The city was only able to accept the first 12,000, which it reached within the first 90 minutes of the application going live.
Many users received error messages and delays during the first hour the applications were open because of the high demand.
The program, formed using $15 million out of Houston’s $404 million allocation of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security funding, offered to pay up to $1,056 to tenants behind on April or May rent.
In an afternoon briefing, Houston Housing Director Tom McCasland said that the site processed 12,000 requests from tenants and payments will be processed in the next two weeks.
The Metropolitan Organization of Houston, a faith-based organizing group, said an estimated $100 million could be needed to address 70,000 renters in need across the city.
The organization gathered those interested in applying and faced difficulties with the high volume or users on the website.
Not ONE person at our two clinics this morning can get into the @houmayor or @BakerRipley Rental Assistance Program. We're working on helping over 80 families in person right now who are just waiting and not sure what to do. They cannot get in their applications! pic.twitter.com/ci7yEElaWA
— TMO Houston (@TMO_IAF) May 13, 2020
Turner said the high number of people applying for the program indicated that an additional relief program will be needed, however he has not committed any additional CARES act funding toward it.
Out of the $404 million the city has already received, about $200 million was dedicated to providing more testing and hiring new contact tracers, and $15 million was set aside for rental assistance. Turner said the remaining funds may be needed for bulk orders of PPE and for paying police and firefighters responding to coronavirus-related issues.
“We know the need far exceeds the resources, which is all the more reason to advocate for more on the congressional level,” he said.