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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Hays County helps tenents, landlords through rental assistance program

Hays+County+Historic+Courthouse%2C+Wednesday%2C+March+31%2C+2021%2C+in+San+Marcos.

Hays County Historic Courthouse, Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in San Marcos.

Editor’s note: To protect the privacy of Hays County caseworker employees, the first names of the employees featured in this article have been omitted.
Hays County launched its Emergency Rental Assistance program to provide support for residents financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Resources from the program cover rent and utility expenses for residents in need.
In order to receive assistance from the program, county residents who faced complications with paying rent or utility bills must apply. Program expenses are covered through funds provided by a $6.9 million federal grant. According to Program Director Wesley Matthews, the program has been allocated $275,000 from the grant. $245,000 of the funds are used for program operations and the rest toward assisting applicants.
The program has offered aid since July 12 and has since had 150 applicants apply. Support will continue to be provided until September 2022 or until all funds are used if more are not provided by the federal government.
Matthews says community interaction is the most vital part of the program. Besides hiring community members to work for the program, Matthews encourages interested individuals to look to their community for help in applying.
“We don’t want people to have to come to us to get help,” Matthews says. “We want them to go to their neighbors and then they know that we’re here to support them, and we’ll help them. We just want to be a hub that helps people get this done.”
Households eligible for assistance can receive up to 12 months of rent or utility assistance. Applicants can reapply for additional assistance after an initial one to three months of provided support. Additional assistance is only available in three-month increments, not to exceed a total of 12 months.
If approved after registration, residents who are facing eviction or already in eviction proceedings can show their registration receipt to the Hays County court as proof of registration. The grant will issue payments directly to the landlord of applicants approved for the program.
Applicants can learn more about the program, complete a pre-qualification questionnaire and access the program’s application online. To be accepted for the program, applicants must first submit a response to the pre-qualification questionnaire.
Additionally, applicants must apply for assistance for a renter household located in Hays County, have an income less than 80% of the area median income ($98,900) and live in a household where one or more members have either qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction of income, incurred significant costs or experienced other financial hardship due to or during the pandemic.
A guided checklist listing documents needed for the application submission can be found on the Emergency Rental Assistance Program website. The checklist includes a W9 provided by a landlord, information on the rent amount owed, a previous year W2 tax report and more. As of now, it takes between 14-30 days for applicants to be notified if they have been granted rental assistance funds.
To improve the program’s accessibility, Matthews says the program is searching for volunteers who speak multiple languages to assist applicants of all cultures and dialects.
“I’m looking for volunteers that speak ASL to Zulu,” Matthews says. “If you [speak] a different language and there’s people around you that understand that same language, come in. Get a hold of us and help us create information that will reach your community.”
The program is also considering additional advertising methods to encourage residents to sign up for rental assistance. Matthews says the program is considering hosting an event at the San Marcos Public Library.
“We’re asking them to, you know, deal with their community, to see if they want to have an event at their library, where people could come there and we would actually send the caseworker there to do that,” Matthews says. “In the meantime, we’ve been working with apartments to try and do the same thing. So, say that if the apartments have multiple people, then they can set up an event and we would come to their actual apartment and meet with other tenants that need assistance.”
The county created four new positions to assist with program outreach and management. Caseworker Williams, a new hire for the program, says she’s excited to work for the community, even though she’s new to the job and the area.
“This is an awesome, awesome opportunity,” Williams says. “I’m pretty new to San Marcos, and I’m super excited to just help out people in my community, now.”
Caseworker Bonillas says that while she is also a new hire, she’s learning a lot about the program as well as working with her coworkers.
“We’re kind of learning what everybody’s strengths are to play to those and make sure that everybody’s utilized for what they’re good at,” Bonillas says. “It’s fun, I like it … it’s fun starting [and] being part of starting a program.”
In-person assistance is available at the Hays County Courthouse in room 303. For more information about the Emergency Rental Assistance program, visit https://hayscountytx.com/emergency-rental-assistance-program/.

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