How to pay overdue utility bills through the Texas Rent Relief Program

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Posted at 12:25 PM, Jun 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-11 13:51:43-04

AUSTIN, TX — On June 11, the Public Utility Commission announced they will be ending the temporary order banning power shutoffs for Texans who haven't paid their utility bills.

Starting June 18, exactly seven days after this announcement, the moratorium that Governor Greg Abbott issued following winter storm Uri will end after being in place for 117 days.

However, this isn't to say there still isn't financial assistance available to Texans struggling to pay for their utilities.

The Texas Rent Relief Program provides rental and utility assistance to qualifying applicants to prevent housing instability, potential eviction, and financial hardships for tenants and landlords as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So how does one qualify and how much financial assistance can applicants expect?

To begin, renter households must have an income of no more than 80% of area median income (AMI).

KRHD 25 News crunched the numbers and for a family of four living in Brazos County, that would mean they'd need to have a total household income at $55,050, or under, to qualify.

Secondly, one or members of the household must attest in writing that they have either:

  • Qualified for unemployment benefits, OR
  • Due to or during the pandemic:
    • Experienced a reduction in income,
    • Incurred significant costs, or
    • Experienced other financial hardship.
  • AND one or more individuals within the household must demonstrate:
    • That they are at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability, which may include a past due utility or rent notice or eviction notice, OR
    • That unless they receive rental assistance, they would have to move to an unsafe/unhealthy environment like a shared living situation or emergency shelter

Evidence of legal status is not required. The funding for this program is part of the Coronavirus stimulus bill passed by Congress; because it is emergency assistance, documentation of household legal status is not required.

Program funds may be used to provide up to fifteen (15) months of assistance for the following expenses:

  • Rent, past due rent, and reasonable late fees (stemming from non-payment of rent),
  • Utilities and home energy costs, and
  • Past-due utility and home energy costs

While applicants may be assisted for up to 15 months, the Program will not commit funds for prospective (future) rent for more than a 3-month period at a time.

Applicants must reapply every 3 months and will only be assisted if funds are still available. The program cannot pay for food for households.

Assistance provided to a household from the Texas Rent Relief Program shall not be regarded as income and shall not be regarded as a resource for purposes of determining the eligibility of the household or any member of the household for benefits or assistance, or the amount or extent of benefits or assistance, under any Federal program or under any State or local program financed in whole or in part with Federal funds.

Rent and utility expenses are eligible for assistance starting March 13, 2020 (the date of Governor Abbott’s emergency declaration for Texas). Prorated requests for the month of March 2020 are allowed.

Rent may not exceed $4,600 per month as that is the max monthly allowance recipients will be given. Units that exceed the limit are not eligible for assistance from the Texas Rent Relief Program.

The household must also be willing to state that without this rental assistance they may be put in a living situation that would be considered unsafe or unhealthy. This may include an overcrowded shared living situation or emergency shelter where the risk for COVID-19 transmission may be heightened.

A tenant’s current unit need not be unsafe/unhealthy and no inspection of current units will occur for this requirement.

The portal will remain open and will accept applications until all funds have been committed to applicants.

Applicants should expect that it may be several weeks before they are informed of the status of their application.

The Texas Rent Relief Program covers all 254 Texas counties. Applicants in every area of the state can apply.

For a checklist of required documentation, click here.

To apply, click here.

First-time users will be required to register an account and create a new password before they access the portal to apply.

For information, call toll-free: 1-833-989-7368

Monday-Saturday • 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. CST • Help is available in multiple languages.