Travis County allocates $10M for rental assistance to low-income residents

A photo of Sara Eckhardt at a commissioners court meeting
Former Travis County Judge Sara Eckhardt's last meeting presiding over the Commissioners Court was May 12. (Courtesy Travis County)

Former Travis County Judge Sara Eckhardt's last meeting presiding over the Commissioners Court was May 12. (Courtesy Travis County)

Travis County will distribute $10 million in rent and mortgage assistance by the end of the year. The county's commissioners voted May 12 to designate the $10 million in federal relief aid to assist low-income residents financially affected by the coronavirus pandemic, a move Commissioner Brigid Shea called “hair-on-fire urgent.”

The allocation is drawn from $61 million granted to the county from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, and addresses increased assistance requests through Travis County’s existing rent assistance program of Travis County’s Health and Human Services Family Support Services Division.

In discussion prior to the vote, former Travis County Judge Sara Eckhardt said direct financial assistance to renters and landlords was one of the most expedient ways the county could help residents struggling financially due to loss of income spurred by COVID-19.

“We want to make sure this money has the biggest bang for individuals who are most marginalized in our community,” Eckhardt said.

Households whose income falls at 250% or less than Federal Policy Income Guidelines qualify for rent assistance through this pool of funding—for instance, single adults who make no more than $31,900 or single adult, two-child households making no more than $54,300. These guidelines mark an expansion in those qualified for rental assistance from the county. Previously, only households that make 150% FPIG have qualified for Travis County rent assistance.

A breakdown of costs covered by the allocation includes $9,490,580 allotted for mortgage and rent payments, $250,000 for utility payments and $259,420 for associated family support services. Like all CARES Act funding, the $10 million in rent assistance must be distributed by the end of 2020.

The vote occurred at Eckhardt’s last meeting presiding over the court as county judge. Her interim replacement, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, took his oath of office in a private ceremony following the May 12 voting session.

Eckhardt departs to pursue a seat on the Texas Senate. She will vie for Kirk Watson's vacated District 14 seat in a July 14 special election.
By Olivia Aldridge

Multi-Platform Journalist

Olivia hosts and produces Community Impact Newspaper's podcasts, The Austin Breakdown, The Houston Breakdown and The DFW Breakdown. She launched the podcasts after nearly three years as a reporter for the newspaper, covering public health, business, development and Travis County government for the Central Austin edition. Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas.