Texans could lose millions in federal rental assistance

The end of March marks the deadline for local governments to distribute the funds

(iStock/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)
(iStock/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)

Texans are in danger of losing millions in rental aid, if city governments don’t act.

Montgomery County Commissioners Court voted on Tuesday to rescind $3.3 million in federal funds that were allocated to landlords and renters suffering financial hardship caused by the pandemic. Issues setting up online portals to accept applications, a process that requires staffing and contracts, has been a mounting obstacle in distributing the funds, according to the Houston Chronicle.

In November, the court moved to return $7.1 million, or roughly 40 percent, of its first round of Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds back to the federal government.

“There’s just not that many people needing assistance in Montgomery County,” said Jason Millsaps, chief of staff for County Judge Mark Keough at the time.

This money being denied to Houstonians in need is only part of it. The state is at risk of losing as much as $103 million in rent relief money in the coming months, according to an analysis by the housing advocacy group Texas Housers.

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Many local governments across the country have been slow to distribute them to landlords and renters, compelling the U.S. Treasury Department to take back rent relief funds and redistribute them to faster acting governments.

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Inaction by Montgomery County has incited an outcry from many housing advocates as the final deadline at the end of March draws nearer. By the deadline, local governments are expected to have distributed all of their initial emergency rental assistance funding.

To keep rent relief funds available, the county could voluntarily reallocate the money to the Texas Rent Relief Fund, which renters anywhere in the state can access. Otherwise, the money would be returned to the Treasury, which has previously given additional funds to governments that have spent the money more quickly.

The largest Texas rent relief funds that may lose aid include Hidalgo County, which could lose up to $23 million, Dallas County, which could lose up to $17.7 million, Montgomery County, which could lose up to $10.2 million (including the $3.3 million just returned), Cameron County, which could lose up to $9.8 million, Brazoria County, which could lose up to $7.5 million, McLennan County, which could lose up to $6 million, Laredo, which could lose up to $6 million and Jefferson County, which could lose up to $6 million, according to Texas Houser’s analysis.

[Houston Chronicle] — Maddy Sperling

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