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Austin City Council approves millions in coronavirus relief

Austin City Council members on Thursday approved a swath of items that will pump millions of dollars into the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The council approved contracts for hotels to use as quarantine Austin News facilities, meals for homeless people and a budget amendment that appropriates millions for emergency relief efforts.

The council unanimously voted to tap $15 million in budget reserves to provide direct assistance to people facing financial hardship amid massive numbers of layoffs from business closures related to city and state orders designed to tamp down the spread of the coronavirus.

That money will be split evenly between providing monetary help and such services as meal assistance to the needy. Austin Public Health will manage the money, which will be doled out to social services nonprofits for rapid deployment of aid to individuals in two to three weeks.

“I am really excited about that time frame,” said Council Member Delia Garza, the lead sponsor of the item.

Stephanie Hayden, director of Austin Public Health, said health officials will begin Friday seeking individuals who qualify for aid.

The council approved three contracts with local hotel owners to lease the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Northeast Austin, the La Quinta at Interstate 35 and Texas 71 in South Austin and a Motel 6 at Interstate 35 and U.S. 183 as isolation or quarantine sites for people who test positive for COVID-19 but have no way to separate from their families or the public.

The three hotels combined hold 492 rooms. The largest hotel, the  Press Release Distribution Services In Austin  Crowne Plaza, also will provide meals to people staying there. Each contract is for a 60-day term with optional 30-day extensions for a combined total of up to $3,568,860.

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