HOUSTON - The Supreme Court has thrown out the latest CDC eviction moratorium, leaving 3.5 million people at risk of eviction in the country.
Administrators of the Houston-Harris County Emergency Rental Assistance Program say as long as a renter and their landlord have applied, even if they're not approved yet, the renter is protected from eviction.
"I was feeling very overwhelmed. I was sleeping in my room by myself. I got away from the kids for a while and I cried," said Lorena Cuatete.
Cuatete is a mother of three who says she caught COVID-19 three times last year, lost her job, and lost their apartment.
"They could tell I would come out of the room and they would see my face and they would be like, Mom, you need to stop," said Cuatete.
Then she applied for help and the Houston-Harris County Emergency Rental Assistance Program paid her back owed rent, plus two months for a new apartment.
"You were not being pushed back. They were there to help you," she said.
And administrators of HoustonHarrisHelp.org want renters to know if they and their landlords apply, renters are protected from eviction.
"The landlords agree not to pursue eviction while the application is in process," said Cynthia Colbert, CEO of Catholic Charities, one of the program administrators.
"In essence, it’s a backup moratorium," said Colbert.
More than 10,000 landlords in Houston and Harris County have already agreed to the plan.
"You just take that screenshot, or print out of the notice that you’re application has been submitted, take that and show that to your landlord," explained Colbert.
Renters can show proof of a pending application in eviction court, as well.
Meantime, Cuatete says the aid helped her family get back on their feet.
"They gave me four months and they told me they could help me with more. And I was like there’s more people out there that need it,' said Cuatete.
Administrators say the program has spent $180 million to keep 48,000 families in their homes. They say there is still $20 million available, with a second round of federal funding on the way.
If a landlord is not signed up, renters can still apply for rental assistance and receive a check directly.
Legal experts say while showing a court you've applied for any type of rental aid won't guarantee a paused eviction, it can help. They say it shows the judge you are trying to pay the rent.
Tenants and landlords can apply at HoustonHarrisHelp.org or call (832) 402-7568, Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Renters can also apply for aid through these sources:
Renters facing eviction can also seek for free legal assistance through https://stoptxeviction.org/.