Harris County boosts funding, extends deadlines for rental assistance

A Harris County program designed to provide relief to residents behind on their rent as a result of the coronavirus is getting a boost in funding. (Courtesy Fotolia)
A Harris County program designed to provide relief to residents behind on their rent as a result of the coronavirus is getting a boost in funding. (Courtesy Fotolia)

A Harris County program designed to provide relief to residents behind on their rent as a result of the coronavirus is getting a boost in funding. (Courtesy Fotolia)

A Harris County program designed to provide relief to residents behind on their rent as a result of the coronavirus is getting a boost in funding, and tenants and landlords are getting an extension on when they can submit applications.

The county began accepting applications from landlords Aug. 17 through the nonprofit BakerRipley, and the final day for landlords to apply would have been Aug. 26.

At an Aug. 25 Commissioners Court meeting, commissioners voted to extend the applications deadline by several days to Aug. 30. The deadline for tenants to apply has likewise been extended from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2.

At the same time, the amount of available funding was boosted from $25 million to $40 million after commissioners approved a new injection of $15 million. The cap on how much each household can receive in funding was also lifted from $1,200 to $1,900.

The motion to increase funding was put on the agenda by Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia. In a statement, Garcia called on the state of Texas to invest in rental relief as well.

“I’m proud to have, once again, led the effort to increase the amount available to help people struggling to pay their rent," Garcia said. "We in Harris County are stepping up to flatten the eviction curve; however, despite this increased investment, we know not everyone will be able to get this much-needed lifeline. We invite the state of Texas to get involved in programs like ours."

Under the program, landlords are required to apply to the program first to be recognized as participants, and tenants cannot apply if their landlord is not participating. Once a tenant is approved, landlords are paid directly by BakerRipley. Applications will only be approved for past rent payments, not payments that will need to be made in the future.

The fund was also previously closed off to residents in Harris County Precincts 3 and 4 who lived within Houston City limits. But at the Aug. 25 meeting, commissioners supported an amendment from Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis that opened the fund up to those residents moving forward, which includes residents in Kingwood, Spring Branch and the Memorial area, among other areas.

Commissioners at the meeting also voted to provide another $15 million boost for the Harris County COVID-19 Relief Fund, a direct assistance program designed to help residents with a variety of needs, including rent, food and medical needs. Applications are currently not open for the program, which is being managed by the Greater Houston Community Foundation.

The county is expected to be reimbursed for both programs through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Securities Act. Of the $426 million allocated to the county, about $84 million was left prior to the Aug. 25 meeting, along with a reserve of $63 million.

Between the two $15 million injections and a $17 million investment in the Harris County Clerk's Office to prepare for the November election, a total of $47 million of the remaining funding was allocated at the Aug. 25 meeting. All CARES Act funding must be spent by the end of the calendar year, with any remaining funds being paid back to the federal government.
By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.


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