AUSTIN, TX — Austin City Council members on Thursday approved an emergency ordinance designed to reduce utility bills for residents and businesses experiencing financial hardship due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The emergency measure is in response to the council’s previous passage of Item 92, sponsored by members Kathie Tovo and co-sponsored by Mayor Steve Adler and Council Members Alison Alter, Greg Casar and Leslie Pool on March 26 to identify and evaluate options for reducing utility bill impacts for customers affected by the coronavirus.

“During this time of crisis and uncertainty, no one should go without utility service or worry about mounting bills they cannot pay due to illness or unexpected job loss,” Tovo said in a prepared statement. “I appreciate the swift response of Austin Energy and Austin Water as well as the support of my colleagues, and I am committed to continually identifying ways for those who have been impacted by this global crisis to receive the support they need to remain safe and healthy in their homes.”

Added Adler: “The City of Austin is committed to making it easier for people to stay home in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. To help, the city council is taking action, voting on a package of measures including a moratorium on disconnections and the expansion of customer assistance programs to help people handle the increased utility costs and get a little breathing room in household budgets already being tested by this crisis.”

Alter noted the measure was taken as residents are being asked to stay in their homes to help blunt the spread of illness. The respiratory ailment is caused by the COVID-19 virus emitted by coughing and sneezing.

Shelter-in-place orders were previously passed by the city and county before the governor issued a statewide version of the order, all measures taken to mitigate the potential spread of the illness.