First of the month exposes Texans' struggle to pay bills during outbreak

Posted at 4:43 PM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-02 02:31:11-04

Friday marks the beginning of May, and the first of every month means one thing for Texas renters: pay up.

For moms like Brittney McClure, who rents a Waco apartment with her family, a pandemic and partial shutdown have stretched the budget thin.

"It's been really hard to pay our rent because of it. Everywhere is just about shutdown still," said McClure.

Typically, her family pays close to $950 a month, including sewer and water. Their landlord is letting them pay in installments right now.

For thousands of Central Texans that rent, financial assistance is on the way, even if it's coming slowly.

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott announced more than $11 million in aid would be available to specifically help folks with rent and utility bills.

The state tells 25 News that extra money still hasn't been distributed and that it should happen "…in the coming weeks."

When the funds are divvied out, it'll go to nonprofit organizations, city or county governments where renters will then be able to apply for the money.

The Salvation Army of Bell County is one Central Texas entity that should get some of the funds. They're in need because so much of their existing grant and donation money has been depleted during the ongoing pandemic.

"Our amount of phone calls, amount of emails we're receiving from people needing rent and utility assistance has definitely increased," said Lt. Chantel Millin, a local Salvation corps officer.

Millin expects demand for financial assistance to only go up in the coming months.

"When the need was already present previous before COVID, after COVID that need is going to simply increase," she said.

The simplest way to find out which local agencies can help is by going to the state's Help For Texans website.

Once there, click through three simple steps to narrow down the best resource for your family.

While that $11 million isn't available yet, existing grant funds can still help some renters right now.

"It's been hard for us. At the first of the month, our car payment is due, and our storage payment, too," Brittney said.

She's going to explore tapping into some of the rental assistance in the coming days.

Elsewhere on Friday, thousands of people from cities across the country joined in rent protests.