The Harris County COVID-19 Emergency Direct Assistance Fund is meant to follow-up on a similar fund distributed by the county over the summer. The fund will be managed by the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
The funding is expected to help 33,333 families with one-time payments of up to $1,200, according to an Oct. 28 press release. The $30 million in funding from the program that took place over the summer resulted in about 450,000 families having to be declined due to lack of funds, Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said.
In a statement, Ellis said this new funding is intended to help those families who did not receive help the first time who are still in need.
“Although we cannot help everyone, I am proud that we are increasing our reach to more households with this Direct Assistance Fund,” Ellis said. “We know that direct assistance to low-income families can help reduce poverty rates, inject money into the local economy and, most importantly, help families afford their basic needs like housing, food and health care.”
Part of the funding is already being distributed to families who applied to the summer program but were rejected, according to the release. The funding that will be distributed Nov. 2-6 will be distributed through a random selection process as opposed to on a first-come, first-served basis.
The funding can be used for a wide variety of needs, including rent, food, utilities, health care, childcare and transportation. All of the funding given out through the program is expected to be reimbursed by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
To be eligible for the funds, applicants must either have one household member enrolled in a public assistance program or have total household income that is less than 60% of the area median income as measured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Applicants must also prove pandemic-related hardship, which can be done with unpaid bills, according to an example given in the Oct. 28 release.
The program is also open to residents in the city of Houston, and funds will be distributed evenly across the county's four precincts. Applicants will not be approved if they have already received another form of COVID-19 assistance from the county.
Once the public application period opens Nov. 2, applicants can apply online at www.catholiccharitieshelp.org. Applications must be submitted online, but residents can call 832-990-1318 for help with the application process.
“Thousands of families across Harris County have struggled to overcome the financial damage from COVID-19,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a statement. “While this relief will not reach everyone who needs it, we must do everything in our power to help those who are vulnerable pull through.”