The City of Austin is providing $1.2 million in one-time emergency rental assistance to residents affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants, or RENT, program will distribute the payments through a lottery system. Residents in need of assistance can apply on the Housing Authority of the City of Austin's website from May 4 at 9 a.m. through 11:59 p.m. May 6.
At a news conference Friday announcing the program, Michael Gerber, CEO of the housing authority, said the highest priority is keeping Austinites in their homes.
“We know that the needs of our community will far exceed the [money] we have available today, and that’s difficult,” he said. “We expect to serve 1,000 families, but we know many more will apply than we can provide help for.”
Eligibility is limited to households that are at or below 80% of the median family income and who can document both a financial impact by COVID-19 and need of rent relief, including — for example — paystubs, unemployment notice or notice of rent due. For more information on eligibility visit the city's rental assistance website.
Applicants will not have to submit Social Security numbers to apply for aid, and immigration status will not disqualify someone for help.
Gerber said the city is hoping to get the money out as quickly as possible to help people pay for this month’s rent.
“We think we can make a substantial difference in May rent, and the goal is to get these dollars out well before May 15th,” he said. “We know that many people can’t make their rent payments this month, so we’re trying to help people cover those payments.”
City Council Member Greg Casar said no one should lose their home because of the pandemic. He reiterated that there is great need for help in the community, noting that on Thursday 5,000 people contacted Buen Samaritano, one of a handful of nonprofits doling out aid, for help.
“We know that people are struggling, and that there is not enough help out there,” he said.
This story has been updated.