Hays County is losing another $1.7 million in COVID-19 rent relief. Here's where the program stands.
Hays County is losing out on another $1.7 million in federal funds for its Emergency Rental Assistance Program. This is the second time the county has had money recaptured by the government, largely for failing to spend enough of it in time to meet spending targets.
It's been a losing game for the county, which hasn't been able to hit these deadlines to distribute funds.
As of Nov. 30, Hays County had spent about 7% of the nearly $7 million awarded by the federal government; it was required to spend 40% by then. If the county doesn't show it spent at least 50% through the end of January, it's positioned to lose more money before the final deadline in March. By then, the county will be expected to have spent all of its awarded funds.
The loss comes at a time when the program is still struggling to hire and retain staff. Last month, the program administrator resigned, citing the lack of staffing and support from the county as reasons for his departure.
At Commissioners Court on Tuesday, Tammy Crumley, Hays County's director of countywide operations, said the county has improved its workflow after losing $800,000 last month.
“Since January, we have paid out more than $480,000 and assisted 188 additional applicants,” she said.
But Crumley said the lack of staff is still causing delays.
“Hiring staff has been extremely challenging,” she said. “We have had part-time positions posted since July and very few applicants.”
Commissioners approved a contract for a new program manager Tuesday. The contract will be formally awarded in March.
Texas Housers, a nonprofit organization that advocates for low-income housing solutions, said in a statement to KUT that at this point, the county should consider giving its remaining grant money to the statewide program so it's at least guaranteed to stay in Texas.
“The County should do everything in its power to obligate its remaining funds before the final deadline in March and prepare to voluntarily reallocate what it cannot to a more efficient Texas jurisdiction,” the statement reads.
Earlier this month, Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra sent a letter to three local congressmen, asking for help petitioning the Treasury Department to keep the money in Hays County. According to the San Antonio Express News, Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who got one of the letters, wrote in his response that he had “great concern that the county failed to promptly provide assistance to many families in need when they needed it most.”
The county has until the end of March to spend the remaining funds.