Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect Montgomery County's Nov. 19 announcement relating to rental assistance funds available to residents.
Montgomery County announced it had over $10 million available in remaining rental assistance on Nov. 19, three days after the county returned over $7.1 million to the Treasury Department, alleging a lack of applicants.
Federal data showed the county had distributed less than 30% of its aid by the end of September 2021. Commissioners approved the plan at a Nov. 16 meeting through the consent agenda, meaning there was no further discussion. The county has received $18.1 million in ERA funding since December 2020, according to the U.S. Treasury Department and county documents.
The county's community development director Rebecca Ansley said in the county's announcement that to qualify for assistance, applicants must go through the county's portal and must show proof of housing instability, proof of COVID-19's financial impact on them, and that they make less than 80% of Montgomery County's average median income, which is $79,200.
The county is offering a maximum of $1,500 on mortgage and utility assistance. Rental assistance lasts for 12 months with the possibility of a three-month extension, but recipients must re-apply every three months, according to Ansley.
Monthly rental assistance also has its own caps, based on Montgomery County Fair Market Rates and the amount of bedrooms in each apartment, Ansley said. The caps are: $1,362 for 0-bedroom apartments, $1,474.50 for 1-bedroom apartments, $1,764.00 for 2-bedroom apartments, $2,364.00 for 3-bedroom apartments, and $3,015.00 for 4-bedroom apartments.
“I am thankful that we will be able to assist the residents of Montgomery County who are in dire strait need because of COVID-related job loss or illness,” Ansley said.
Montgomery County will not have a deadline for applying to housing aid, according to Ansley, who said the county "wants to see a need" before setting a deadline.
County Judge Mark Keough said in an email to Community Impact Newspaper that he could not provide a breakdown of how much aid was expended. The statewide nonprofit Texas Housers reported Montgomery County used less than 2% of its ERA funding. Keough attributed the lack of spending to a “lack of qualified applicants,” “duplicative” rental assistance programs, and Montgomery County’s less strict approach to pandemic restrictions.
“I believe our local policies and approach to not adopting draconian measures during the pandemic have led to a much more robust and vibrant economy, which has afforded our residents better opportunities [in] the job market and thus reduced the need for some of these programs,” Keough said.
Texas Housers reported 638 filings in county evictions courts from June to August 2021. Keough said the amount of rental assistance used throughout all county programs was “far less than expected,” and that the county would “press awareness” of remaining funds. Other available rental assistance includes county rental assistance and mortgage assistance, funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security—or CARES—Act and authorized by commissioners in 2020. Keough said the program ran for several months, expending over $6 million and assisting 1,756 individual households. The county also has several programs available through federal Community Development Block Grant funds, including the following.
- Community Development Block Grant-CV-1: This grant offers $1.6 million with an expenditure deadline of seven years.
- Emergency Services Grant-CV-1: This grant makes $775,483 available with an expenditure deadline of seven years.
- ESG-CV-2: This Emergency Services Grant makes $1.3 million available for shelter expenses for homeless individuals and will expire June 9, 2022 unless extended.
- CDBG-CV-3: This Community Development Block Grant makes $1.5 million available. Keough did not specify an expiry date for this grant's funding.
- Texas Emergency Rental Assistance Program: The program offers $691,645, which will be available through January.
- Texas Eviction Diversion Program: The program offers $76,850, which will be available through January.
Keough said he anticipates more residents will use the ERA funding in 2022, when the TEDP and TERAP funds expire in January.
This document includes the county's plan to return over $7 million in emergency rental assistance funding. (Courtesy of Montgomery County)