HOUSTON - Rent is due in one day and thousands of people say they cannot pay because of the crippling economic impact of COVID-19.
Houston Mayor Turner just announced the second round of rental assistance. The $19 million fund includes $15 million from the federal CARES Act, plus $4 million in private donations from the Houston Endowment, the Greater Houston COVID-19 Relief Fund, and the Kinder Foundation. Mayor Turner said the private donations will cover applicants who don't qualify under federal guidelines but still need aid.
Unlike the City's first rental relief package that ran out in 90 minutes, Turner says the second package will not be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
"Our objective is to help the most vulnerable with quick assistance to help families avoid evictions, working alongside landlords willing to provide flexibility and compassion to keep their tenants housed," said Turner at a press conference. "The rental assistance will not be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, but rather we intend to provide a lifeline to those facing immediate eviction with the greatest need."
Some of the money will go to Lone Star Legal Aid to pay for attorneys to represent tenants in eviction hearings, aligning with a $750,000 contribution Harris County committed.
Turner said that some Justices of the Peace have agreed not to hold eviction hearings in August, but he calls on all of them to do the same.
The Houston Apartment Association says that landlords have paused millions of dollars in payments to help families stay in their homes, but that many small business owners are strained.
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The City's relief will again be distributed by BakerRipley with application details to be announced later.
Harris County Commissioners also announced this week they will offer $25 million of rental assistance in the next couple of weeks to help about 21,000 households. A website and phone line will be announced soon where landlords and tenants can apply.
Fort Bend County says it has reached maximum applicants for its current round of assistance and is working to get out checks as fast as they can. New applications open online on September 21. Renters already approved in phase one or two do not need to reapply.
Tenants who have applied for any rental assistance that hasn't arrived before the rent is due are advised to let their landlords know.
"Step one is always communicate, communicate, communicate," said Houston Apartment Association President John Boriack. "Let your housing provider, your property owner know I'm trying to get rental assistance, maybe I have this other source of income coming. Nobody wants to evict, it's a last resort."
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Montgomery County is doling out $10 million to help 4,000 families. Residents can apply for rental assistance through Interfaith of the Woodlands. The county is still waiting for federal approval to give homeowner's $500 in stimulus.
Residents in Galveston, Brazoria, Waller, Austin, Liberty and Chambers Counties can call the United Way Helpline at 211 to apply for rental assistance.