The Texas Rent Relief Program launched back in February. It was supposed to help Texans who were facing financial hardship during the pandemic to keep their homes, but the program continues to fail to accomplish its mission.
Earlier this month, the program had only paid 612 Texans, out of the 170,000 people who applied. The program which was contracted to HORNE LLP, was given $1 billion to disperse.
Many people have been forced to leave their homes after failing to meet their monthly rent. And those running the program are at fault for not getting the money where it’s supposed to be on time.
Such is the case of Mona Ogas, a healthcare worker who lost her job at the beginning of the pandemic.
Mona spent weeks trying to find a job, she had to start driving for InstaCart and Uber Eats to make ends meet. She promised her landlord she would pay her rent by signing up for the program.
According to Ogas, uploading the documents to the platform took hours, and after that, weeks went by with no indication of her application being reviewed.
Her landlord got tired of waiting and eventually, she was evicted. “It was devastating. It was embarrassing. It was terrifying,” Mona said.
A few days after she had already moved out, she got an email from the Texas Rent Relief program. It said “Congratulations!” She’d been approved for more than $6,000 in rental and utility assistance.
The program sent out the money directly to her landlord. The money was tied to her old apartment, and since she was no longer living there, she wasn’t eligible for the funds anymore.
According to KERA news, Mona asked the company that evicted her if she could go back to the apartment, given that they got their money, but they told her they planned to return it.
Bobby Wilkinson, the executive director of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs said they’re looking into Ogas’ landlord, but at the moment, the rent relief program can’t help her out in any other way. “I understand her frustration,” Wilkinson said. “It just didn’t get there in time for her eviction. That’s terrible. That’s not what we’re trying to do.”
Currently, the state-run program has only distributed 3.1% of its $1.17 billion budget to about 5,000 applicants, according to an analysis of records by KSAT.
The Texas Rent Relief program is still accepting applications for rental and utility assistance online at TexasRentRelief.com
Large cities and counties also received money from the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program and are accepting applications for rental and utility assistance.