It is with difficulty that I must speak against Item 52, the SAVES resolution which provides much needed assistance for childcare and music venues but not nearly enough to make a meaningful difference to Austin’s locally-owned bars & restaurants. We are the nation’s and the city’s biggest employer, have been damaged in complex ways by this pandemic and no level of gov’t seems capable of taking the risk and finding the funds to help the independent portion of our sector open & stay open safely. Public health must be the first priority and business owners should be receiving help from our leaders so that the places where transmission is most likely do not feel financial pressure to pack people in and make our community sicker. The CDC has recently concluded that eating in dining rooms is the activity that most people who have tested positive for coronavirus have in common. We must recognize that and decide that no amount of illness is acceptable.
Which is to say, this resolution is incomplete. There is no mention of the potential to include money from 380 agreements or money from Convention Center Operating revenue. There is no mention of contracts that can be awarded to local businesses, utilities relief, property tax relief, exemption of personal guarantees on rental leases or many of the other items that are a part of EDD’s recommendation based on this summer’s food services recovery focus group.
Finally, this resolution needs to be need-based. Establishments that have not been able to open need to be prioritized. Establishments that have not received prior assistance. Please come back to us in two weeks with a fund that will be able to touch the over 1000 bars, restaurants and venues that most need help to get to the other side of this without infecting our employees or guests. You need only look at the amt of applicants to the small business relief grant to determine the size of the need and to Congress to see what inaction looks like. Please don’t follow their lead. Take the chance you took by passing the paid leave ordinance and declaring as a Sanctuary city against the will of the State.