County prepares to launch emergency rental assistance program
Wednesday, April 14, 2021 by Seth Smalley
County Executive Sherri Fleming spoke to the Commissioners Court on Tuesday to provide an update on the county’s emergency rental assistance program. She said Health and Human Services intends to begin outreach for the program on April 15.
“We have several outreach materials which will be usable via social media,” Fleming said, describing a flyer that will be emailed to community members and other partners to preview the April 19 launch of the program in Travis County.
A preview of the flyer said: “Financial assistance is available starting April 19 to Travis County residents who are struggling to meet current or past rental expenses due to Covid-19. The county will work with eligible tenants and landlords to ensure public safety and financial security for all involved.”
However, the ERAP program is not necessarily limited to those directly affected by Covid-19, but is available to any residents experiencing financial hardship, according to Fleming. The county has determined exact eligibility criteria based on individual risk of housing instability as well as low income.
“Of course, that would mean their inability to pay rental obligations and be low to moderate income, defined to be 80 percent of the area median income,” Fleming told the commissioners.
Priority will be given to individuals who have experienced unemployment at any point 90 days prior to their application, in addition to individuals with incomes at or below 50 percent of area median income.
“We will prioritize these areas within the first 30 days and then eligibility will become more broad,” Fleming clarified.
The entire program is funded through the Consolidated Appropriations Act, a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill passed last December that authorized $35 billion in emergency rental programs to be funded by the U.S. Treasury. Travis County was allotted $10.7 million of that federal relief funding designated for households most in need.
Additionally, the county announced a partnership with the management consultant company Guidehouse to help facilitate planning and implementation of fund distribution.
“Guidehouse will be managing the call center, completing eligibility assessment, and then passing those eligible payments over to us for our issuance of payments through the Travis County Auditor’s Office,” Fleming said.
Local and state governments are advised to spend the funds before fall, as the Treasury is reserving the right to call back funds that haven’t been used by Sept. 20.
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