Fort Bend County residents who are struggling to pay their rent and utility bills may be eligible to apply for relief through a new emergency assistance program.

Additional funding to assist households that are unable to pay rent and utilities because of the COVID-19 pandemic has been allocated to Fort Bend County from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, County Judge KP George said in a press conference March 1.

The county has established a new emergency rental assistance program in compliance with federal, state and local guidelines to provide assistance to eligible households.

“This program is for people that are really struggling,” George said.

The program launched Feb. 17, Fort Bend County Auditor Ed Sturdivant said. Announcements about the program were delayed because of the winter storm.

To date, Sturdivant said, just under 2,000 tenants have applied for assistance, and county officials expect that number to increase.

According to the program details, residents may be eligible for up to 12 months of assistance for rent and utilities, Sturdivant said. The funding is not eligible for assistance toward mortgage payments, he said.

To be eligible, the applicant must be a resident of Fort Bend County and meet several other requirements, which include having a demonstrated reduction in household income due to the pandemic, a demonstrated risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability, and a household income at or below 80% of the area median income.

Sturdivant and George encouraged residents who think they might be eligible for assistance to go to to learn more about the program and apply.

Applicants without online access or who need additional assistance with the application process can call 281-238-2273. Individual case managers are available to take applications over the phone, Sturdivant said.

“We look for every opportunity to make you eligible within the guidelines,” Sturdivant said.

County officials are continuing to do everything they can with resources available to assist Fort Bend County residents in need, George said.

“We will continue to work to help the people who are suffering,” George said.