Hays County’s Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program now has an expanded mission: use community-based case managers to help expedite providing rental and other assistance to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Loss of income related to COVID-19, including job loss or a reduction in hours, has resulted in individuals being threatened with eviction, or experiencing eviction, for non-payment of rent. While Texas had a moratorium on evictions, that ended July 31, 2021.
Called the Community Assistance Program (CAP), this expanded aspect of ERA trains members of the Homeless Coalition of Hays County – consisting of groups such as The HOME Center, The Hays County Food Bank and others – to help applicants with their paperwork. Those trained coalition members then agree to act as the applicant’s case manager during the ERA process.
According to Wesley Matthews with the Hays County ERA office, implementing the CAP allows more applicants to move through the pipeline more efficiently.
“So far we have received nearly 400 applications for rental assistance,” Matthews said. “With only four of us in the ERA office, the process wasn’t moving as rapidly as we wanted.”
In some situations, the need for documentation about an applicant’s situation was also causing slowdowns in the effort to get funds to landlords; ERA-approved monies are paid directly to landlords not to applicants.
Under recent updated guidance from the US Treasury Department, applicants can now self-attest as to their financial situation thus removing the barriers of providing certain forms of documentation, which includes proof of available income for the past two months (if applicable), W2 forms, evidence of receiving unemployment benefits, disability, or a social security award letter.
Applicants still need to provide a government-issued ID; CAP case managers can assist with getting those kinds of documents (e.g., birth certificates, social security cards and state IDs) for their clients. The full list of documentation can be found on the ERA website: https://hayscountytx.com/emergency-rental-assistance-program/
“This new guidance allows more flexibility and a more rapid deployment of funds,” Matthews said.
CAP case managers work with applicants who may be identified as having rapid rehousing potential – meaning they are likely to be approved for ERA funding. This allows applicants in dire situations to be temporarily placed in hotels for up to 90 days.
HOME Center will host an Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) event this Thursday, October 7, at the San Marcos Public Library from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Individuals experiencing homelessness or eviction due to COVID-19 can meet with volunteers from the HOME Center (a volunteer from Hays County Food Bank will also be there) along with staff from ERA and San Marcos Library, to determine their eligibility for the ERA program. HOME Center is also sponsoring the ID recovery portion of this event for applicants who need identification to apply for the assistance.
“HOME Center is working closely with clients, motel managers and owners, to get people into the ERA program,” said Hannah Durrance with HOME Center. “We hope this close partnership will ensure the success of this program. Our goal is to connect individuals to this program, through our outreach programs, while providing direct services, including case management to clients. We are partnering with other agencies that are part of the Homeless Coalition of Hays County to ensure clients are getting connected with area resources so they are able to have time to recover from the effects of COVID- related income loss.”
More information about the ERA program is on the county’s website: https://hayscountytx.com/emergency-rental-assistance-program/. The San Marcos Public Library is located at 625 E Hopkins St., San Marcos.
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