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The sun is up in Austin, and with it comes some hope for energy and water restoration in the city.
While the boil-water notice continues and many Austinites are left either without water or without power to boil it, the city of Austin is working to bring back the water supply by this weekend and give residents as much drinking water as possible through a multi-step distribution process.
Austin Water announced Saturday morning that the city is producing and delivering more water than it is consuming, meaning that water storage can once again begin to build up. According to the service, Austin is over halfway to a stabilized water supply, with 50.43 of the 100 million gallons in storage needed to build pressure within the water system.
Once a buildup occurs in storage, residents will begin to see their water supply come back, first with low pressure, and then finally back to normal. However, the boil-water notice will still be in effect until the city conducts sufficient sampling to ensure water is safe to drink.
Here's a map of water utility service around the city as of 8 a.m. on Saturday:
As the city continues to conserve water and build up its reservoirs, a multi-phase water distribution plan is in action to help bring safe drinking water to residents. The city received 100 million gallons of water packaged in 16-ounce bottles from surrounding states on Friday evening.
The city of Austin began its first phase in water distribution on Friday as limited supplies came in, prioritizing those in cold weather shelters or warming centers as well as COVID-19 isolation facilities, medical facilities and first responder locations.
After the most critical sites are given water, the city said it would team up with community organizations such as the Austin Disaster Relief Network and Capital Metro to bring water to vulnerable populations. Those with special needs, seniors and others with medical conditions will be prioritized as part of Phase II operations on Saturday.
Finally, Austin will be able to set up Phase III, or distribution sites for the general public, by Sunday. The city announced that it would disclose distribution site locations on Saturday, and that it hopes to have sites in all City Council districts as well as critical spots in Travis County.
As supply remains limited, the city recommends that anyone who can buy water do so instead of receiving drinking water from any distribution sites.
At 10:30 on Saturday, Austin Energy announced that it was able to restore power to another 12,000 customers overnight, bringing total outages to 6,100.
🔊NEW THIS MORNING: Crews spent the night tackling the outages and they were able to restore power to another 12,000… https://t.co/IsvhauYg54— Austin Energy (@Austin Energy)1613838673.0
Many of the current power outages are the result of 135 current hazards, including fallen limbs or downed power lines. Because these outages require manual repair, it could take several more days before power is totally restored throughout the city, although warming temperatures can help speed up efforts.
The service is also bringing in 25 contact crews from San Antonio to help with fuses, which are melting due to cold load pickup.
Although most outages are due to outside hazards, the service recommends anyone without power check their breaker just in case. A full outage map can be found here.
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that Texas will opt out of further federal unemployment benefits related to the pandemic effective June 26, citing the number of current job openings and concern about potentially fraudulent unemployment claims. The benefits include a $300 weekly supplement.
"The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring communities across the state," Abbott said in a statement. "According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the number of job openings in Texas is almost identical to the number of Texans who are receiving unemployment jobs."
TWC listed 837,273 job openings as of Monday afternoon compared to 226,849 unemployment insurance claims filed statewide between March 31 and May 1. An estimated 1 million Texans were unemployed as of March, according to latest estimates released by the state agency.
Some local business owners, including Doc's Backyard Grill owner Charles Milligan, suspect unemployment benefits are deterring Austinites from returning to work. But others agree with economists who say multiple factors are at play, including health concerns and child care availability.
We're seeing lots of posts about how nobody wants to work right now. Just wanted to share our experience.
We received over 60 resumes for a taproom bartender position we posted last week. Every applicant we've set up an interview with has shown up.
People want 𝘨𝘰𝘰𝘥 work.
— Austin Beerworks (@AustinBeerworks) May 11, 2021
Abbott also cited fraudulent unemployment claims. Between March 2020 and April 2021, TWC received 4.48 million unemployment benefit applications, 611,000 or around 14% of which were tagged as suspicious. Most of those tagged were blocked before any benefits were paid out, according to an April 29 press release.
Federal law requires the effective date of such benefits change to be at least 30 days after the U.S. Department of Labor is notified.
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