As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Judge Nick Chu, Travis County justice of the peace, Precinct 5, announced new eviction protections in a Dec. 29 news release.

The order requires that trials on evictions be paused for 30 days to allow the renter time to find rental assistance, consult an attorney and negotiate a settlement without the need for an eviction.

“Judges are required to follow the law, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a heart to try to help people,” Chu said in the news release. “With the rise of the omicron variant, the courts are doing everything we can to prevent a public health crisis from spiraling into a housing and economic crisis as well.”

The order will remain in effect until March 1.

The announcement follows Travis County pausing applications for rental assistance Dec. 5 amid surging demand during the Thanksgiving holiday.

The county had distributed $12.7 million in assistance to 3,323 households as of Dec. 13, according to a Travis County spokesperson. It is still awaiting response on a possible additional $7.8 million in funding from the U.S. Treasury Department.