United Way of Denton County

Elena Lusk, director of housing initiatives for United Way of Denton County, said there are five rent assistance programs in the works: three for the county as a whole, one specifically for Lewisville and one specifically for Denton. In total, Lusk said the programs will have about $26 million to work with.

With the state’s $1.3 billion rent relief program set to roll out Monday, Denton County is readying several programs that could provide upward of $26 million to local renters.

The Texas Rent Relief Program will roll out Monday, Feb. 15, to both renters and landlords throughout the state. Renters can request assistance for costs dating back to March 13, 2020, including rent costs and utility and home energy expenses. They can also apply for up to three months of forward assistance with those costs and an additional three months afterward if funds are still available.

To qualify, a household must make no more than 80% of its area’s median income. That figure depends on how many members the household has and what area it falls under. For Denton County, which the state lists as having a 2020 median income of $86,200, the 80% marks are as follows: $48,300 for one member; $55,200 for two; $62,100 for three; $68,950 for four; $74,500 for five; $80,000 for six; $85,500 for seven and $91,050 for eight.

Additionally, one or more of the tenant household members must have qualified for unemployment benefits or attest in writing that they experienced a reduction in household income or financial hardship during the pandemic. Those households must also demonstrate they are at risk of homelessness or housing instability, or are living in unsafe or unhealthy conditions.

Landlords can also apply on behalf of tenants, with the requirement that those tenants sign the application as well. More information on the program can be found at texasrentrelief.com.

In the coming weeks, Denton County tenants and landlords will be able to seek local help as well. Elena Lusk, director of housing initiatives for United Way of Denton County, said there are five rent assistance programs in the works: three for the county as a whole, one specifically for Lewisville and one specifically for Denton.

In total, Lusk said the programs will have about $26 million to work with. About $23 million of that total will come from one county-wide program, with the county set to receive funding through the federal government’s Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

Lusk said specifics on the programs and eligibility for them aren’t yet finalized, but that the main requirement for households is being at or under the same 80% of area median income threshold the state uses. She added that applicants will not apply for specific programs, instead going through a screening process United Way will use to determine their eligibility and which program would best suit them.

“All of our programs are working to catch people up with their rent or utility assistance, but also make sure people are able to sustain for the future,” Lusk said.

An exact date for the launch of the programs has not yet been set, but United Way’s eviction prevention webpage at unitedwaydenton.org/eviction-prevention states the efforts could go online as early as Feb. 25, and residents can already begin the pre-screening process. Other local organizations are listed as additional sources of rental and utility assistance, including Giving Hope Inc., Grace Like Rain and Salvation Army Denton.

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