Harlingen, Texas (KVEO)–Renters across the Rio Grande Valley are struggling to make rent throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is money available for those who qualify.
There is over $5 million dollars of untapped aid scheduled set to expire on Dec. 31, and local officials are struggling to get more applicants.
“So, we are encouraging everyone that if they need rental assistance, to do it now,” said Myra Martinez from Affordable Homes of South Texas, just one of three administrators in the Valley.
This year, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) was allotted money from the federal government to aid families in need of rental assistance due to the pandemic.
Going by the name HOME Tenant Based Rental Assistance, $7 million was reserved for the Rio Grande Valley, but over $5 million remains—money that will essentially evaporate, if not used.
“And so, we thought right when we launched it would be all hands-on deck,” said Martinez. “Initially there was a surge maybe within the first two weeks—I would say there was a surge, after that it dropped off.”
The TDHCA says that the three administrators in the RGV of this federal aid inclue the Affordable Homes of South Texas Inc, Housing Authority of The City of San Benito and the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville.
San Benito housing authority says the program has been streamlined to help qualify more renters.
“An individual or applicant can apply and program was streamlined where other requirements for normal programs are waived,” said David Cortez who works for the San Benito Housing Authority. “All the applicant needs to do is certify that after march 13th they either lost 20% of their income or they had additional expenditures because of the pandemic.”
Martinez says they have only had 250 applicants with 120 approved, and Cortez says they have seen 25 applicants with 14 approved.
Martinez says that most residents are worried that applying will affect their legal status or their benefits; to which she responded is not the case.
The main priority is to prevent homelessness, according to Martinez.
“The assistance is meant to prevent homelessness especially with families who find themselves past due on rent and are being evicted—we don’t want them to be homeless,” said Martinez.
This assistance goes towards upcoming rent payments and utilities only, according to the TDH
For help from the Hidalgo County Community Service Agency, residents can visit hidalgocares.org or call (956) 205-7058.
Affordable Homes of South Texas Inc. can be reached at RenthelpRGV.org or called at (956) 687-6263 for McAllen, Hidalgo or Starr County.
Come Dream Come Build organization can be reached at (956) 541-4955, and more information here for residents in Cameron and Willacy county.
The Housing Authority of San Benito can be contacted here or by calling (956) 399-7501 for residents of San Benito.