The commissioners unanimously approved a proposal to continue working with the United Way to provide rental and mortgage relief to combat economic setbacks sustained by residents through the coronavirus pandemic. They also approved a 1% homestead exemption, with a minimum of a $5,000 credit in appraised value, for homeowners.
“We’ve spent about $600,000 on nonprofits for rental assistance, mortgage payments to keep people in their homes,” Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell said. “Out of the [Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act], the federal government granted us money to help people stay in their homes and provide food—we’ve spent more than $400,000 on food, also—and what happens is we contract with United Way, which contracts with social services agencies, like Our Daily Bread and Salvation Army. A lot of these charities are already working with citizens."
“Instead of us recreating the wheel, they already have a method to interview people and see if assistance is needed. It has worked out wonderfully,” she said.
Mitchell added that Denton County residents can learn about their rental and mortgage relief options by calling Denton County United Way at 940-566-5851.
According to Mitchell, payments go directly to the landlord or mortgage institution.
The Denton County unemployment rate at the end of May was 11.9%, down from a high of 12.8% in April, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In comparison, data shows the county unemployment rate was 2.7% at the end of 2019. June numbers have not yet been processed by the bureau.
Prior to the beginning of the pandemic, the highest employment rate seen in the county in the past 20 years occurred in June 2009 at 8.1%. That was the final month of the Great Recession.
“I have not heard of anyone going without [housing],” Mitchell said. “I don’t know, but I have not been contacted, and I send out information just about every day—if not through email, through Facebook, to let people know, ‘Here’s what we have.’”
In addition to aiding renters and mortgage payers in need, homeowners will see a small reduction in property taxes, which are assessed in the fall and must be paid no later than Jan. 31.
Under the new homestead exemption, anyone with a home valued at $500,000 or less would see a reduction of about $11 on their county tax bill. Those with more expensive homes would see a slightly greater reduction.
Denton County Tax Assessor Michelle French said the downstream effect to the forthcoming budget is estimated to be about $1.9 million.
“People don’t have jobs and have been laid off,” Mitchell said. “I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m excited to help do something.”