In preparation for the public application period, which opens June 23-24, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo released additional details for how to apply for assistance through the Harris County COVID-19 Relief Fund June 17.
According to the release, the fund is open to all eligible low-income Harris County residents regardless of status, including immigrant households; those who may receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance but cannot afford to wait for months; and those ineligible for federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act payments or unemployment insurance.
"We have a moral obligation to take care of our most vulnerable residents," Hidalgo said in a statement. "Far too many of our neighbors, friends and family members—through no fault of their own—have lost their jobs. They are struggling to pay rent, their bills, and to put food on the table. As a community we must rally together to ensure that our most vulnerable residents don't fall through the cracks. This fund will provide thousands of families with some immediate and much-needed relief."
Both the online and phone applications will be available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Arabic and French. Applicants can access the online application beginning June 23 at 6 a.m. until June 24 at 10 p.m. at www.harriscountyrelief.org or the phone application by calling 832-848-0214 on June 23 from 6 a.m.-2 p.m. and June 24 from 2-10 p.m.
For eligibility, applicants will be required to submit the following documents during the application process to prove Harris County residency and either household income or proof of enrollment in a public assistance program:
- Proof of residency in Harris County: This can include valid photo identification with name an address, valid photo identification and current utility bill with name and address, valid photo identification and cell or landline phone bill, valid photo identification and postmarked mail with name and current address addressed to applicant, or valid photo identification and lease with name and address.
- Proof of public benefits: This can include SSI/SSDI/disability/unemployment monthly award letters or SSA-1099, TANF, SNAP, Gold Card, NSLP, WIC or CHIP.
- Income documentation for every adult in household: This can include annual wages with a copy of the 2018 or 2019 tax return or most recent W-2 or monthly wages, which can include one month pay stubs prior to March 11 but not before Dec. 1, 2019; most recent 1099; profit and loss ledger; declaration of income statement; stipends, alimony, pension/retirement/annuity monthly award letters; or a letter from an employer.
After the initial application process closes, all applicants will be put into a drawing and randomly selected. According to the release, applicants from vulnerable census tracks will be prioritized to receive assistance, with those in the most vulnerable areas receiving up to a 50% increased chance of being selected. All applicants will receive an email or text notification regarding his or her application status by June 26.
Upon selection, applicants will be matched with a community-based organization within five days, which will continue the application process by verifying the applicant's household has experienced adverse economic impacts related to COVID-19 and has not received assistance or benefits from any City of Houston or other Harris County program administered for the same purpose.
Once approved, the community-based organization will coordinate the delivery of funds to the applicant, the release states.
"We want to be very clear and transparent: this fund won't be able to help everyone who applies. The need across our communities is immense and exceeds the available resources at this time," Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said in a statement. "However, Precinct 1 is committed to continue working to provide more assistance to residents. The most important thing right now is that we're encouraging all eligible individuals to apply for aid, informing them about how to do that, and utilizing a fair process to help those who need it most."
Posted June 15 at 1:59 p.m.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced the public application period for the Harris County COVID-19 Relief Fund will open June 23-24 in a press release June 12.
As previously reported by Community Impact Newspaper, the Harris County COVID-19 Relief Fund is a $30 million fund administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation that aims to financially assist vulnerable individuals and families with essential needs who do not otherwise qualify for other pandemic-related assistance. The Harris County Commissioners Court initially approved a $15 million fund injection during its April 28 meeting and subsequently doubled that amount to $30 million on May 19.
"I'm extremely excited that our most vulnerable neighbors in the Harris County communities hardest hit by the pandemic are going to begin receiving financial relief," Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said in a statement. "Our neighbors who have a greater risk of losing everything require support to meet their most basic needs of food, shelter, childcare and medical costs."
Divided into two phases, the first $15 million was distributed June 12 to 44 community-based nonprofit organizations that actively work to meet the needs of their local vulnerable populations.
"The first round of funding disbursement is an important step forward in helping our county's most vulnerable, hard-working families," Hidalgo said in a statement. "The economic fallout from COVID-19 has caused incredible financial hardship on our community and we'll continue to do all we can to get relief to those that need it most. I'm proud to partner with the Greater Houston Community Foundation and the many nonprofits who have stepped up to make an impactful difference in Harris County."
Following the nonprofit distribution, all eligible low-income Harris County residents will be able to apply for assistance online beginning June 23 at 6 a.m. until June 24 at 10 p.m. or by phone June 23 from 6 a.m.-2 p.m. and June 24 from 2 p.m.-10 p.m. Through the multilingual call center, operators will record the applicant's answers and submit an application on his or her behalf. A call center phone number is forthcoming.
"I am pleased to see this happening for so many in our communities who are struggling because of this pandemic. There is an urgent need, so there is no time to sit idly by," Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said in a statement.
To be eligible to apply for assistance through Phase 2 of the Harris County COVID-19 Relief Fund, the individual or household must:
- live in Harris County;
- have a household income below 60% Area Median Income or be accessing public benefits;
- have experienced negative economic impact related to the COVID-19 pandemic; and
- not have received benefits from the following programs in 2020: The City of Houston Rental Assistance Program, the Harris County Utility Assistance Program, or the Harris County COVID-19 Forgivable Loan Program.
According to the release, applicants will be selected through a fair, randomized process, and details about what residents will need to prepare for the application will be released in the coming week.