‘It will allow me to continue my livelihood’: Texas Rent Relief program picks up pace

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — After a slow start, the Texas Rent Relief program has picked up steam, now averaging $3.5 million in daily distribution, its leader said.

Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) is tasked with administering $1.3 billion in federal relief funding to help qualifying Texans struggling to keep up with rent and utility bills during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve prioritized folks that are, you know, close to getting evicted, so that they can stay in their homes,” said Bobby Wilkinson, TDHCA executive director said.

The agency has doled out more than $43 million of its nearly $1.3 billion allotment, with close to $15 million more in the process of being sent to Texas families.

“I expect we’ll get to $7-8 million a day, within a few weeks,” Wilkinson said, noting that he expected the program to receive another $1 billion installment soon.

The program has assisted more than 6,000 households in the state thus far. Payments have been approved for more than 2,200 additional households, the agency dashboard indicated Friday.

Over 96,400 applications have been submitted since the program was announced in February, according to information provided by TDHCA.

Samaj Nelson is one of those applicants. The Austinite lost her job during the pandemic, then lost her unemployment benefits— which she is appealing.

“It’s just been very difficult,” she said Friday. “I was down on everything.”

Nelson credits food stamps and the pause on evictions for keeping her going.

“With that being, you know, blocked right now, I was thankful for still having a roof over my head,” she said.

Nelson hopes her application is approved so she can pay back the rent she owes her apartment complex.

“It will just be relief, it will allow me to continue my livelihood,” she said.

“If they could pay just a little bit, or just if they could pay all of it, I would be like, so excited, I’ll be thankful for them,” Nelson said. “I will send them a letter, if I could hug them, but I can’t because of the coronavirus, I would.”

According to TDHCA, there are approximately 25,000 outstanding requests for missing documentation. Nelson received a call Friday during which she learned the state needed an additional document for her application. She was in the process of sending it Friday afternoon.

“I’m like, trying to stay positive about the situation, trying to find the good in all this,” she said.

Qualifying households must be at or below 80% of the area median income. To check eligibility, visit the Texas Rent Relief website.

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