Emergency funding for musicians, creatives awaiting Council, staff action

City staff expect to have initial guidelines next month on how to spend money in the city’s Live Music Fund, which is part of a series of spending programs to help local creatives. in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This week, the Music Commission received an update from Sylnovia Holt-Rabb, deputy director of the Department of Economic Development, on the variety of initiatives and timelines involved in using the money from the US bailout, hotel occupancy tax and other funds to consider. during the annual City Council budget process. The ARP money will likely be available first, much of which is expected to pay for allowances approved by the Council last month to help musicians and creatives during a pandemic emergency.

Article 60 orders city manager to allocate up to $ 15 million over two years for grants to artists, creative groups and associated nonprofits, with an additional $ 10 million over two years specifically earmarked for grants related to the music. The resolution also calls on staff members to plan how to cover shortfalls in hotel tax funds that are expected to persist for several years, creating a drag on funding for the arts and other tourism-related expenses.

Holt-Rabb said the guidelines will be informed largely by past Music Commission guidelines, state laws covering the use of hotel tax money, as well as a recent report from consultant MJR Partners who is examining how best to spend the city’s money on cultural programs. This report was created with a particular focus on addressing historic inequalities around race, gender and other underserved groups.

Holt-Rabb said the Live Music Fund, which will most likely be administered by a third-party entity, could start distributing by fall and that ARP money specifically designated for emergencies will have more leeway in how which it can be spent. The Live Music Fund, however, will be more restricted due to state laws related to hotel tax.

President Chaka Mahone said community members should keep in mind that the aim of the Live Music Fund is to build sustainable infrastructure to support the music economy and should not be seen as a shortcut. term for cash strapped musicians.

“We have to think long term and short term about ARP funding specifically for this (emergency) use and Live Music Fund to look to the future,” he said. “I hear the argument that people need money now and I agree with that, but we need to think as much as possible in terms of innovation and the future.”

Commissioner Graham Reynolds asked Holt-Rabb to consult with the city’s legal department about possible allowances to expand the permitted use of hotel taxes, which state law is to be used to support the tourism industry.

“I’m just wondering if there isn’t a clear enough legal argument that supporting musicians with emergency funding and helping with things like rent is support for tourism, knowing that the brand of tourism of ‘Austin relies heavily on music,’ he said.

At last month’s board meeting, board member Alison Alter insisted that the resolution on using ARP money for creatives be as clear as possible to avoid delays and the prospect that staff members have to come back several times with recommendations and requests.

“I want to make sure that we provide as much clarity as possible to our staff so that we can find solutions and get money at the rate that our creative sector deserves, because we have had a lot of crises and start-ups” she said. “Last year Council members believed we were getting things done quickly for the industry and for a variety of reasons that did not happen at the pace we anticipated.

Photo made available via a Creative Commons License.

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