Rent Relief program helping more Texans and prioritizing those facing eviction

VIDEO: Rent Relief program helping more Texans and prioritizing those facing eviction

AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - More Texans continue to need assistance paying rent. The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs says they have seen an steady increase in applicants in the last couple of weeks.

So far, they have been distributing an average of $3.5 million and expect to distribute on average 7 million in the weeks to come.

Unlike other programs that pause rent, this one pays past due, current, and up to two months of expected rent and utility expenses for as far back as March of 2020.

In Potter and Randall counties, over one hundred thousand dollars has been distributed among 24 households. However, across the Panhandle, many counties have not used the program.

So far, applicants are mostly people of color and mostly women.

In Amarillo, Esther’s House with Faith City Mission, is an organization helping women facing homelessness.

They say they have been receiving several calls from people who are not yet homeless but need financial help to pay rent.

They have also seen the need for their programs grow since last year.

“Right before the holidays is when our applications began to increase and a lot of them were about to be evicted,” said Angela Sinclair, case manager at Esther’s House with Faith City Mission.

And it has only increased this year.

“Since the beginning of this year, we have doubled in size.” said Sinclair.

They say there are many reasons women come into their program, but COVID-19 has played a part

“We’ve seen a lot of them with a job loss and of course the COVID kicked in and they were limited in freedom to look for jobs,” said Dorcas Vivens, director at Esther’s House with Faith City Mission.

Loss of income is one of the eligibility requirements for the Texas Rent Relief program.

“It’s just that you had to have been financially affected somehow during the pandemic. You don’t have to have had the virus, or prove of any connection to the virus, you know just a test of ‘Yes I have had increased expenses or loss of income,’'said Bobby Wilkinson, executive director of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

Three thousand of the seven thousand households assisted across the state, were facing eviction.

That is why the department is now prioritizing those who are currently at risk of being evicted.

“It is terrible for someone to apply and we almost got the check to someone and they get evicted. So, it is an extra sense of urgency to get the money to those in need,” said Wilkinson.

He adds if you had applied before they began prioritizing these cases, and are now facing eviction, you can call them at (833)-989-7368 to fast track your application.

Preventing eviction is not only immediate help, but also long term. The women at Esther’s House say past evictions is one of the biggest barriers the women they help face when trying to find a new home.

There is no deadline for when to apply for this program and both the tenant and landlord can apply online.

The website also has an eligibility questionnaire for those who are unsure if they qualify.

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