New statewide rental assistance program provides hope to Central Texans struggling with rent

Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 6:41 PM CST
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - The state is expected to start up a new $1.3 billion rental assistance program in about two weeks.

“What makes it unique is that It’s really the first statewide COVID rental assistance program that Texas has attempted,” said Eli Barrish, a policy analyst at the nonprofit Texas Housers.

The new program is expected to provide as much as 15 months of assistance — both past and future payments — to about 80,000 households.

Previously, there was a much smaller $40 million rental assistance and eviction diversion program that was primarily administered by cities and counties, Barrish said.

“This one is going to be at a state level, centrally administered, and it’s just of a much larger size.”

To receive the assistance, applicants cannot make more than 80% of the median income of the area in which they live.

For example, a family of four in Killeen must make less than $51,100 per year to qualify for the program.

The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs is expected to release more information on how to apply in about two weeks.

The department also said that those who are interested in applying for the program should join the TDHCA email list.

“If I can just get some of that assistance for back (rent) and maybe for this month, I’ll be golden,” said Twila Cook, a Killeen resident who missed her December and January rent payments.

She said she left her job during the pandemic because she did not want to expose her immuno-compromised daughter or her young grandson to the virus.

Cook said she has since found virtual work but she could use some assistance to catch up on her payments.

She is not alone.

U.S. Census data show that about one out of every five households in Texas have not been able to catch up on their rent payments.

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