Southwest Austin - Dripping Springs Edition | March 2022


News from Austin, Hays & Travis counties

Hays County under scrutiny for nearly $2.5million loss of housing funds BY ZARA FLORES

EMERGENCY HOUSING RELIEF Travis County closed applications after receiving a high level of requests.

3,400 is the approximate number of applications the money will fund

$9.2 million allocated by the county for this round of assistance

4,700 applications were accepted before the program closed

Roger Williams and Lloyd Doggett, Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra said the county opted not to hire a third party to run the program due to cost. However, 10% of the federal funds may be used for such costs, per the treasury. Becerra also cited his grievances with the former ERA program manager Wesley Matthews’ “narrow approach” to running the program. Matthews, the programmanager from July 2021-January 2022, said all requests for additional staffing for the program were denied. Becerra told Community Impact Newspaper in an email “I signed the letter as the head of Commissioners Court. I personally do not believe we should blame anyone but the court.” The Commissioners Court has approved a contract with Ardurra Group Inc. to manage the program. The county could lose more funds it misses future targets.

HAYS COUNTY In February, Hays County learned it would be losing federal funding for the second time from its Emergency Rental Assis- tance Program for not meeting the minimum spending requirement. The federal government began the $25 billion program in January 2021 to help citizens with rent, utility and other payments. Hays County was allocated $14,507,549.70 in ERA 1and ERA 2 funds. By the end of October, Hays County reported it had spent $149,733, or 2.65% of the funds, despite federal guidelines requiring 30% to be spent by that time. As a result the federal government took $772,791.22 from the county’s ERA fund in December. In February, the Department of the Treasury took another $1.7 million for the same reason. In a letter to U.S. Reps. Chip Roy,


Travis County pauses applications for rental, mortgage assistance program BY DARCY SPRAGUE

As of March 16, the county had 4,700 applications from renters and homeowners for assistance. Staff is estimating the county can fund about 3,400 requests, based on the number of applicants it was able to support previously. Each recipient is awarded the past-due balance on their rent or mortgage, so the amount of applicants the $9.2 million can help is dependent on the cost of each claim. Staff expect some of the appli- cants will not qualify for the relief.

TRAVIS COUNTY On March 16, Travis County stopped accepting applications for rent and mortgage assistance due to high demand. The program opened March 1 with more than $9 million to be used to pay rent and mortgage balances with a focus on helping individuals facing eviction. The county’s eviction moratorium also ended March 1, and state law does not permit an extension.


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