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A new $17.75 million rental assistance program, by the city of Austin and the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, includes nearly $13 million in direct rental assistance to eligible Austinites who have been financially impacted by COVID-19.
The Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants, or RENT, Assistance Program, will also provide an additional $4 million in funding for tenant stabilization, eviction prevention and outreach efforts.
It is the second such assistance program offered by the city, which distributed nearly $1.3 million in rental assistance to more than 1,000 households in May, although demand far outpaced supply.
With this new round of funding, the city expects to help around double that number of households between now and January.
"We are thrilled to partner with HACA to move funds quickly to help as many Austin renters as possible, recognizing that while the $12.9 million provided by the RENT program is not enough to meet the overwhelming need, it is a proud step we can take to help Austin renters in need," Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Director Rosie Truelove said in a statement issued on Monday.
The program is open to households making at or below 80% of the area median family income, which is $78,100 for a four-person household. Eligible renters may apply through a portal starting Wednesday; for those who are randomly selected, the city will issue a payment directly to their landlord.
Last month, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe extended a moratorium on evictions until Sept. 30 due to the pandemic.
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Matthew McConaughey is reportedly weighing a run for Texas governor in 2022.
The Austin resident and Oscar winner has been "quietly making calls to influential people in Texas political circles, including a deep-pocketed moderate Republican and energy CEO" as he decides whether to run, according to Politico.
McConaughey said a gubernatorial run is "a true consideration" while on a March episode of Houston's "The Balanced Voice" podcast.
Although most political strategists doubt McConaughey's commitment and viability as a candidate, some are still intrigued by the possibility.
"I find it improbable, but it's not out of the question," Karl Rove, a top Republican strategist with a long history in Austin, told the political news site. He added that the big question is whether McConaughey would run as a Republican, a Democrat or an independent.
Brendan Steinhauser, an Austin-based GOP strategist, told Politico he's surprised McConaughey isn't being taken more seriously. "Celebrity in this country counts for a lot," he said. "It's not like some C-list actor no one likes. He has an appeal."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott plans to run for a third term and remains popular among Republican voters, 77% of whom approve of his performance as of April, according to the Texas Politics Project.
Some strategists believe an independent McConaughey run would benefit Abbott. But a recent poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found that McConaughey would beat Abbott, 45% to 33%, with 22% opting for someone else.
Mimi Swartz, an executive editor at Texas Monthly, mulled a McConaughey run in a recent opinion essay from the New York Times. "Texas may not be ready for a philosopher king as a candidate, much less governor," she wrote. "May the best man win, man."
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Some JuiceLand production facility workers and storefront employees are organizing to demand wage increases, better working conditions (including air conditioning in the warehouse) and pay transparency, among other asks. They are also calling on staff to strike and customers to boycott the Austin-based company until their demands are met.
JuiceLand responded on Saturday. "We are listening," the company wrote on their Instagram story. "JuiceLand crew now makes guaranteed $15 an hour or more companywide."
JuiceLand, which was founded in 2001 by Matt Shook and now has 35 locations in Austin, Houston and Dallas, acknowledged the rising cost of living across Texas and the added stress of the pandemic in an email to employees on Saturday, part of which @juicelandworkersrights shared on social media. "There's no denying that times are tough and financial security means more now than ever," the company wrote.
Organized JuiceLand workers rejected this proposal, according to a recent post on the @juicelandworkersrights Instagram account, and reiterated their demands.
"Cost of living in Austin is rising exponentially and will only continue to get worse with the tech boom," the post read. "$15 is barely a sustainable living."