More rental aid for Harris County, Fort Bend County working to mail it out

More rental assistance is on the way for Harris County families. And Fort Bend County officials say they're working to get aid in the mail as fast as possible.  August rent is due in three days.

A Fort Bend woman emailed us, concerned she still has not received the rental or utility assistance she applied for and worries she could be evicted.

We contacted the Fort Bend County Auditor, who says her check was mailed today and gave us an update about how the process is going.

Fort Bend County Auditor Ed Sturdivant writes:

"We have not completed the June and July assistance payments but have significantly increased our case management team to address the urgent needs of the applicants whose eligibility has been confirmed.  

We now have 70 case managers, as of last week, actively processing applications and screening for eligibility.

The response has been significant and the effort to work with each applicant does take time.  We currently have over 6,100 eligible applicants from the first phase (June & July), and over 3,000 new applicants for second phase (August & September).

The first phase eligible applicants did not have to reapply for the second phase which will allow for a more efficient process as we expedite payments to landlords, mortgage companies, and utility providers.  We are also proactively contacting these entities to prevent evictions, foreclosures, and disconnections.

We reached capacity in the 2nd phase and the application has been suspended until the 3rd phase that will begin September 21st, 2020."

Harris County Commissioners increase rental assistance
Meantime, Harris County Commissioners voted to expand rental assistance from 15,000 recipients to 21,000 and increased the maximum amount.

Said Commissioner Adrian Garcia, who spearheaded the expansion, "The rental rate for the Harris County area, is approximately $1240. Originally, we were looking at providing help for about a thousand dollars per unit.  Recognizing that may not go far enough, we decided to extend that from $1000 to $1200."

It will cover Harris County residents, including precincts one and two in Houston, and will go to those most in need.

"The landlords will need to enroll their units, then BakerRipley will evaluate all the criteria that goes into the process for determining the prioritization of the applicants of the areas," said Garcia.
The county is also establishing funds for attorneys to represent tenants in court.

"One of things we approved yesterday is matching $750,000 to the City of Houston for the Houston Legal Aid Foundation so they can help represent constituents in the Harris County area as well," he said.

Harris County landlords and renters will be able to apply for assistance on a website and phone line in the next couple of weeks.

Fort Bend residents with questions about assistance can call 281-238-CARE (2273) or email webmaster@fortbendcountytx.gov.     Additional email addresses monitored by case management teams are: SocialServicesInbox@fortbendcountytx.gov, and auditor.covid@fortbendcountytx.gov.

Residents of other counties needing rental assistance can call the United Way Helpline at 211.