Friday, March 26, 2021

Mobile Vaccine Clinics, Mental Health Resources and Employee Protections for COVID-19 Push Forward with Unanimous City Council Support


Mobile Vaccine Clinics, Mental Health Resources and Employee Protections
for COVID-19 Push Forward with Unanimous City Council Support

City Council voted unanimously on Thursday, March 25 to support Agenda Item 66, which directs the City Manager to address the continued impact of COVID-19. The resolution calls to prioritize mobile vaccine clinics, mental health resources and employee protections to better assist those in need.
"This resolution signifies a meaningful moment during a month that marks a grim milestone," says Councilwoman Vanessa Fuentes, who authored the item. "One year into the pandemic, we are still seeing people of color and marginalized folks experience the inequities highlighted by this pandemic. With this vote, we're going to get mobile vaccine clinics in areas of need and protect employees who currently have to choose between their livelihood and their health."
Additionally, Item 66 works to increase food access for those in need and pushes for additional funding and grants for small businesses.
"Just about every stage of this pandemic has illuminated an old set of vulnerabilities we've ignored for far too long," says co-sponsor Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison. "With the federal government stepping up and offering a historic relief package, I'm excited to see what kind of opportunities we can take to complete a resounding alley-oop for equity."
Funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and FEMA disaster assistance will be accessed to reach these solutions.
"As American Rescue Plan funding is disbursed across the country, it is critical that we prioritize our most vulnerable Austinites," says Council Member Paige Ellis, another co-sponsor of Item 66. "I appreciate Council Member Fuentes taking the lead to address the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color, seniors, homebound individuals, low-income folks, and those with ongoing physical and mental health challenges."
Addressing the inequities of the pandemic response has been a priority for Councilwoman Fuentes.
"Half of all the deaths in Austin-Travis County have been Latinos," she says. "Yet, the vaccine distribution does not reflect the impact they have faced. It's not too late to change that."
Austin Public Health data also shows about 80% of the deaths were people over the age of 60.
"It's critically important we continue to identify and implement ways to improve the city's rescue and relief efforts," says co-sponsor Council Member Ann Kitchen.
We need to remove barriers and enable everyone to get vaccinated. This resolution provides direction for the recent federal dollars, in part, to prioritize mobile testing and vaccine programs. Some of our seniors, homebound, minority, and low-income communities living in multi-generational settings are challenged to access our sign-ups and assistance. Doing more is necessary."
Council Member Kathie Tovo also co-sponsored this resolution.