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City of Austin reopens $1.5M relief fund for local musicians

Those who have already received federal MusiCares COVID-19 Relief funding can still qualify.

AUSTIN, Texas — The City of Austin’s Economic Development Department will reopen its $1.5 million Austin Music Disaster Relief fund, which will provide $1,000 grants to musicians to cover emergency needs as COVID-19 continues to decimate the live music scene.

The fund was first approved in April. Applicants were asked to upload financial statements and answer questions about their income. Those statements are no longer required and income questions have since been simplified.

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Austin City Council creates $1.5 million disaster fund to help local musicians

“We have revised eligibility to ensure that grant guidelines accommodate more of our local musicians,” Sylnovia Holt-Rabb, the acting director of the Economic Development Department, said. “The reopening of the Austin Music Disaster Relief Fund will ensure that these recovery dollars serve immediate needs like rent and groceries for those musicians struggling since the pandemic hit Austin.”

For local Austin musicians like Nay Wilkins, who is part of the bands HIKES and Adobo, the concern was mainly with not performing for so long. 

"More importantly all the connections with people," Wilkins said, "beyond the headlines and catchphrases … music is the lifeblood of Austin."

Wilkins is also an event booker and coordinator, but said several of their band tours have also been canceled.

"It’s been really hard for all of the musicians I know," Wilkins said. "Everyone in the city is affected when musicians aren’t supported. We’re seeing that now with the venues closing and bartenders hurting, and you know the whole scene kind of collapses with it."

Wilkins was able to receive grant money from the City and is thankful, but overall encourages all musicians to take advantages of the help they can apply for, and to also support local movements like the adoption of a music fund specifically for people of color.

City leaders will start accepting applications for grants on Monday through the MusiCares Foundation. Those who have already received federal MusiCares COVID-19 Relief funding can still qualify for the local grant.

Anyone with questions can contact the city’s Economic Development Department at MusicDisasterRelief@austintexas.gov or by calling at 512-978-7769.