Navigating the economic impacts of COVID-19 in Austin

Published January 20, 2021 by Bankruptcy Attorneys of Austin

There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on our nation. As hard as it has been for many, one positive impact of the pandemic is that it has brought us closer as a community (although not physically!) and has allowed us to rally together and stay strong even when most of our local economy grinds to a halt. Austin has a number of state, federal, and community resources available to help you through this tough time. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to advocate for the assistance you deserve. We have compiled an overview of resources available for individuals and families here that we urge you to utilize.

Help Getting Emergency Financial Assistance

Catholic Charities of Central Texas has $1.6 million in aid available and is assisting those adversely impacted by the pandemic with mortgage or rental payments, car payments, and utilities. If you can prove you live in Austin-Travis County and lost wages due to the pandemic, you qualify for $1,200-$5,000 in assistance, which will be paid directly from the charity to your landlord, mortgage lender, or utility provider. The number you must call to apply varies depending on your last name: A-D: 512-910-5768; E-K: 512-910-5907; L-R: 512-910-7076; S-Z: 512-910-7170.

Asian Family Support Services of Austin is providing $1,200-$5,000 in assistance to residents of Austin-Travis County who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, make less than $52,400 a year, and did not qualify for a federal stimulus check. In order to apply, call 512-358-6318 or email

El Buen Samaritano is offering $400 Visa gift cards to residents of Austin-Travis County who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, make less than $52,400 a year, and did not qualify for a federal stimulus check. Call 512-714-6917 to apply.

If you are eligible for a stimulus check, and have not yet received it, it is worth following up on, as most individuals earning $75,000 annually or less in 2018 are set to receive $1200, which could go a long way in helping with rent and other expenses.

Help Getting food

United Way of Greater Austin can connect you with emergency food in your area.

AuntBertha is a resource that allows you to search for low-cost food and services, including healthcare.

Help Filing for Unemployment Insurance

Apply for Texas Workforce Commission Unemployment Benefit Services online by selecting “Submit an application for unemployment benefits,” or call them 7 days a week from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at 800-939-6631.

You can complete a free online tutorial here to learn step-by-step how to file your application online. For a good overview of frequently asked questions about filing for unemployment, review this handy guide.

Your claim starts the week you complete the application, so apply as soon as possible after you become unemployed. Note that Texas has waived the usual 10-day waiting period for filing, so you are now eligible to file as soon as you lose your job.

Help Finding a Job

If your income has been impacted by COVID-19, Workforce Solutions Capital Area can provide immediate career assistance. They can aid you in building your resume, earning a GED, finding a job, getting training, and gaining occupational skills. They have a form you can fill out on their site to receive information on available assistance, as well as job postings. There are currently over 100 jobs posted with immediate openings, so start applying today. provides a comprehensive database of nearly 85,000 open positions in Texas. With over 1,000 new positions added just today, it is definitely worth making an account.

The Austin Chamber of Commerce has an extensive database of companies that are currently hiring.

Want professional tips on finding a job? Check out this free webinar and accompanying resources from the Austin Chamber of Commerce

Help Finding Childcare

Texas has expanded access to the childcare subsidy, increasing the maximum eligible income from 85% of the state medium income to 150%, or approximately $118,000 annually or $9800/month. You can apply for childcare financial aid here.

Are you a Texas frontline worker? Check here to find available childcare options closest to you.

Help for Professional Artists

The Artists Emergency Relief Fund has a limited number of grants of up to $500 available for artists to help replace income lost due to COVID-19.

Artist Relief is working to support artists during the COVID-19 crisis and is awarding grants of $5,000 on an application basis.

Artists’ Fellowship, Inc. provides financial assistance to artists during times of emergency and is accepting applications.

Help for Renters

If you cannot pay your rent, your first step should be communicating with your landlord to see if an arrangement can be negotiated that will allow you to remain in your home during this crisis. Landlords may be willing to negotiate or defer rental payments as it is not an ideal time to look for new tenants, and they are not legally allowed to evict current tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Texas Supreme Court has suspended evictions through May 18. City Ordinance No. 20203026-090 and Mayor Order 20200326-008 both aid in delaying the eviction process, giving you more time to find rental income either through emergency grants, community assistance, your stimulus payment or refund, or employment. If your landlord violates the Mayor’s Order and evicts you, gives you a notice to vacate, or locks you out for non-payment without giving you 60 days notice, they can be punished with a fine up to $1,000 or a jail term of up to 180 days.

For a comprehensive guide on the eviction process and available resources check out the City of Austin Neighborhood Housing & Community Development guide, “What Renters Should Know About Recent Steps to Slow Down the Eviction Process.”

The Resident Relief Foundation may be able to provide you with emergency financial grants to help pay your rent. Rent and utility assistance is also provided by Austin’s Neighborhood Centers via phone at 512-972-5780.

Help for Homeowners

If you are concerned about your ability to make your mortgage payment, it is advisable that you contact your provider as soon as possible to see about alternative payment arrangements. A number of lenders are postponing and deferring mortgage payments during the pandemic—call your provider to find out if they are one of them. If your lender is Fannie-Mae, Freddie Mac, or another FHA-insured lender, your home cannot be foreclosed on through May 16.

Help Paying Utilities

In order to lessen the financial burden on families during the COVID-19 crisis, a number of Texas electricity providers have suspended disconnections and are waiving late fees. Contact your provider as soon as possible to alert them if you will be unable to make your payment and see what accommodations they have available.

If your utility provider is not providing relief, contact the Public Utility Commission’s Low-Income List Administrator—they have a new COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program, and if you are found eligible, it will prevent your electricity from being disconnected during the pandemic. To enroll, call 866-454-8387 anytime, day or night. Or, apply online through the Public Utility Commission of Texas. Once you have qualified, you’ll be safe from disconnection within seven days, so enroll as soon as possible, and, if your bill is due within that time-frame, call your utility provider immediately to discuss payment deferrals or other arrangements to ensure that you are not left without power or other vital utilities.

Help Protecting Your Credit

When it comes to protecting your credit during a difficult financial time, the best defense is a good offense. If you are uncertain whether you will be able to pay your utility, phone, credit card bill, mortgage, car payment, or rent, contact your lenders now and do your best to reach an arrangement that will allow you to avoid a late or missing payment, which would negatively impact your credit. If your lender agrees to postpone or reduce payments and you are able to meet the agreed upon terms, then your credit will not be impacted, and if you end up being able to pay the full amount on time, you still can.

If you are unable to reach an agreement with your lender, there are a number of things you can do, many of which have been covered in this guide, such as applying for unemployment insurance, looking for a job, and applying for local emergency financial assistance and grants. If you are in debt over your head, and are having trouble covering your living expenses while paying off your debts, bankruptcy is another way that you can help your credit, by keeping it from getting any worse so you can start the process of rebuilding it.

Help Filing for Bankruptcy

It is a myth that bankruptcy will destroy your credit. In reality, bankruptcy puts a strop to the downward spiral your credit is in, allowing you to start rebuilding it. For many who are dealing with lay-offs or reduced income, bankruptcy may be a good option to ensure that a bad financial situation does not become worse. If you are currently unemployed or your income is below the state median, it is generally advisable to file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, which, luckily, is the most expeditious process—usually only taking about four months, with most filers reporting an increasing credit score within 12 months. In most cases, you will also get to keep assets that you need to work and live—you will have to liquidate the rest though in exchange for paying off most of your medical, credit card, and rent debt.

If you are thinking about filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy, it is important to talk to an experienced bankruptcy attorney. While you can file on your own, an experienced bankruptcy lawyer will be able to assess whether there are options other than bankruptcy that would be a better fit for your circumstances, and if bankruptcy is the best option, they will know how to file in the way that minimizes the drawbacks and maximizes the benefits. Most lawyers offer a free consultation—you can search for a local lawyer and schedule a free consultation here. You can find information and resources on chapter 7 bankruptcy here.

Help Staying Calm

As crazy as things seem right now, it is important to keep a calm, level head when making decisions, instead of reacting from a place of fear—particularly when the decisions are financial. Make sure you are taking care of yourself physically and mentally, so that you can think clearly. There are a number of resources available to help you with everything from managing daily stress to finding a free therapist or online recovery program.

Managing Stress and Anxiety:

Not sure if you are experiencing anxiety? Mental Health America explains what anxiety is and how you can recognize it.

The Director of the National Institute of Mental Health has provided some helpful tips on managing stress, fear, and anxiety associated with Coronavirus.

Use these affirmations to overcome anxiety about COVID-19.

Calm offers a number of free meditations and grounding exercises that you can use to stay positive, centered, and focused.

Getting Help:

If you are experiencing anxiety about COVID-19, you can call the COVID-19 Mental Health Support Hotline for help at 833-986-1919.

Here is a database of COVID-19 mental health information and resources.

Mental Health Match helps match you with a licensed therapist in your area and has online support groups. They are currently offering a limited number of sessions free to qualifying Texans affected by the pandemic.

The Texas Psychological Association is offering qualifying Texans with up to 2 free hours of counseling through their TPA Pro Bono Project: COVID-19. Email for more information.

SAMHSA has virtual recovery programs available on a number of platforms for anyone who would benefit.

Remember, You are Texas Strong

You are Texas strong, and when times get tough, Texans pull together, not apart. Support your community however you can and allow yourself to ask for help when you need it. Be proactive, apply for the aid you are entitled to, and do what you can to stay safe, calm, and centered. This is temporary, and even if it does not feel like it right now, it will be okay. We are here to support you every step of the way.

If you need anything, don't be afraid to reach out: (512) 476-2457.