Why advocates say Austin ‘not in bad shape’ as state closes rent relief portal

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Despite the Texas Rent Relief Program no longer accepting new applications, local advocates say Austin is “not in bad shape” when it comes to getting assistance to those who need it.

The state program closed its application portal Friday afternoon. A message on the homepage said the current number of requests exceeds the funds available.

According to site’s dashboard, the state has paid out $1.2 billion in federal money to help 212,345 households — 8,743 of them in Travis County.

“We know the state program was working through some challenges early on,” said Ben Martin, a senior researcher with the nonprofit Texas Housers. “We do feel that there was a good faith effort [from the state] to improve their process as they moved forward.”

Martin added it is likely the state will ask the U.S. Treasury Department for more funding.

Nora Linares-Moeller, the executive director of the local advocacy group HousingWorks, told KXAN despite state’s funding woes, Austin is in decent shape “for a couple of reasons.”

Both the City of Austin and Travis County have federally-funded assistance programs of their own. Linares-Moeller said the city’s Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants (RENT) program, in particular, was able to get its $30 million in funding allocated fairly quickly to help 6,373 households.

“And the city council and the mayor instituted some moratoriums and other structural things…so that we didn’t have as many evictions,” she said.

The City also recently set aside another $6.7 million from its general reserve funds. A spokesperson said as of Friday, 71% of that funding had been allocated with the money expected to be depleted by next week.

Travis County on Friday said its Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) had distributed more than $8 million in assistance and is still accepting applications.

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