A single mother with two girls and desperate for help turn to KPRC 2 Investigates team after she tried everything else. She says a confusing mess now has her facing eviction. Our team looked into the problem and found she’s not the only one in this situation.
Texas Rent Relief payments delayed
The Texas Rent Relief program was set up to help people pay their bills. It got off to a rocky start when it signed up just a few hundred people in the first few months. Approvals have increased but then getting the actual money to pay rent is still dragging in many cases.
Earlier this year Tanisha Burdine was sick and unable to work, so she applied to the Texas Rent Relief program for help paying her bills. After a small paperwork issue in March, Burdine was approved but then her case just stalled. She called KPRC 2 Investigator Amy Davis for help.
“This is my last option to what to do. The previous months I had to buy food I had made the decision to buy food for my kids,” Burdine explained. “This is, like, this is immediate, like I need help. I need help. Like, it’s up against the wall right now.”
Even after being told she was approved, her online account was not being updated.
“It says customer unresponsive,” Burdine said in reference to her case online.
“I call them and they say, ‘Okay, we’re going to change it. We don’t know why it’s not changed,’ I say (there) has to be the reason why they’re not doing anything.’”
Burdine said she can’t keep track of the number of times she has called.
“I’ve called Texas rent relief countless times,” she explains. “I can’t even remember how many times and each time they tell me that they are expediting my case, because it shouldn’t take this long for it to be paid. My case is just lost in the system is lost. And it needs to be found.”
Then Burdine’s worst fears came true when she was served with an eviction notice.
“I’m just really scared at this point,” she said. “It’s not helping me with my lupus because I’m in flare-ups because of the stress and I’m not sleeping. I’m just praying.”
Approved funds still not paid out
Burdine is not the only one waiting for her money. Right now about $63 million dollars in funds are “approved” but still in the process of being paid out.
A spokesperson told KPRC 2 in part:
“Processing times have varied since the start of the program due to the shifting volume of applications received. We are taking additional steps to shrink these timelines.”
While many are waiting, a lot of people have been helped by the program too. So far Texas Rent Relief has paid out $785,934,874. The total program funding is $1.177 billion.
After our emails and calls about Burdine’s case, the agency corrected the problem and her application is now approved. It’s an answer to months of heartache and prayers.
So far nearly 132,000 households in Texas have been helped by the program. To see if you qualify or to apply, check here.
Texas Rent Relief Households helped in our area
HARRIS COUNTY: 34,131 households helped
MONTGOMERY: 1,621 households helped
FORT BEND COUNTY: 2,164 households helped
GALVESTON: 1,614 households helped
Full statement from Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs
Ms. Burdine has been contacted and approved. Texas Rent Relief is part of a coronavirus relief program that is one of the largest in US history, and the need is high. The demand for our program is very strong and we continuously work to streamline our operations and processing times to serve more applicants as efficiently as possible.
Regular applications are reviewed in the order that they come. Applications facing an eviction or disconnect notice are prioritized. Every application is unique and must be reviewed and verified per federal requirements before payment can be approved. Applications typically are missing the correct documentation and analysts must work with the applicant to fix the application.
Processing times have varied since the start of the program due to the shifting volume of applications received, federal requirements, and the program’s capacity. Right now, our current processing time from application submission to payment is an average of about 62 days for regular applications and about 32 days for prioritized eviction diversion or utility disconnect notice applications. We are taking additional steps to shrink these timelines. Texas is currently leading the nation among state rent relief programs in dollars spent and is number two in the nation for percentage of award spent.