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Travis County officially shuts down its pandemic rent relief program

East Shore apartments near E. Riverside
Julia Reihs

Lee esta historia en español.

Travis County will shut down its emergency rent relief program for people struggling to pay rent during the pandemic.

The county paused the program in November, because it didn't have enough money to cover a spike in demand. County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to close it.

Travis County got some federal money for the program, known as the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), but was denied an additional $7.8 million that could've kept it going.

The $19 million relief program has helped 2,246 of the over 8,800 households that applied. The county still has to pay out 995 applicants who qualified for relief.

Kirsten Siegfried of the Travis County's Family Support Services division said without more federal aid the county is unable to pay out hundreds of other pending applications.

"Late yesterday afternoon, we were informed by the Treasury that Travis County was not selected to receive additional reallocated emergency rental assistance program funds," she said. "So, that additional $7.8 million that we were hoping for is not coming."

Siegfried said the U.S. Treasury Department told the county it didn't qualify for the additional money.

The county temporarily shut down the program in late November, when it saw a glut of applications after Austin and Texas closed their rent relief programs.

The 995 applications that have been approved will be paid out using county money commissioners had advanced to the program in the event more federal dollars didn't come through.

After the vote, the county said it would begin informing the roughly 2,350 households whose applications had not yet been approved that the program would not reopen. County staff will also come back to commissioners with options on how to prevent evictions in light of protections that expire at the end of February.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Ann Howard said the county could look to its pre-pandemic rent relief program to find a way to assist low-income families.

"We're not going to have the funding in 2022 to replicate another $18 million," she said. "But we might see this as an opportunity to look at how best to meet the need in this current situation."

The county may rejigger its traditional program to include elements of the ERAP program — namely opening it up to a wider range of incomes.

ERAP served households earning 80% of Travis County's median family income, which is roughly $79,000 a year for a household of four. The regular program historically serves households earning about $40,000.

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Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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