Texas lawmakers fight for those getting evicted after moratorium ends

A federal halt to evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic came to an end Saturday night, meaning renters will no longer be protected from being kicked out of their homes for not paying rent.

The moratorium was put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention back in September of 2020 during the height of the pandemic.

On Friday, House lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to pass a bill to extend the moratorium.

Houston U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee was among those pushing for the extension.

"It's important to acknowledge how painful it is to have a family and be evicted," Jackson Lee said.

She said she believes residents still need the relief and extending the moratorium will help prevent COVID-19 cases from climbing.

However, leaders want residents to know there are local and state programs that can help.

"It's important for people to know there are tens of millions of dollars available for rental assistance," said Jay Malone, the political director of the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation.

One of those local programs is the Houston-Harris County Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

There's an estimated $159 million available in rent and utilities assistance for eligible families. So far, $39,331 has been used by recipients.

Under the program, renters can apply for help to cover up to a year of past-due rent, as well as two months of current or future rent.

Past-due rent can go as far back as April 2020. The rent will be paid to landlords who enroll their property in the program, but if a renter's landlord doesn't participate, limited resources will be available to the renter.

Tenants can apply online, submit the required documentation and select their landlord from the directory of enrolled landlords. If a landlord is not already enrolled, the landlord is contacted and asked to enroll.

Renters can apply on the Houston-Harris Help website

The Texas Rent Relief Program also provides emergency funding to help Texas renters pay rent and utility bills. To apply and check whether you qualify, you can visit the website here.

While renters are encouraged to take advantage of the local and state programs, Jackson Lee said the fight is not over to get the moratorium extended.

"I'm prepared to go back to Washington. I'll be going on Monday, ready to move legislation that's ready to be moved," she said.
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