Houston and Harris County rent relief delayed until March

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston and Harris County will soon vote on how to distribute $145 million in rent relief, but tenants may not be able to apply until the end of March.

Many people in the area could use that money sooner, like Correta Herry, a mom of two struggling to keep her jobs.

Herry isn't sure if she'll even be able to keep her apartment soon.

"How are you going to pay your electricity? Cell phone? Food? It's hard," Herry explained. "Every check is going to rent."

Fort Bend County received $23 million in rental relief. Houston received $70 million and Harris County got $74 million. Texas received $1.3 billion. The state and Fort Bend County expect their programs to start in a couple weeks.

READ MORE: Texas tenants behind on rent will soon be able to access $1.3B assistance program

Houston and Harris County will pool their money together and work with BakerRipley and Catholic Charities to distribute the funds.

"I will tell you, we're all very committed to getting it out sooner, if at all possible, and that's what we're all working towards," said the CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Cynthia Colbert.

The Harris County Commissioners Court will vote on the program Tuesday. Meanwhile, Houston City Council will look to approve their program on Wednesday. However, renters won't have access to funds anytime soon.

Catholic Charities said the portal may not be ready for renters until the end of March.

"I know that getting technologically around this seems like an easy task, but it's not," Colbert explained. "We want to protect the confidentiality of everyone who applies."

SEE ALSO: Woman with $8 to Harris County leaders on rent relief: Release the millions

Colbert also said they need to make it easy to apply. Plus, they're working with multiple municipalities, including the federal government, which can make it more complicated.

Once it's running, landlords can apply first. Tenants can get help with back rent from the past year.

Colbert said she's not sure if there will be a cap on how much someone receives. However, unlike the previous program from last year, your landlord doesn't have to participate.

You do have to meet certain eligibility requirements, including being impacted by the pandemic, and your household income must be 80% below the median income, which for a family of four in Houston is about $63,000.

"The bottom line is if you have back rent due, and you meet the income eligibility requirements, we want to help you," Colbert said.

That assistance can't come soon enough for tenants who don't know how they'll pay this month's rent.

"We'll be on the streets next with kids," Herry said. "Nowhere to go. It's hard."

The state plans to launch a portal in a couple weeks. Fort Bend County said its portal should be ready by Feb. 15.

If you can't wait until the end of March, Catholic Charities said to contact them or dial 211 to see what help may be available. If you're facing eviction, Harris County Constable Precinct One, Alan Rosen's office, said it has a hotline you can call for free legal assistance at 346-250-1069.

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