Widower with 9 kids hopes to get help soon through Harris Co. rent relief

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The City of Houston and Harris County's upcoming rental relief programs are being combined into one portal, in an effort to make it easier for those needing help to apply.

This is good news for James White, who is struggling to make ends meet after his wife passed away last fall.

"I'm getting to the point that I may have to find a second job," White said, who took a break from installing tile at his construction job to talk with ABC13. "But that might be hard, considering I have nine kids, aged 2 to 14."

White is among the tens of thousands of local residents hit by the economic impact of COVID-19. In his case, he is working in construction, but as the economy has slowed down, not as many hours are available. In addition, the widower also needs to take care of his kids.

"It's tough. I got to be there to take them to the dentist, the doctor, I got to do things a mom and dad must do," White said.

SEE ALSO: Everything you need to know about Houston's second Rental Relief Package

During the past few weeks, both the Houston City Council and Harris County Commissioners Court have passed significant rental relief programs. Both government entities contracted with BakerRipley, a Houston non-profit, to manage the relief program.

"We wanted to make it easier for tenants," Rene Solis of BakerRipley said, "So the public facing part of the website is the same. We encourage people to apply."

However, the application process is not yet available. On Monday, Aug. 17, landlords who want to participate in the program will be able to apply. On Aug. 24, portal for tenants will be open. It's important to note that only renters whose landlords apply to be part of the program will be able to get rental relief. Both landlords and renters have to be willing participants.

SEE ALSO: No longer first-come, first-serve: Houston's $20M rent relief package passes

Solis suggests for tenants behind on rent, now is a good time to start talking to their landlords, and encourage them to apply for the program when the portal opens for landlords next week.

As for tenants, the website provides guidelines on documents you will need to prepare to apply for the rental help. Families who make up to 80% of the area median income can apply. For a family of four, that's approximately $63,000 a year in income or below. The assistance programs will not be a first come, first serve basis. Rather, it will match up qualifying landlords and tenants, with the goal of helping the most needy families first.

Besides Houston and Harris County, surrounding counties also offer rental programs. They are listed below.

Galveston County's Short-Term Tenant-Based Rental Assistance Program.

Montgomery County's CARES Act COVID-19 Funding.

Fort Bend County's Rental, Mortgage & Utility Assistance Program.

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