Austin City Council unanimously approved a resolution to direct the city manager to come up with a plan to use up to $25 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to shore up funding for Austin cultural arts and music communities. The resolution passed at the council’s May 20 meeting.
The city will receive an estimated $195.8 million from ARPA which must be spent by end of 2024.
The city manager is now charged with developing a plan to provide up to $15 million over two years ($7.5 million per year) to be used for grants to artists, arts groups and non-profit organizations. An additional $10 million ($5 million per year) will go to the music community via the city’s Live Music Fund.
Council Member Alison Alter asked that city staff move promptly to get funding to the creative sector.
“We need to get money out the door quickly. We have musicians and artists and nonprofits and venue that need this (funding) now,” she said. “There have been long delays (in the last year) for this sector when we didn’t get out the funds necessary to support them.”
The council asked the city manager and staff to report back in early June.
Since the start of the pandemic, Austin has lost over $75 million in Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) revenue, which is the only dedicated source of municipal funding for the arts.
Recent estimates from the Economic Development Department, which oversees the cultural arts funding program, show a projected 93% percent decrease HOT revenue from pre-pandemic levels. The department also show a FY22 estimate of only $1 million in available funds, down from $13 million in FY19, the last before the pandemic.
The council’s resolution also directs the city manager to develop recommendations for next year’s budget to address the current deficit in cultural arts HOT fund over a multi-year period to reduce immediate impact on the arts community.
A recent Brookings Institute study estimated that the impact of the pandemic resulted in the loss of 32.6 percent of Austin’s creative sector jobs between April 1 and July 31, 2020.