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Travis County $10M mortgage and rental assistance program to go live June 29

Thursday, June 18, 2020 by Jessi Devenyns

After spending a month working through the details of a proposed rent and mortgage assistance program for Travis County residents impacted by the economic fallout from Covid-19, the Commissioners Court unanimously voted to allocate $10 million of the county’s $61 million in CARES Act funding at its June 16 meeting. The program is scheduled to open for applications beginning June 29.

Although the federally funded assistance program previously contained a provision to help with utility payments, county staff removed that option. There will be $9.5 million in total assistance for rent and mortgage payments available through the program. Staffing requirements will account for the remaining $500,000.

Travis County has provided rent, mortgage and utility assistance to residents for years, and this additional federal funding will supplement its existing program and help expand eligibility. County residents who earn up to 250 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines and have not received rent or mortgage payment money from other CARES Act funding sources are eligible for relief dollars.

Normally, the county only provides assistance for 50 percent of the fair market rent rate determined by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, but from now until Nov. 30, the county will support residents with grants of 100 percent of the fair market rent value. Those who qualify may request help up to three times between now and Nov. 30.

County Judge Sam Biscoe noted that some residents have been struggling or unable to pay for housing for several months. He said the economic constraints that have hindered tenants from making payments have also caused economic hardships for landlords who are abiding by the county’s moratorium on evictions.

Kirsten Siegfried, the division director for the county’s family support services, explained that the county’s program is available to tenants and homeowners who have past-due payments or payments that will be due in the next 30 days. She told the Austin Monitor that requests for payment assistance may be made retroactively back to March 1.

If the county makes a payment to a landlord, the landlord agrees not to evict the tenant for 30 days after receiving CARES Act funding. Landlords are not able to apply on behalf of tenants.

Support for utility payments from the county is still available, but Siegfried told the Commissioners Court that the Travis County Health and Human Services Department will distribute it through other funding sources. Travis County has access to $8.3 million in grant funding from the federal government and surrounding utility companies to assist with electric, gas and water bills.

She told the Monitor that the county has not defined a maximum dollar amount that residents can access for utility assistance. Instead, she explained that the county will match those who are eligible for aid with a corresponding grant funding source. Each funding source has a unique set of eligibility requirements and maximum benefit entitlements.

Eligible residents can access assistance programs through the county’s Health and Human Services website when it goes live at the end of June.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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