Within the first 15 minutes, there were nearly 1,000 applications for the special City of Dallas coronavirus mortgage and rent assistance program that opened Monday morning. When the program closed for the day there were more than 16,500 applications.
Officials said the $13.7 million assembled for the program from several sources might only serve about 1,000 families, first come first served. But some applicants may not qualify and applications will be accepted again Tuesday.
“You can not have economic recovery without housing stability,” said Eric Anthony Johnson, Dallas Chief of Economic Development and Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization.
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Before the program opened, Johnson said residents should know there will not be enough money to serve everyone in need.
“Our resources are not infinite. And we also want them to know we’re doing everything we can to make this process a smooth process. But, we know demand will be high,” Johnson said.
The city website for applications was very difficult to reach during the first few hours. The published phone number was also often busy.
Applicant Jenova Hopson said it was almost noon before she was able to get through online. She is a single mother with two children. Hopson said her hours at work have been severely cut and she is worried about paying May rent.
“I've been homeless before and I refuse, I don't want to, I refuse to. It would be the biggest letdown of my life to go back like that,” Hopson said.
The Texas Tenants Union forecasts an increase in homelessness when after the May 18 expiration of an eviction moratorium approved by the Texas Supreme Court.
“You can’t just rely on the kindness of the landlords,” said Executive Director Sandy Rollins. ”We’re very concerned about an explosion of homelessness. Even before we get through this pandemic, they’re talking about second waves. And we’re looking at May 18.”
The Dallas economic development leaders said city hall is already looking for more money to supply housing assistance.
“I think people need to realize. There is no turning of the switch, that things are going to be back to the way it was before. This is going to require us looking at things we haven’t looked at before. It’s going to be challenging and I think people shouldn’t think about, it’s not going to be that way. It will be that way,” Johnson said.
The current housing assistance program pays a maximum of $1500 a month for people with limited income before the pandemic and who’ve been negatively affected since then. The money will be paid directly to mortgage holders or landlords but may not flow for several weeks. The phone number is 469-749-6500. Pre-screening for the application begins online at this link.
A separate small business assistance program with a $5 million pot of cash received 1,910 applications Monday. That program is aimed at preserving jobs with small businesses in under-served neighborhoods. Information about that program can be found here.