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Billion-dollar Texas Rent Relief Program has ‘a lot of catching up to do’

Published: May. 21, 2021 at 6:47 PM CDT|Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 7:22 PM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - The $1.2 billion Texas Rent Relief Program, which was established to keep renters and landlords afloat amid the pandemic, continues to struggle to meet demand.

The massive program began in February and almost immediately hit a few snags, from software issues to staffing shortages and application confusion.

At the end of March, the program had only granted 250 payments out of about 72,000 applications submitted.

“They are moving through these applications more quickly than they were before, but they still have a lot of catching up to do,” Christina Rosales, the deputy director of Texas Housers, told KWTX.

The program has granted about 18,000 payments worth about $122 million, according to data from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA).

That is only about 10% of the $1.2 billion in federal funds earmarked for the program.

“Texas is very familiar with disasters — very familiar with hurricanes and things like that — and you would think that we can handle these major programs,” she said.

Ian Mattingly, who previously served as vice president of the Texas Apartment Association, also said that he was “disappointed” with the progress of the program.

“The state is suffering from the same challenge that many businesses are throughout Texas with staffing,” Mattingly said.

“Somebody’s gotta review all of these documents — make sure that all the pieces have been obtained,” he said.

The program has served 120 households in Bell County and 93 in McLennan County, according to TDHCA data.

Mattingly said that many renters who need assistance might have received it through local programs, which he said have been processing payments more quickly than the state program.

In other cases, however, he said that landlords cannot continue to wait to be reimbursed and have turned to evictions.

TDHCA data also show that less than a quarter of the households that have received funds through the program identify as Hispanic or Latino — a lower proportion than in the state overall.

Rosales said that it is too soon to know whether this trend is statistically significant, but she said it could point to a “community engagement issue.”

“They need people to meet them where they are,” Rosales said.

“They need people maybe who speak Spanish to help them navigate these systems,” she added.

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