Harris County commissioners approve $30M relief fund to help struggling residents

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020
20,000 to 25,000 people expected to be helped by Harris County funds
20,000 to 25,000 people expected to be helped by Harris County funds.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- The Harris County Commissioners Court approved a $30 million COVID-19 relief fund to help struggling residents.

The fund passed 3-2.

Money from the Harris County COVID-19 Relief Fund (HCCRF) is expected to help between 20,000 to 25,000 families pay for rent, food, medical care, child care, and other basic needs.

This is how it will work. Money will be distributed throughout the county, providing $1,200 for households of one to four residents and $1,500 for households with five people or more. The HCCRF will also target those in communities who are deemed to be struggling the most such as households below 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI), victims of domestic violence, youth aged out of foster care, and people in homeless shelters.

Three weeks ago, the Commissioners Court voted to tentatively approve for the fund, but doubling it means more people, including the unemployed, ill or those caring for someone who is sick, can be helped, said Precinct One Commissioner Rodney Ellis.

Commissioners also voted unanimously to eliminate property tax liabilities for seniors and people with disabilities who own homes valued at $286,250 or less. The plan goes into effect for the 2021 tax bills.

As we've continued to see through the pandemic, the need is great.

Just last week, the city of Houston released nearly $15 million in rent assistance, and it was gone in about two hours time.

READ: Houston rental assistance program enrollment suspended after 90 minutes

This new fund comes at a time where eviction proceedings are being allowed to resume in Texas. Those actions were suspended due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo expressed her disappointment about certain protections on the evictions being lifted on Monday.

Hidalgo said in statement:

"Restarting eviction and debt collection proceedings right now will only deepen the well of desperation many families are experiencing across our county. These are hard working families who, through no fault of their own, have lost irreplaceable income during this pandemic and may not qualify for federal assistance or eviction protections. Thousands of Harris County residents are already on the ropes, and becoming homeless will crush their chances for short-term recovery and long-term economic independence. Evicting families is also a threat to public health. We're working day and night to stop the spread of this virus and, at a time when we're asking residents to stay or work from home to limit spread, we cannot afford to contribute to a surge in homelessness."

As for the relief fund, officials have said they would like to see two rounds of disbursements.

It will be managed by the Greater Houston Community Foundation.

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