The eviction moratorium that began Sept. 4, 2020, will be ending July 31, leaving some Houston-area residents in need of financial assistance. However, from July 28-Aug. 11, 20,000 Harris County families will be able to apply for a one-time payment of $1,500 for any urgent expenses such as car payments, groceries and utilities from the new $30 million COVID Relief Fund, which is supported by funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, according to a July 27 news release.
The Texas Supreme Court issued an order Sept. 17 adding additional renter protections to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium that took effect Sept. 4. The CDC order allowed tenants to give landlords a declaration that can block their eviction by stating they are unable to pay rent due to financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Now that the eviction moratorium is coming to an end, Harris County residents will still need assistance to make ends meet. Programs such as the Houston-Harris County Emergency Rental Assistance Program assist renters with financial need.
“Our area has been fortunate to have a combined city of Houston-Harris County rental assistance program that’s been a model for the nation,” Houston Apartment Association President John Boriack said. “As of this morning the Houston/Harris County program has distributed more than $129 million in rental assistance, with another $22 million currently being processed. Outside Harris County, the Texas Rent Relief program has distributed nearly $600 million statewide.”
Applications must be submitted online and will be given one payment per family unit, the release stated. The program prioritizes applicants in the lowest income bracket, so timing of the application will not affect eligibility.
To qualify for assistance, applicants must live within Harris County, be at least 18 years old, self-certify that they have experienced pandemic-related economic hardship and have a lower income than the maximum financial threshold. This means a member of the household must receive some form of public assistance, or the total household income must be less than 60% of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's area median family income. Because of federal requirements, qualifications also state at least one adult member of the household must be a U.S. citizen, legal permanent resident, refugee or other qualified noncitizen.
Officials said this money will not go to landlords, unlike the Houston-Harris County rental relief program still in operation. Those who have applied for the rental relief fund are encouraged to apply for this program as well, the release stated.
“...There are families that need additional help,” Boriack said. “We shared information about this new program with our entire membership earlier this week, and we hope it will help residents get the help they need.”
Any questions regarding the application process can be made through the call center. 832-345-6289. www.harriscountyrelief.org