HOUSTON - Facing a hard, year-end deadline, Houston's City Council moved to distribute $30 million in emergency pandemic aid directly to households with the greatest need.
In other words, giving one time, $1,200 relief checks to those in crisis before federal guidelines cut-off the funds.
"If they need to pay for their utilities they can do that. If they need to pay for their rent, they can do that. We did not want the criteria to be so restrictive that it becomes frustrating for people who find themselves in need. So we are not putting a lot of strings on it, but we are saying to people you know your situation better than we do," said Mayor Sylvester Turner.
As in previous City distributions, the aid will be dispersed by the non-profit BakerRipley. Qualifying recipients must not exceed 80% of the average median Houston income and cannot have received aid from Harris County.
Recipients must also reside inside the City of Houston and demonstrate their financial stress is directly linked to the Pandemic.
That said Council Member Greg Travis expressed reservations about handing out tax dollars to folks to spend as they please with no restrictions.
"The need is great. It's out there. It's widespread. How do we keep this from going to alcohol and cigarettes when it needs to go to utility and food and other necessities?" asked Travis
To which the Mayor replied, "It's not a perfect matrix, but under the circumstances, it's the best we can do."
Ultimately, the Council vote in favor of the distribution was unanimous.
Mayor Turner and City leaders intend to deliver this latest round of aid to nearly 25,000 Houston households before New Year’s Eve.