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County back on track for emergency rental assistance disbursal

Friday, September 24, 2021 by Seth Smalley

Last week, Travis County staff distributed a little over $509,000 in Emergency Rental Assistance Program money to qualifying families and individuals in need, according to County Executive Sherri Fleming.

This brings the total amount of federal money allocated by the county to up 47.6 percent of its target, though as Fleming notes, $2.8 million in payments is still obligated though not yet delivered. However, money in this stage may still be subject to inspection, correction and retraction.

“Once cleared, the county will be at 96 percent of the obligation target based on these items,” Fleming told commissioners. “We are still looking for ways to be more efficient and expedite the distribution of assistance.”

Over the past month or so, the county has been scrambling to distribute these funds. In August, it was revealed that the county was significantly behind schedule to spend 65 percent of the initial $10.7 million federal allotment before the Sept. 30 deadline.

“When we look together at both what we’ve paid out and the value of payments that we consider pending, that totals $7.9 million,” Fleming said, adding that the 65 percent target that county staff has been working toward totals $5.7 million.

Fleming said two additional distribution agreements had been executed since her Tuesday presentation to commissioners. This involved locating and automatically approving qualified and needy residents under a process known as “categorical eligibility.”

“It means that they are are living in affordable housing programs that have already verified their eligibility, and that eligibility also qualifies them for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program,” Fleming told commissioners.

Usually, a deal of this type is executed through bulk payments to the tenants’ landlords on the condition that they provide free or reduced rent to their residents.

Commissioners Jeffrey Travillion and Brigid Shea applauded Fleming and county staff members on their efforts to accelerate the ERAP distribution process.

“It sure looks like we are on track to hit that federal requirement to spend 65 percent of the money by the end of September,” Shea said. “I know y’all have really worked hard on that the last few weeks and have closed the gap. It means we’re getting the assistance out to people faster and hopefully preventing more people from becoming homeless because they can’t pay their rent.”

“I just want to commend my colleagues for the leadership and the work that has been done to address the needs of the hurting community during a very difficult time,” Travillion said.

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