The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs is launching the Texas Rent Relief Program on February 15.
Starting at 8 a.m. on Monday, the program begins taking applications for rental and utility assistance for future and past due bills dating back as far as mid-March of last year.
Landlords can apply on behalf of renters and tenants can also apply for direct relief even if their landlord doesn’t participate.
TDHCA Executive Director Bobby Wilkinson said the program aims to pay assistance within about two weeks of an application being received with all the proper documentation.
Wilkinson told NBC 5 Responds the application process will be more streamlined than applications some renters saw after the CARES Act passed last year.
“This is new money, it's flexible from Congress, straight from the U.S. Treasury for this purpose. I think it should be faster,” said Wilkinson.
Households must have income at or below 80% of the area median income. Priority will be given to households with incomes at or below 50% area median income or households where at least one person is currently unemployed or was unemployed 90 days prior to applying.
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You can find out if you fall within the area median income requirements here. Look up your county and your household size.
In Dallas County, for example, a family of four qualifies if their household income is $68,950 or less.
Wilkinson encourages Texans to check the website now to determine if they qualify for assistance. Gather your documentation and be ready to apply as soon as applications open Monday morning.
You can find the list of accepted documents here. Scroll down to Tenant FAQ.
Phone lines are also open now for those with questions at 1-833-9TX-RENT or 1-833-989-7368. Wilkinson said there will be translation services available in multiple languages. Calls can be taken Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
People without internet access who need help submitting an application can also call for assistance, said Wilkinson.
The program will remain open until all funds have been paid out. It’s unclear how long that would take. Wilkinson said people who believe they may be part of the priority group should apply no later than February 28 for priority review.
People may be eligible for assistance for up to 15 months, though the program won’t pay future rent for more than three months at a time. Applicants would have to reapply every three months for future assistance – provided the funding isn’t depleted.
Texas has $1.3 billion to spend in federal money authorized in the latest stimulus package passed by Congress in December. Part of the money will also fund a planned expansion of an eviction diversion program in Texas.
“We had various kinds of relief for people: the direct assistance, extended unemployment benefits, but that hasn't caught everyone. You're seeing people that have been economically impacted by the pandemic through no fault of their own,” said Wilkinson.
“They’re suffering, it’s pretty scary not being able to pay your rent and utilities,” added Wilkinson. “I'm glad Congress has come through with this appropriation and that we have a statewide program.”
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