Austin City Council pulls $1.5 million from emergency reserves to buoy local live music industry

City leaders said they hope to begin distributing the funds by the end of April. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
City leaders said they hope to begin distributing the funds by the end of April. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

City leaders said they hope to begin distributing the funds by the end of April. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

After more than six weeks of no gigs and general uncertainty around when concerts could come back, Austin City Council voted to pull $1.5 million out of its emergency funds to support one of its essential and most vulnerable industries: live music.

The Austin Music Disaster Relief Fund will be purposed with helping the Live Music Capital of the World’s venues and musicians stay afloat through the economic devastation inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic and the social distancing measures implemented to slow its spread.

The idea for the fund was proposed to City Council by District 9 Council Member Kathie Tovo, who represents most of downtown Austin. Tovo advised city staff work as “expeditiously” as possible to get the funds out and recommended working with nonprofits in the industry to determine the best avenues for eligibility and disbursement.

City Manager Spencer Cronk said the goal is to begin sending funds out by the end of April; however, a framework still needs to be developed for deciding who gets the funds and how much they get. Cronk said he would come back to update City Council on the process.

Work on the Live Music Disaster Relief Fund began at the beginning of the month. Although City Council agreed funding was needed to support the live music industry through the pandemic, some disagreed on how it should be funded. Some suggested using the city’s Live Music Fund, a fund set up last year financed through hotel occupancy tax revenue.

The Austin Music Commission supported use of the Live Music Fund for the disaster relief, but only if there was a plan to replenish the Live Music Fund. City staff said April 17 the only way to refill the Live Music Fund was through the general fund, leading staff to recommend instead that the city fund the disaster relief package with its reserves.
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, USA Today and several other local outlets along the east coast.


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