Struggling renters starting to see help but $145M still available in Houston and Harris County program

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Rent relief is starting to get into the hands of people who need it, but some programs are doing it faster than others.

Ebony Green is one of those who was able to get money to help with several months of rent.

"Three [months], and I'm getting married in July," said Green. "That's a real blessing. A real, real blessing."

Rental relief portals opened last month. Officials with the Houston and Harris County program said it has distributed money to 3,806 families, totaling about $13 million, and has about $146 million remaining.

SEE ALSO: Applications for $159 million COVID-19 rental relief fund opens

If you need help, you can get it for several months. You can apply online, or now get in-person assistance at nine area agencies, including the YMCA. But if you're struggling to apply online, there's now a new way to get in-person help.

There are a dozen locations across Harris County with agencies that will navigate the process with you.

"We have seen individuals who were helped with five, six months of rent being behind. For most families, that's just tremendous help," explained Dario Lipovac, YMCA senior program director.

But before you arrive, make sure you have certain documents such as proof that you live in Harris County and proof of income.

Fort Bend County is also offering rental and utility assistance. The program started with about $23 million. ABC13 asked for an update on this program, but as of Monday night, we haven't received a response. Money is moving out a lot slower at the state level.

We've learned that 167,000 people have applied for help, but only 134 have been approved. Texas Department of Houston and Community Affairs officials explained it had issues with the online application, and a lack of staff to handle the demand. As of March 13, it uploaded a new system to eliminate errors and prevent duplicates.

SEE ALSO: $1 billion in Texas' rent relief program still available

There are also nearly 400 to handle the work with an outside vendor to handle demand, and the state agency deployed about 75% of its staff to focus on assisting applicants. Approximately $431 million has been requested, but it's unclear how much of that has been distributed. To learn more about the state's program, visit Texas Rent Relief's website.

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