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'Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back': Some Texans Still Waiting Months For Rent Assistance

(CBSDFW.COM) - After a slow start, the Texas Rent Relief program has made progress in helping people who missed payments because of the pandemic.

However, some Texans say they've been waiting months for assistance.

"It's just kind of two steps forward, three steps back," said Aaron Jones, who lost his job at the beginning of the pandemic. "I was a revenue analyst for a hotel management company. So when hotels don't have any revenue to manage, they don't really have needs for analysts."

When the Texas Rent Relief program opened in February, he immediately applied for help.

"I'm all over them, trying to get a hold of someone," Jones said. "I try to log in every day to see if the application status has changed."

The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, which runs the program, says there are nearly 13,000 applications currently under initial review.

According to the agency, the approval process takes about two weeks for review and may take up to 14 days for payment processing once the applicant has provided all the federally required documentation.

It's been nearly five months, and Jones is still waiting for approval.

"They need to help within a timely manner for them to be effective," he said.

He isn't the only one having issues with the program.

"So what we've seen is a lot of landlords have lost patience, and tenants are headed to court, despite there being more than a billion dollars in rental relief in Texas," said Christina Rosales, deputy director of Texas Housers, a nonprofit advocacy group for affordable housing.

So far, less than half of the nearly $1.2 billion in available funds has been paid out to nearly 68,000 households. Another, 14,696 have been approved but are waiting for payment.

"Texas Rent Relief Program easily leads the nation in amount of funds disbursed or in the payment pipeline with $510 million," said Kristina Tirloni, senior communications advisor for the TDHCA. "Approximately $10 million is approved daily assisting those Texans needing rental or utility payment assistance… We have more than 1,800 program staff working to help applicants get everything submitted so we can process their application as soon as possible in accordance with federal guidelines."

TDHCA advises applicants to check for texts, voicemails and emails from the program and get back to program staff with the required information as soon as possible so their application can continue to be processed.

Out of the nearly 13,000 applications currently under initial review, TDHCA says approximately 9,400 are missing the federally required documentation.

"Actually Texas is one of the places doing the best in distributing that rent relief, but that's not saying much because it's still taking a long time and the collateral damage is that tenants are being evicted as a result of very slow rental payments," Rosales said.

But Jones isn't giving up hope his assistance will come through.

"Just have to get through to the other side of it," said Jones.

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