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Music Commission oversight could further delay emergency funds for musicians

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The Music Commission has asked city staff to become more involved in implementing a pair of financial aid programs for Austin musicians, with an emergency aid fund linked to Covid- 19 may be delayed for three weeks as a result.

The commission heard presentations Monday on two programs: the Live Music Fund Event Program which is funded by $ 2.3 million in local hotel occupancy tax revenue, and the third iteration of the Austin Music Disaster Relief Fund, which uses federal dollars to provide up to $ 2,000 in grants to musicians affected by the pandemic.

While the commissioners largely agreed with the criteria and structure of the Covid relief program, they had repeated questions about how the event fund will be administered, including scoring considerations to promote the equity in the pool of beneficiaries.

The city’s purchasing office lobbied for the same third-party agency to manage both programs. Any delay in finalizing the event’s program or selecting the third-party group would also delay Covid grants to cash-strapped musicians.

The commission ultimately voted to form a working group that will review and make recommendations on the request for proposals for the third-party administrator and also consider the possibility of separate groups administering the two programs and evaluating application questions for participants in the program. event fund. The working group will report to the next committee meeting in early October, when staff members will have final instructions on how to move forward.

Commissioner Lauryn Gould noted that the purchasing department is not necessarily aligned with the needs of the music community. “One of the issues we had in the past with a third-party administrator used to administer the grants was that they had no idea what this community is,” she said.

“I’m concerned that if the decision is left to someone who has no connection with the people who are going to be affected by these programs… that worries me and that is why I am afraid that these two things are combined.”

Staff members defended the work of the Better Business Bureau, which recently administered music programs, while the acting director of the economic development department, Sylnovia Holt-Rabb, said the new events program would involve a lot. learning and adjustment.

“I would say it’s a pilot year so we’re going to learn a lot as we go through it. These are the same elements that we had on various other programs (musics) and we are working with legal and purchasing on how to streamline the process. We’re pretty confident about it.

Commissioner Graham Reynolds said the oversight desired by other Commissioners was undermining the work of the Music and Entertainment Division and EDD as a whole, while potentially delaying payments made to recipients of emergency funds in January.

“It is our job to advise and guide the represented and elected side of the city government, but also to let the staff do their job and to have a certain degree of confidence in what they do”, a- he stressed.

“This disaster relief fund, pushing that money potentially after the holidays, ceases to fulfill its mission. And the live music fund is going to be flawed in an unpredictable way no matter how many angles we look at. The sooner we get it back on its feet, the sooner we can make the best use of these funds.

Photo made available via a Creative Commons License.

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