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County readies for next wave of federal rental assistance

Wednesday, October 13, 2021 by Seth Smalley

On Tuesday, the Travis County Commissioners Court reviewed the progress on Emergency Rental Assistance Program funding dispersal. The county met a U.S. Treasury deadline to distribute 65 percent of its $10.7 million in federal ERAP funding by the end of September, but only just. Had the county missed the deadline, all ERAP funding could have been rescinded if a recent federal initiative hadn’t extended the deadline to Nov. 15.

The extension was placed to address the widespread failure of municipalities around the country to distribute 65 percent of the ERA-1 funds. Now, county staffers are taking extra effort to get ahead of future rental assistance allocation requirements.

According to County Executive Sherri Fleming, the county’s maximum obligation of rental assistance dispersal is about $9 million (out of the $10.7 million ERAP money), as approximately 10 percent of the federal grant dollars will go to administrative expenses.

The county is working with consultants to process pending payments, specifically to ensure all necessary information is present for potential federal treasury audits. The county is also getting ready to design the distribution process, and change the administrative process, for the second round of ERAP funds.

“We are somewhere between the amount we reported to you last week and our full obligation. So of course, we’re turning our attention to the ERA-2 grant that the county has received, and we’re getting ready to implement that, while continuing to make payments,” Fleming said.

At the time of the meeting, $6.8 million of the first round of emergency rental assistance had been paid. $527,227 went to administration fees, while $1.2 million went to bulk payments toward the Rosemont apartments, Foundation Communities and LifeWorks.

Next week, county staff will present commissioners with allocations of the money organized by “race and ethnicity, for example … to give you an idea of who has benefited from the program as we have operated it,” Fleming said.

“This is great information, and congrats on hitting that target and exceeding it,” said Commissioner Brigid Shea before asking about the number of households receiving ERAP benefits so far. Fleming did not have the number on hand.

Commissioner Jeffrey Travillion, acknowledging Fleming’s imminent retirement, said, “I appreciate the effort that you and your team have put together. A few weeks ago, we were frightened that we weren’t going to be able to reach our 65 percent threshold. I want you and your team to be commended for the work that you’ve done and the speed at which you’ve done it.”

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