Austin Top News – April 23, 2020 | KLBJ-AM

Photo by Roschetzky Photography


Some relief for Austin business owners is now available. Economic Development Director Veronica Briseño says the Economic Injury Bridge Loan Program has the backing of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Austin City Council.

“It will provide loans of up to $35,000 to local small businesses to help them sustain as they await the approval of their SBA loan,” says Briseño.

$6 million is up for grabs and it’s expected to go very quickly. These 3.75% interest loans are available to any small business across all council districts that can show direct economic harm from COVID-19. Repayment must be completed within one year. 

Three more people have now recovered from COVID-19 and Travis County, bringing the total up to 344 out of the county’s overall 1,263 cases. Austin Public Health says there are 28 deaths confirmed and 82 people currently in the hospital. 

Austin Public Health is not very optimistic that large festivals will resume anytime soon. Dr. Mark Escott says that includes music festivals and sporting events like Longhorn football.

“At least for the next six months and perhaps the next year, events like that are gonna be very difficult to have,” says Escott.

Putting off large events for a full year would mean another cancellation of South by Southwest, this year’s ACL festival and The Trail of Lights. Escott says until there’s a vaccination and people begin developing immunity, large events will continue to pose a danger. 

The Austin City Council may line up a fourth hotel for quarantine today. The council could spend more than $2.1 million on leasing the Embassy Suites hotel near 183 and Mopac for up to three months. Austin Council Member Ann Kitchen wants to know if these plans can be used to further help the homeless following the corona crisis. 

“On a longer term basis, how are we working towards more shelter for these individuals?” says Kitchen.

Austin currently has two hotels specifically to house the homeless during the crisis. At last count, 148 of the 170 total rooms were being used. 

The University of Texas accounts for 104 of the area’s overall total of coronavirus cases. Officials say 94 students and 10 staff members have all tested positive. 62 of those students who got the virus were among the group who traveled down to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico for spring break. Outgoing UT President Gregory Fenves says they’re still working on a decision about the fall semester. Plans are expected to be announced by June. He says they have to cover every angle here to maintain safety, including decisions about social distancing, expansion of online learning options and how best to expand testing across the entire campus.

Today and tomorrow Bastrop County will ask 150 people to volunteer for a COVID-19 testing program. Those people will be contacted at random. The county says it may help determine a clear pattern of the spread and transmission of coronavirus. 52 cases have been found in Bastrop County, 11 have recovered and two have died.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is no longer required to provide hand sanitizer and masks for inmates of a geriatric Texas prison. Thursday April 16 US. District Judge Keith Ellison sided with inmates ordering the TDCJ to provide masks and cleaning supplies to inmates and establish a plan to test those of the Wallace Pack unit for the virus. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is applauding the Fifth Circuit’s decision to stay the lower court’s order. 

Paxton spokesman Mark Rylander says, “the Fifth Circuit was right to prioritize the needs of medical professionals and blocking the unreasonable demands the District Court imposed on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.”

San Marcos has now approved a sight-and-release ordinance requiring police to issue tickets for many low level crimes instead of making an arrest. Narrowly passed on a 4 to 3 vote, Mayor Jane Hughson was one of those in favor.

“We received a number of communications from people who were saying we should do cite-and-release. I support the use of sight release as much as possible, but with officer discretion,” says Hughson.

Possession of less than four ounces of marijuana, theft of services, criminal mischief and graffiti are all crimes now included under this new ordinance. 

A rash of motorcycle thefts prompts the Austin Police Department to issue a warning to be on the lookout. Just this month alone, more than 30 motorcycles have been stolen in Austin. Police say a good deterrent is a quality steering lock and a strong chain or cable to act as an anchor for the bike.

This news and more at News Radio KLBJ:


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