No deadline now to apply for Houston area's $20M rental help program, Mayor Turner says

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- During a news conference on Friday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner discussed the importance of wearing masks and social distancing this Labor Day weekend, but he also addressed the recent number of evictions caused by the pandemic.

"There have been reports of families and individuals getting evicted in our city and Harris County, and each image is heartbreaking. I want families to know that they are not alone, especially not during the current public health crisis. In fact, evictions at any time, whether there's a pandemic or no pandemic at all, is very hard, heart-wrenching. The city and the county are working together to stop evictions from happening by paying people's rent," Turner explained.

He reminded Houstonians about the COVID-19 rental assistance program which provided $40 million in funding along with the city of Houston's $20 million. He said that the money is available, and each individual tenant is eligible to receive up to $2,112 in rental assistance.

READ MORE: Houston and Harris County rent relief application now open

"Next week, we'll be sending that cash assistance to the landlords on behalf of those tenants. I want the people in Harris County to know the money is still available. There is no longer a deadline to apply," Turner said. "We have decided that we will keep the enrollment open. It will remain open until all funds have been expended. Anyone who wants to contribute to the rental assistance program is welcome to do so by contributing to Baker Ripley."

Turner added that he has informed his staff, correspondence team and local constables about the rental assistance program and the help available to tenants.

"Getting evicted is painful, regardless of what time period, especially when it is due to the loss of income during the pandemic. No family and individual should have to go through such hardship, but we also want to make sure that we provide the cash rental assistance for your benefit."

On another note, Turner also addressed the holiday weekend and the importance of staying cautious of COVID-19.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission says it will step up enforcement to make sure establishments are following Gov. Greg Abbott's COVID-19 orders this Labor Day weekend.

Gov. Abbott's orders have not allowed bars to open. However, the TABC recently made it easier for bars to reclassify as restaurants, allowing some to re-open provided they served food.

RELATED: Here's why you may see more bars opening in the Houston area

"We do have folks looking at social media, examining indications on businesses with the intent on violating the rules," said Chris Porter, a TABC spokesperson. "Additionally, anyone who wants to report a complaint and help point us to the right direction, we appreciate your support."

The Marquis II is one of the bars that opened this week after being allowed to reclassify as a restaurant. It is working with caterers and food trucks to serve food along with drinks.

Meanwhile, enforcement actions on establishments that clearly and continuously violate Abbott's orders are still spotty. For example, the Houston Fire Department said it has reported the Highway 290 location of Bombshells at least four times for TABC violations. However, as of Friday, the investigation remains open and so does Bombshells.

SEE MORE: Bars that disobey Gov'.s order will get shut down, TABC warns

On Friday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo's office said data metrics show the county still must remain at the red alert level for COVID-19.

Although Houston's COVID-19 numbers have declined since July 4th weekend, city officials hope Labor Day weekend will not bring back a spike in cases.

"It is important to remember the virus doesn't take off because it's an extended weekend or holiday. So please please keep on your masks and engage in social distancing and use proper hygiene," Turner said. "We don't want to see the numbers go up two weeks from now because we decided to come together in big numbers over the Labor Day weekend."

RELATED: Dr. Anthony Fauci warns about possible COVID-19 surge ahead of Labor Day

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