reopened services with allowed occupancy or capacity of 75 or less are encouraged to maintain an activity log of contact information for all inside or sit-down customers and employees, including the dates and times they were present in the business and the location where they sat or were served. In the absence of such a log, the Order states, Austin Public Health “may need to publicly release, without limitation and in its discretion, the location where people with confirmed infections have been, with relevant dates and timeframes, so as to otherwise trace contacts.”

The activity logs will enable APH epidemiologists to inform and test others who may have come into close proximity with an infected patient but who may not be aware they were exposed. Identifying contacts and ensuring they do not interact with others is critical to protect communities from further spread. If communities are unable to effectively isolate patients and ensure contacts can separate themselves from others, rapid community spread of COVID-19 is likely to increase to the point that strict mitigation strategies will again be needed to contain the virus.

APH currently has about 30 people assigned to case investigations, which include contact tracing, with a strategy to scale up this effort as needed. APH also receives additional help from local healthcare partners.

“We work to identify those infected and isolate them instead of isolating the entire community,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority. “We have to avoid an uncontrolled spread which could overwhelm our healthcare system and lead to excess deaths in our community.”

How Contact Tracing Works
  • Details of a positive case are sent from Texas Department of State Health Services and directly from labs to APH epidemiologists, who begin an investigation.
  • The person who has tested positive will be asked questions related to their exposure, including their whereabouts and close contacts, from the 14 days prior to their symptoms showing to the present.
  • Contact tracers will then call the locations and contacts mentioned in the course of the investigation.
  • Investigators have a variety of tools to obtain contact information of those who may have been exposed, including use of reservation lists, credit card receipts, sign-in sheets, and now activity logs.
  • People who have been informed they may have been at risk of exposure can be tested and isolated if found to be positive.
Below, please check out an Austin Public Health flyer on how to prevent disease spread. Visit for more information and resources.
New Parks and Recreation Modifications

Based upon recent observations and data collection related to park usage over the past two weeks, the City's Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) will make the following operational adjustments:
  • Beginning Friday, May 8, PARD will monitor park capacity at Emma Long Metropolitan Park, Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park, and Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park. Once capacity is reached at these parks, signage will indicate no additional vehicles will be admitted. Staff will be on-site to educate park patrons and inform them of closures.
  • Starting Thursday, May 14, park patrons will be required to obtain day passes for Emma Long Metropolitan Park, Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park, and Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park via an online registration system or make a reservation by phone from Thursday through Sunday. A limited number of passes will be available per day. No entry will be granted without a pass. Regular entry fees apply for Emma Long and Walter E. Long parks. Vehicle access to Commons Ford entry remains free; however, a day pass will be required. No registration is required Monday through Wednesday.
Throughout the week, PARD has removed parking lot barricades. Barricades unintentionally restricted emergency vehicle access due to park patrons parking illegally along park entrance roads.

In accordance with the recent State Reopening of Services Order, golf courses, tennis centers, skeet shooting, and boating concessions are permitted to operate provided each can comply with the Order’s operational criteria. Some concessions have elected to remain closed.

At this time, PARD facilities and park system amenities remain closed. Park system restrooms, water fountains, boat ramps, green spaces and trails remain open. PARD will continue to monitor park safety throughout these modified operations and adjust as needed. PARD will also continue to message social distancing and other safety precautions via flyer distribution and social media.

Park Rangers and Park Monitors continue to patrol and monitor the entire park system, focusing attention where there is traditionally high usage. Additional information regarding the modified operations, closures, and online registration will be made available on the PARD website.

Expanded COVID-19 Testing

The Austin Public Testing Enrollment Form that allows the community to complete an online assessment for COVID-19 testing is now live on Appointments are currently available.

The new tool allows the public to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms without having to see a physician. The form will use an algorithm-based assessment to evaluate whether or not an individual should be referred to a free testing site. Completion of the online assessment will not guarantee referral to a testing site. Austin Public Health (APH) will continue to prioritize health care workers and first responders on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as people at higher risk for developing severe symptoms. Testing continues to be by appointment-only, and tests at the APH testing sites will be at no cost to the individual.

Additionally, the CDC expanded the list of possible symptoms for COVID-19 by six. Some of these symptoms are less severe in nature (for example: loss of taste/smell vs. fever), so we anticipate more people will be eligible for testing. Testing continues to be by appointment-only, and tests at the APH testing sites will be at no cost to the individual.

Antibody Testing: Statement from 
Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority

The City has received many inquiries from Austinites regarding new anitbody testing. Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority, issued a joint statement outlining the considerations one should take when determining whether to obtain antibody testing. 
ATXRecovers – Economic Recovery Website 

The Economic Development Department (EDD) has launched, a one-stop-shop resource page for individuals, nonprofits, and businesses. The website includes:
  • a list of resources to help businesses and individuals recover from the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • timely and relevant information about federal, state, and local policies regarding COVID-19'
  • performance indicators measuring the health and vibrancy of Austin's local economy;
  • contact information for City and community partners that are prepared to help you find the resources you need.
The City is also one of several entities contributing data to the Travis County Economic Impact Dashboard, which allows the public and local leaders to understand how the pandemic is impacting the local economy.
Non-COA Utilities Relief Measures

On April 9, 2020, the Austin City Council approved an ordinance authorizing the City Manager to work with other utilities providing service to City residents to facilitate their development and implementation of pandemic‐related assistance programs. Check out this memo for information on the measures non‐City of Austin utilities are taking for customers who are suffering financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic. 
Public Input on Federal CARES HUD Funding Allocation

From Monday May 4 through Monday May 11, Austinites can provide input on how the City should spend an anticipated $7 million in federal funding from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. 

HUD funding from the CARES Act can support programs for affordable housing, homelessness assistance, community development, economic development, and public services through three federal formula grants: Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG), and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA).

Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department (NHCD) created a Draft Housing and Urban Development Spending Plan that tells HUD how those funds will address housing, homelessness, community development, economic development, and public services. The Spending Plan will be available for review and public comment. 

 Austinites can submit comments in three ways:
  • Send written or typed comments via postal mail to:
    Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department
    Attn: City of Austin Housing and Urban Development Spending Plan
    P.O. Box 1088
    Austin, Texas 78767
  • Via email:
    Subject Heading: City of Austin Housing and Urban Development Spending Plan
For more information, go to the HUD funding website, or email

Urbānitūs Article on Rebuilding Cities After the Pandemic 

I invite you to read the recent Urbānitūs article I co-authored with my husband, Jeremi Suri. We focus on how history can help us renew our cities during the pandemic, including a new Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). At the May 7th Council meeting, I proposed the creation of the Austin Civilian Conservation Corps, and my resolution was approved unanimously.
Drive a Senior Updates

Drive a Senior West Austin and Drive a Senior North Central are merging to become Drive a Senior Austin (DAS ATX)​. Drive A Senior ATX is committed to providing food delivery services to as many home-bound seniors in Austin as needed until it is safe again for them to visit grocery stores. Every day they receive phone calls from seniors who are either out of food, or are critically low on food they have. Many of them find themselves completely dependent on the food delivery service Drive a Senior provides. 

Visit to find information on how to become a client or how to donate to provide meals to seniors in need.
SAFE Austin – How to Get Help and How to Donate

SAFE knows that home is not a safe place for everyone, and that violence can increase in times of stress and isolation. SAFE Austin's doors remain open to those in need, and their hotline (or SAFEline) will remain open and fully staffed to ensure that everyone that needs help can call the SAFEline and find the support they need. 

Their housing programs, including the Children’s Shelter, the Family Shelter, Foster and Adopt in Austin, Supportive Housing and Rapid Re-Housing are also open. The Eloise House sexual assault clinic remains open, and Planet SAFE, their supervised visitation and exchange center, continues to provide safe exchanges. Many services – CARES for sex trafficking survivors, Strong Start for parents, Expect Respect for teens, and more – continue to work with clients in modified ways, as well as developing effective and creative ways to address prevention during this time of isolation, fear and heightened vulnerability.

If you need our assistance or believe you are the survivor of violence or abuse, please contact our SAFEline by contacting us by phone at (512) 267-SAFE (7233), text at (737) 888-SAFE (7233), or chat at

If you would like to help SAFE during this time, you can click here to donate and here for offsite volunteer opportunities.
Project Connect Virtual Open House & CapMetro Community Meetings

Capital Metro has launched a self-guided online experience that walks visitors through Project Connect’s details and provides an opportunity to give feedback. This virtual open house is open to the public through May 31st.

Capital Metro is also hosting a series of one-hour virtual community meetings. These will include an update on the COVID-19 response followed by a presentation on the Project Connect recommended system plan, then a moderated roundtable and public discussions with Austin City Council members and Capital Metro’s board and staff. 

Please join me on May 20th at 5 p.m. for the District 10-specific virtual community meeting on Project Connect. More details on this event and others will be posted in the coming days at
Complete the 2020 Census!

As of May 8th, Austin's self-response rate to the 2020 Census was 56.6%. The State of Texas was at 52.7%. On a national scale, Austin is behind Seattle, Portland, and Indianapolis. We need the help of our community members to spread the message and keep Austin at a high response rate to ensure our community gets the funding and representation it deserves. Census counts will impact our community's funding for things like schools, hospitals, transportation infrastructure, emergency services and more.

If you haven't filled out your census form yet, you can respond online in just 10 minutesIf you have completed the 2020 Census, please help spread the word and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same. You can visit the "Spread the Word" page on the Census website to find shareable social media graphics, census fun facts, how-to guides, and more.
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