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A rental relief program from the city of Austin has so far helped more than 750 residents access nearly $900,000 to cover rental costs for up to three months.
The city introduced a new dashboard Wednesday that showcases how much rental relief money has been distributed since late August when the program debuted. The Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants, or RENT, program aims to provide rental aid to low-income residents who have been impacted by COVID-19.
But that's only a fraction of the $12.9 million allocated for rental relief efforts. As of Thursday morning, 776 recipients out of 2,600 applicants have received $897,698 in approved rental assistance. That means only 29.8% of applicants have qualified for rental assistance.
The typical household received $1,095 toward monthly rent, according to the dashboard, which also breaks down recipients per ZIP code, industry, ace/ethnicity, as well as household size and income.
Approved applicants have their rental money distributed directly to their landlord. Also, only those making between 0% and 30% of Austin's median family income qualify for rental assistance all three months. Anyone making between 30% to 80% of the median family income only qualify for one month of relief.
To better promote the RENT program, the city has partnered with nonprofit organizations to assist renters in the application process. The city announced Wednesday it spent $400,000 to partner with these community organizations, which focus outreach efforts on the following factors:
Low-income residents in ZIP codes with high COVID-19 rates
- Black and Latinx
- Large households or families with children
- People with disabilities
- People with limited English proficiency
According to the city, recipients are selected randomly from the pool of qualified applicants. Such drawings occur "periodically over the comings months" or until the $12.9 million relief fund dries up.
"All applications, regardless of when they are submitted, will be given equal chance in the selection process," the city's website states.
Qualifications also balance household size with income, as applicants cannot make more than 80% of the city's median family income. Want to know if you qualify? Follow this basic breakdown to see if your household income is lower than the maximum threshold:
- I person=$54,700
- 2 people=$62,500
- 3 people=$70,300
- 4 people=$78,100
- 5 people=$84,350
- 6 people=$90,600
Also, be ready to show evidence that COVID-19 has created financial hardships, such as paystubs and unemployment notices.
For more information about the relief program and eviction information, visit the RENT assistance homepage.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced a record-setting second quarter during an earnings call broadcasted from the Giga Texas construction site in Southeast Travis County on Monday.
The electric carmaker reported more than $1 billion in quarterly net income and the production of more than 200,000 vehicles for the first time despite challenges such as a global semiconductor shortage.
"It … seems that public sentiment towards electric vehicles is at an inflection point, and at this point, I think, almost everyone agrees electric vehicles are the only way forward," Musk said.
Exterior shots taken just a while ago of Giga Texas (while @elonmusk is reportedly at the Gigafactory!) during today's earnings call!
Hope @peterdog15 got to catch the technoking in his video! #fastestinhistory #Tesla pic.twitter.com/WqeDlb5wU3
— Austin Tesla Club (@AustinTeslaClub) July 26, 2021
Despite rising consumer demand and adequate factory capacity, Tesla faces what Musk described as a "quite serious" global semiconductor shortage, which will determine the company's growth rate for the rest of the year.
With increased revenue and production, Tesla is investing in new factories, Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn said. These include Giga Texas, the $1.1 billion manufacturing plant that broke ground last summer and is slated to open later this year.
The Giga Texas factory in Southeast Travis County has rapidly increased in size since ground broke last August. (Tesla)
Musk commended the construction team for "incredible progress," transforming what was basically a vacant site into "a mostly complete large factory a year later."
I was at Giga Texas yesterday. Team is making excellent progress. Building will be almost a mile long when complete.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 25, 2021
Giga Texas will produce the highly anticipated Cybertruck, along with other models, but Musk said scaling its production will be difficult, especially given the supply chain delays caused by the pandemic. "It's going to move as fast as the slowest of its up to 10,000 unique parts," he said.
In other news, Musk said Monday's earnings call would likely be his last regular appearance, only jumping on future quarterly calls when big announcements warrant it.
Tesla Solar recently made news when it announced plans to build the nation's most sustainable residential community in Southeast Austin earlier this month. The newly built homes will feature Tesla solar roof tiles and Powerwall battery storage as well as electric vehicle charging stations.
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The city of Austin released a shortlist of seven candidates for the police chief position left vacant when Brian Manley retired in March.
City Manager Spencer Cronk hopes to announce an appointment by the end of August, which will require City Council approval.
The finalists, chosen from a field of 46 applicants, include:
- APD Interim Chief Joseph Chacon, who previously served as an assistant chief in the department for almost five years
- Anne Kirkpatrick, former police chief in Oakland, California, who was fired last year after a federal monitor criticized her handling of a fatal 2018 police shooting of a homeless man
- Dallas Police Department Assistant Chief Avery L. Moore, who is a 30-year veteran of the department
- Atlanta Police Department Deputy Chief Celeste Murphy, who manages the department's community services division
- Dekalb County Police Chief Mirtha V. Ramos, who previously served as division chief in the Miami-Dade Police Department
- Wichita Police Department Chief Gordon Ramsay, who is a former president of the Minnesota Police Chief's Association as well as one of the first police chiefs of a major U.S. City to call George Floyd's death a murder, as reported by the Wichita Eagle
- Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Emada E. Tingirides, who is also commanding officer of the department's newly formed Community Safety Partnership Bureau, which serves L.A.'s underserved communities
City staff will interview the finalists in the coming weeks, with several community input opportunities to come, according to a Monday press release.
The city conducted a public survey in March and hosted community input meetings in April to learn more about what residents are looking for in their next police chief, which helped shape the selection criteria for the position.
"They want to see the Chief be reform-minded and transparent and have a track record of fostering community involvement and accountability," Cronk said in the release. "The candidates selected show these characteristics in various ways."
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Days after Austin began once again recommending masks in public spaces, Austin ISD announced Monday that kindergarten through sixth-grade classes will have virtual options this fall.
The district will discuss the move in a special board meeting Monday evening starting at 5 p.m., while full details will be released Friday.
Teachers will not have to fret about the new option—no educators will have to juggle both virtual and in-person learning. Instead, certain teachers will specialize in virtual education, according to a press release.
The news comes after a recent spike in COVID cases in Travis County and across the nation. Children typically suffer fewer symptoms of COVID when contracted, but they are now catching the virus more often than their older counterparts without a vaccine available to them and as the more contagious Delta variant is quickly being spread.
While local health officials are recommending everyone wear masks, public school districts are unable to mandate masks due to an executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott in May.
Parents have expressed concern about classrooms with masks unenforceable and children under the age of 12 ineligible for a vaccine. Some have even said they would look for alternative schooling if AISD did not offer a virtual option for students.
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