AUSTIN (Nexstar) — After unprecedented demand exhausted $96 million set aside to help Texas renters, the Texas Rent Relief Program says it is able to assist 10,400 people in need. The program received more than 100,000 applications in the first 28 hours after the portal opened.
The demand forced the program to close applications just 52 hours after opening, 12 days days earlier than planned.
“With an extraordinary number of applications submitted and very limited funding available, TRR is not able to assist everyone,” Kristina Tirloni with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs said.
Thousands of Texans have been denied help from the program since mid-March. For people like Vanessa Jenkins, it’s a frustrating rejection.
“It’s very disappointing to feel like you’re being put on a back burner,” she said. “It’s really tough, you know, almost 50 percent of my income goes for rent. And that’s really hard… I have been homeless. It is very, very important for me to keep a roof over my head.”
The program is prioritizing Texans actively facing eviction and who can provide a docket number for an eviction hearing. TRR is still reviewing more than 6,000 such applications.
Another applicant, named Molly, said she has been unable to gather any helpful updates from the program since she applied on March 14. She said the assistance would be a lifeline for Texans who have been out of work like her.
“I’m getting ready to go back to work from having knee surgery and burying my father who had COVID. I’m just, at this point, hoping that I’m one of those who is helped,” she said. “It would really be a tremendous blessing.”
TRR reports they have about $70 million in funding remaining and the average assistance amount is $6,732.
TRR said it should be able to make payments within 14 business days, but only if all required documentation and eligibility requirements are fulfilled.
“Every application is unique, and there are many factors that affect the review timeline, including the landlord’s willingness to participate, completion of the landlord’s application profile, and timeliness in which the landlord and tenant submit all required documentation,” Tirloni said. “Most applications we receive require follow-up communication because the applicant did not include all of the necessary documentation. We strongly urge applicants to check for and respond to text messages, emails and phone calls from TRR staff so we can more quickly process their application.”
For those who cannot find help through Texas Rent Relief, the program directs them to alternative resources.
If you are facing eviction, you can seek free or low-cost legal assistance at Texas Law Help.
For utility assistance, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Assistance has a separate program to supplement utility, water, and wastewater bills. Visit Texas Utility Help to learn more.
TDHCA also hosts the Help for Texans webpage to share local resources related to affordable housing, long-term rent help and legal aid.
Until Molly can learn whether she will get the help she needs, she said she will hold out hope. But she is fearful for thousands of other Texans holding onto housing by the month.
“It’s a really bad situation. It’s a domino effect,” she said. “Because you know, once you lose a place, and there can be potentially an eviction on your record, it makes it harder to get a place in the future. So I feel that there are some people who may never be able to recover from not getting the help.”