Travis County hits pause on rental assistance applications as federal dollars dry up

The state and the city of Austin had already exhausted rental assistance funding from the federal program. (Benton Graham/Community Impact Newspaper)
The state and the city of Austin had already exhausted rental assistance funding from the federal program. (Benton Graham/Community Impact Newspaper)

The state and the city of Austin had already exhausted rental assistance funding from the federal program. (Benton Graham/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Travis County Commissioners Court unanimously approved a measure to pause accepting new applications for rental assistance Nov. 30 as the county is running out of funding from the American Rescue Plan Act's Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The online application portal will stop accepting new applications after 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, December 5, 2021, according to a Dec. 3 Travis County press release.

County executive Sherri Fleming laid out concerns that Travis County is facing a potential shortfall of about $4 million. She cited an increase in demand for the funding, particularly during the week of Thanksgiving, and the scheduled expiration of the county’s eviction moratorium on Dec. 31 as key drivers of that concern.

“We have continued to try to serve the community as best we could within the resources that are entrusted to us, so I certainly appreciate, and the team appreciates, the difficulty in having these discussions with you today,” Fleming said.

The county has about $3 million on hand with another $5 million coming as a part of the second round of ERAP funding. However, it projects that its current application total is around $11 million, Fleming said.

Staff presented two timelines for the program: temporarily close it within one to two weeks or on Dec. 31.


The court agreed that the county could not keep applications open without more information about additional funding and voted to pause accepting more applications within two weeks.

“I would go ahead and tell the public, ‘We don’t have any more money at this point,’” Travis County Commissioner Ann Howard said. “And work through the cases we have and see how far we get. If we get more money, we open the program back.”

The state and the city of Austin had already run out of funding from the program, which mirrors a trend nationwide. The U.S. Treasury Department issued a statement Nov. 29 about states and cities exhausting funds and the possibility of reallocating from communities slow to spend their dollars.

“Numerous grantees have also announced that they have obligated the vast majority of their ERA 2 funding,” the statement read. “Texas has announced that the total applications in its system – including the $1.2 billion it has already disbursed – now exceed the state’s ERA1 and ERA2 allocations combined.”

Fleming said the county applied for an additional $7.8 million in reallocated funds from the U.S. Treasury and is awaiting more details. She added she hopes to hear back within the next two weeks.

Editor's note: this story has been updated with new information about when the online application portal will close.
By Benton Graham

Metro Reporter, Austin

Benton joined Community Impact Newspaper as a metro reporter covering transportation in Central Texas in June 2021. Benton's writing has appeared in Vox, The Austin Chronicle, Austonia and Reporting Texas. Originally from Minneapolis, Benton graduated from William & Mary and eventually moved to Austin in 2018.