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Texas Rent Relief reopens applications for help paying rent or utilities

Texans who are behind on their rent can apply for help until Thursday, March 16, at 11:59 a.m. Here's how to qualify for the state program.

AUSTIN, Texas — Texans who are behind on their rent can now apply for help through the Texas Rent Relief program until Thursday, March 16, at 11:59 a.m.

In 2021, Congress appropriated $2.1 billion to help Texans pay their rent for COVID-19 relief. The program helped more than 300,000 people statewide.

In Travis County, $92 million in assistance was allocated for about 12,000 households. The portal to apply closed in November 2021 but will be open again starting Tuesday.

"The need is there," said Bobby Wilkinson, executive director of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA). "Rents are rising in all the major metros, Austin especially. This will be a good resource for people as they are behind on their rent, and pay a couple months in the future."

There is $96 million this round, and the hope is that it can help 15,000 Texas renters. There are some requirements in order to qualify.

"You have to show you a renter – a lease, something like that – and show you are behind on either your rent or your utilities, or both," Wilkinson said.

You must also be at 80% of area medium income or below in your area and have had a finical hardship. For example, in Travis County, for a single person, that is $61,800 and for a family of four, that's $88,250.

"It's an 18-month max benefit, so maybe if you got money from us before and got a year's worth, you can only get six months now, so it’s everything past due, plus your current month, and two forward months," Wilkinson said.

Past applicants and new users are welcome to apply. Their landlord also needs to fill some information out.

"It has to be reviewed. We have to try to get in touch with the landlord to pay them. Every case is different. Some will get paid in a few weeks and some it will take a lot longer," Wilkinson said.

The portal opened on Tuesday at 8 a.m. and will be available through Thursday, March 16, at 11:59 a.m. More than 70,000 applications were submitted within the first 24 hours of reopening, the TDHCA said. For comparison, the highest number of applications seen in a single day when the portal first opened in 2021 was less than 20,000.

The TDHCA said applicants facing eviction will be prioritized, as along as their application includes a valid eviction docket number.

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