What you need to know about the new $159 million COVID relief fund to help local families

HOUSTON – The city of Houston and Harris County have established a new rental assistance fund designed to help families in need, according to a news release.

According to the release, the Houston-Harris County Emergency Rental Assistance Program will “provide relief for past-due rent, some past-due utilities, as well as some future rent payments.”

Landlords interested in participating in the program can enroll next week and renters will be able to submit applications by the end of February, the release said.

Once open, the program will remain open until this fall or until the funds run out, according to the release. BakerRipley and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston have been selected to administer the program.

Here are some things you need to know:

  • The program will NOT operate on a first-come-first-serve basis in order to optimize fairness.
  • Most payments will be made to landlords instead of tenants to reduce wait-time for past-due rent to be paid.
  • Once paid, landlords will be “obligated to credit their renters’ accounts within five business days and to cease pursuing eviction, late fees, and legal action.”
  • Any Houston or Harris County renter can apply, provided the funds are paid directly to the landlord.
  • Applicants in the lowest income bracket and those who have been unemployed for at least 90 days will be prioritized.
  • Being selected does NOT guarantee funds. Selected applicants will still be reviewed to confirm eligibility and other compliance requirements.

According to the release, people who applied in the fall but were not selected for the previous BakerRipley rental assistance program will be asked to update their applications and will be included in the application pool.

For more information or to apply once applications open, visit houstonharrishelp.org.

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