FILE - Eviction Notice

(The Center Square) – The Texas Rent Relief Program has distributed more than $1 billion in rental and utility assistance to more than 174,000 Texas households, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs said. Funding was allocated to Texas through federal COVID stimulus money.

An additional $52 million is expected to be paid this year.

Texas is the first state to distribute $1 billion in rent relief funds and has more than $900 million remaining, the agency says.

Since the program, TexasRentRelief.com, launched Feb. 15, Texas has reached residents living in 251 out of 254 counties.

"The Texas Rent Relief program has reached a major milestone, one that wouldn’t be possible without our partners, community and team members working together to assist Texans in need,” Bobby Wilkinson, TDHCA executive director, said in a statement. “Crossing the $1 billion mark shows we were able to address a great and pressing need that is still present here in our state, but it’s important we continue to work vigorously to get help out as quickly as possible.”

More than 82% of the households that received aid were either extremely low or low income, classified as at or below 50% of their area median income.

The program has and continues to prioritize households at risk of eviction. To date, more than 15,000 applicants have had their evictions stopped and removed from their credit records, the agency states. Those facing immediate eviction received more than $126 million in combined assistance.

Texans can apply for the program by calling 1-833-9TX-RENT (1-833-989-7368) or submitting it online at TexasRentRelief.com. The call center is open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

To qualify, households must be at or below 80% of the area median income as well as meet other criteria. Landlords are encouraged to apply on behalf of tenants, who must co-sign the application.

The program can help renters with costs dating as far back as March 13, 2020. It can help renters with bills that are past due, current and up to two months of expected rent costs, as well as up to two months of expected utility and home energy expenses.

After the initial three months of current/future assistance, applicants can apply for three additional months of assistance if funds are still available.