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Federal Rent Relief Program To Help Cover Tenants’ Financial Losses During Pandemic

A sign offers free rent at an apartment complex near UT Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez
A sign offering free rent as a concession for renters at an apartment complex near UT Austin on Feb. 8.

From Texas Standard:

Many Texans who have faced economic hardships during the pandemic are now eligible for rent assistance through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

The department has $1.3 billion in federal money to give out to eligible renters. Bobby Wilkinson is the department director, and he told Texas Standard the agency has given out $189 million so far to about 55,000 households.

How do I know if I qualify?

You have to be at or below 80% of area median income. Wilkinson says if you don’t know what that is, visit or call 833-989-7368.

You also have to have been financially impacted by the pandemic, either through loss of income, increased expenses or other hardships.

What type of assistance will I receive?

You can get up to 15 months of rent assistance. But you have to reapply every three months to prove you’re still eligible. The program will also help pay for utility bills, and will cover up to 11 months of past-due bills, going back to March of 2020 when the pandemic hit Texas.

How many Texans will likely benefit from the program?

Wilkinson says he expects over 100,000 households to take advantage of the program. And more federal money could be on the way.

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Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
Caroline Covington is Texas Standard's digital producer/reporter. She joined the team full time after finishing her master's in journalism at the UT J-School. She specializes in mental health reporting, and has a growing interest in data visualization. Before Texas Standard, Caroline was a freelancer for public radio, digital news outlets and podcasts, and produced a podcast pilot for Audible. Prior to journalism, she wrote and edited for marketing teams in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. She has a bachelor's in biology from UC Santa Barbara and a master's in French Studies from NYU.
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