Health Alliance of Austin Musicians executive director Reenie Collins sounded an alarm during a Wednesday meeting of the City of Austin’s Music Commission, revealing that an expected $1 million shortfall in revenue this year may limit HAAM’s ability to serve Austin musicians later this year.
“As soon as September and October, HAAM will be faced with some challenging choices of either cutting services and/or reducing the number of members we are able to serve by a large margin, perhaps as many as 1,000 musicians less, depending on how insurance premiums rise due to COVID-19,” Collins told music commissioners when she called in to the online meeting.
In addition to a likely coronavirus-related rise in healthcare premiums, Collins said the nonprofit’s financial issues also stem from lost fundraising opportunities. A major annual fundraiser during South by Southwest was called off when SXSW was canceled.
The organization’s largest fundraiser, HAAM Day, usually takes place in September, with live music in dozens of traditional and nontraditional venues across town. The viability of that event this year is questionable amid the enduring pandemic.
Collins noted that HAAM helped provide medical care for 2,600 Austin musicians last year, adding that the service has become a key draw in keeping musicians here. She also contended that reduced services could hurt the city’s economy as a whole.
“Beyond the moral imperative of protecting our musicians … there's also the practicality of just how much losing HAAM’s services would cost Austin taxpayers and the city's health services,” Collins said. “If we lose coverage for more than 1,000 musicians, what that means is that those folks are going to be back on the taxpayers’ rolls — not being insured, and not being taken care of, and having more expensive needs. … It contributes to the overall issues the city will face economically.”