HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Whenever the pandemic hit, Katashia Dewalt said she lost her job. Her small business decorating cookies and treats also took a hit and she said the loss of income eventually caught up with her once her unemployment benefits ran out.
Dewalt has lived at the same apartment complex since 2015 and said she never had any trouble paying her rent on time until 2021.
"I was behind like three months," Dewalt told ABC13's Ted Oberg.
She said she reached out to everyone she could to get help paying her rent, including applying to the Texas Rent Relief Program, run by the state, and the local Houston-Harris County Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
Dewalt said the locally operated program helped cover her monthly rent during two different rounds of rental relief in 2021. She said the funds went directly to her landlord, who applied them toward her rental balance.
"No problems at all. I thought everything was fine," she said.
But in mid-February, Dewalt said her landlord shared a notice it received claiming Dewalt applied for and received rental assistance from both the local and state program. It was considered a duplication of benefits and the complex would be required to pay back three months of rent.
Dewalt said that wasn't true and that she only received aid from the local program.
"I didn't get any money from Texas Rent Relief. All my money came from Baker Ripley," she said. "I didn't finish my application with Texas Rent Relief."
Still, she said her landlord told her if she couldn't pay the $2,925 the Houston-Harris County Emergency Rental Assistance Program was asking the complex to pay back, she would end up losing her apartment.
Dewalt reached out to Baker Ripley, one of the program's administrators, to help explain how she only received aid from one program but said she couldn't get any answers. With time running out, she Turned to Ted.
"I knew who to go to. I knew if somebody was going to get it done, you guys were going to help me with it because I didn't have any other options," Dewalt said.
We reached out to Baker Ripley and the next day Dewalt got a call from them explaining everything.
"I got a callback Friday morning, 8:00 a.m. 'We made a mistake,'" Dewalt recalled. "'You don't owe anything. We're sorry we scared you.'"
The email Dewalt received said the local program works with the state to check addresses for duplication of benefits, but in her case, it was a mistake since she only received aid from one program.
Baker Ripley told us, "Although we have safeguards in place to accurately manage the data, a few errors can occur. However, that number is small."
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