Tarrant County is urging its residents who live outside Fort Worth city limits to seek help now if COVID-19 has made it hard to pay the rent.
"We want anyone who is having trouble paying their rent to apply before December 9th at midnight, and also to understand, you are protected by a moratorium now but on January 1st when that expires, you can still be evicted for unpaid rent," said Kristen Camareno. the county's mobility coordinator and the point person for the CARE 4 Tarrant Rental Assistance Program.
County commissioners set aside $10 million dollars from federal CARES Act funding for rent assistance. The program is for renters living in any Tarrant County city outside Fort Worth. The city has its own program. Find information about the city's program here.
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The rental help from Tarrant County is for anyone whose income has been affected by COVID-19 and there are several ways to qualify.
"The most common we see is loss of income due to layoff or a reduction in hours. but we've also expanded the criteria so that anyone who has had to stay home with a child or an elderly or disabled person who would otherwise go uncared for, maybe their school has closed for in-person learning or their care center has closed," Camareno said. "If someone is immunocompromised and has had to remove themselves from the workforce during this time for fear of severe illness or complications if they catch COVID, that's also a way to qualify."
The county is getting about 200 applications a day, so not only is time to apply short but the pot of money is dwindling, too.
"The majority of applicants we've seen are apartment renters. However, we know 40% of Tarrant County residents are renters. And so, we've definitely seen people in homes, condominiums, townhouses, single family homes who are applying for this program.The pandemic and its effects didn't discriminate, and one of the things we've tried to reiterate through this program is, you may not be accustomed to reaching out for help. that may not be something you've ever had to do before but it's okay," Camareno said.
The process starts online. Applicants should review the eligibility criteria and gather the required documentation to fill out the application. The county will email to let the renter know the application was received. A second email will confirm the application was reviewed and proper documentation submitted. The process requires the support of a renter's landlord. The county will email a landlord to confirm participation in program. Renter and landlord will then get another email notification that application is in final stage to determine payment. Once that's determined, payment is made.
"It could go back as far as April. There's no limit to the number of months they receive between April and December," Camareno said.
The county is reaching residents through social media, yard signs and advertisements to make them aware of the approaching Dec. 9 deadline to apply for help and the Dec. 31 expiration to the temporary halt on evictions under a Centers for Disease Control order to slow the spread of coronavirus.
"The moratorium does not mean rent forgiveness. So people hear, 'I can't be evicted until January 1st,' and they may not make the connection that that means, 'I still have to pay my rent after January 1st if that moratorium expires and I still have unpaid rent, I can at that time be evicted and a landlord is within their rights to do so.' So, that's the main message we want to get out, if in doubt, if you need help, if you've had trouble paying your rent, apply for the program."