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Federal funds

  • CommissionerAnn
1 week 1 day ago #897 by CommissionerAnn
Federal funds was created by CommissionerAnn
I’m reviewing last week’s memo from our PBO team regarding federal funding and it’s striking how aligned we Court members seem to be on areas that we need to address.  If you looked at what I prioritized, you see that I’m particularly interested in strengthening community resiliency thru emergency preparedness, green jobs & conservation and in addressing homelessness by expanding access to affordable housing, rental assistance and mental, physical and behavioral healthcare as well as diversion from the criminal justice system.  While we will need to grow County staff in some areas to accomplish this work, I envision investing with community-based partners to scale strategies in all of these areas.  Given my work with many of these partners for nearly a decade prior to my being elected, I’m eager to collaborate and coordinate so we can make sustainable, transformational change. I believe that the federal dollars soon available to us and other local governments are sizeable and present us both a responsibility and opportunity to be transformational.  These are not typical one-time funds that present a challenge in year two.  These are billion-dollar pots of money that require us to be bold and wise.   I support the concept laid out by Travis County Purchasing Budget Office that we prioritize funding for both first release (as soon as June) and 2nd and  3rd or 4th rounds as plans and programs develop.I’m encouraged that if we strategize to draw down not only our specific Travis County allotment but also the maximum amount that we can from the myriad other large federal funds for rental assistance, food assistance, small business assistance, childcare assistance, infrastructure, etc., we can scale effective programs over multiple years, 2021-2024.  Most grants and contracts to non-profit organizations are small and for 1 year only.  Two- and three-year funding assurance – as long as outcomes are being delivered - at amounts that actually cover program costs would be game changers, and would catalyze the collective impact we have envisioned but never realized.  Successful transformation that’s sustainable requires we begin in partnership with the people in need.  “Nothing about us without us,” was the mantra of the youth engaged with community efforts to end youth homelessness, a community goal that we are close to achieving and can with a final funding surge.  I support several layers of community engagement to make sure we are capturing lived experience, best practices and evidenced based solutions.  Timing our investments – first release in June, followed by additional funding decisions as we are ready, allows us to both lean into already completed engagement and incorporate new input.Capacity for real transformation also requires that we collaborate and coordinate with our regional governmental partners who also have access to federal funds, and with our private partners who can help us both make (1) wise community investments in conjunction with their philanthropy, and (2) begin now to prepare with us for the federal funding cliff after 2024.  Many partners, public and private participate with us already on building our County plans and other community plans (like childcare, workforce, re-entry, homelessness.)  These partners use community data and state and national research to analyze program outcomes, housing needs, funding gaps and opportunities, and they engage clients, patients, providers and consumers on what’s working and what’s not.  For years, Travis County HHS has required non—profit organizations requesting County dollars to identify where in community plans and collaborations their program fits.  But, our community lacks overarching community planning that actually impacts funding decisions.  I believe that we should (1) use this surge of federal funding in collaborative ways that achieve and model transformational, collective impact and (2) use the next 3 years to build with our partners a solid plan to sustain what’s needed Beyond2024.So, as we continue to discuss our process for making wise investments, I suggest we reference already developed community plans and move forward with the following:Addressing Homelessness1.       Provide rental assistance, job training & counseling to help end youth homelessness in 20222.       Contribute to the community-wide effort to resolve unsheltered homelessness by re-housing 3000 people in 3 years thru permanent supportive housing and rapid rehousing strategies3.       Create the Travis Center as a jail diversion resource that’s equipped with rental assistance, housing location services, employment counseling and other supports including access to mental, physical and behavioral healthcare 4.       Explore ways to incentivize more, deeply affordable housing across the County and require that these developments participate in the effort to rehouse peopleThe above initiatives are informed by the 2017 Action Plan to End Homelessness, the ECHO report Addressing Racial Disparities in Austin/Travis County 2019,  the Coordinated Community Plan to Prevent & End Youth Homelessness and the 2021 Summit to Resolve Unsheltered Homelessness as well as support from the Behavioral Health Advisory Committee,  the Re-entry Roundtable and the local report, Locked Out: Criminal History Barriers to Affordable Rental Housing in Austin, Tx.Strengthen our Workforce1.       Increase access to childcare and strengthen the childcare network2.       Increase job training and skill development programs including development of the Travis County Civilian Climate Corps to improve our resiliency to climate change & pandemicsThese initiatives are informed by the United Way’s Success by 6 Coalition and 2-Gen Coalition strategic plans, Austin Metro Area Master Community Workforce Plan, Workforce Solutions, Travis County HHS investment strategy, Austin Travis County Community Wildfire Protection Plan, City of Austin Civilian Conservation CorpsBuild resiliency to Climate Change1.       Catalyze neighborhood and developer efforts to harden homes against fire and reduce fire risk/intensity in open space2.       Implement plans to reduce carbon emissions to net zero (teleworking, electric vehicles, etc.)This work is informed by local, state and federal plans including Austin Travis County Community Wildfire Protection Plan, the Wildland Urban Interface Code, the Balcones Canyonlands Plan, Travis County Climate Action PlanOther needed InvestmentsI’m certain that there are many more plans to reference here and other much needed work to accomplish in collaboration with our partners.  In addition to moving forward the work described above, we should concurrently explore with our partners a process to engage community stakeholders on system-level priorities and strategies for addressing other community needs caused, impacted and revealed by COVID. I’d like this work to include an equity focused, incubator strategy to fund grassroot initiatives that do not initially qualify for federal funding and would struggle to meet County purchasing requirements.

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