Bell County will receive $11 million from the U.S. Treasury for the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program using Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds to the county. The program will be administered by the Hill Country Community Action Association.
The Program provides financial assistance to qualifying applicants to prevent housing instability, potential eviction, and financial hardships of tenants and landlords because of the COVID-19 public health emergency, Ashley Johnson told County Commissioners during their March 1 meeting.
Households must have income at or below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI), as defined by Housing and Urban Development (HUD). According to the US Census Bureau, the median household income for Bell County in 2019 was $54,884.
Additionally, one or more of the tenant household members have qualified for unemployment benefits or attest in writing that they have experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs or experience financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Households must also demonstrate that they are at risk of homelessness or housing instability by providing an eviction notice or past-due utility or rent notice; or that they are living in unsafe or unhealthy housing conditions.
The housing unit must be the primary residence and must be located within Bell County.
The program will also help pay unpaid utility bills.
Any unpaid rent or utility bills that can be applied for can go no further back than March 13, 2020.
The program will roll out March 15 with a target date of expenditure of all funds by the end of September. “That is a quick process,” Johnson told commissioners.
The Bell County Rent Relief Program can help renters with the following costs starting as far back as March 13, 2020 (this means you could potentially request assistance for up to 11 months of past due bills):
•Past due, current and up to 3 months of projected rent costs
•Past due, current or up to 3 months of expected utility and home energy expenses
•After the initial 3 months of projected assistance, you can apply for 3 additional months of projected assistance if funds are still available
All payments will be made directly to the landlord and/or utility provider.
Payments will be made using ACH deposit. As part of the application process, the landlord will be asked to provide bank routing information to complete the payments.
Both landlords and tenants can submit an application on behalf of the tenant via drop-off or online kiosk. If residents or landlords need assistance completing an application, HCCA customer service staff can assist them with the application by phone.
As part of the Program application, all tenants and household members must submit the following documentation to confirm eligibility:
• Application Packet – will include an attestation of duplicative benefits.
• Government- or current public school- issued ID for at least one household member on the lease
• Copy of rent or lease agreement (or rent receipt)
• Notices of late rent payment or notice to evict, if applicable
• Copies of utility bills, if utility assistance is being requested
• Income Documentation for all household members above the age of 18 (or head and/or co-head of household if all members are under 18) must be provided from one of the two options below:
• 2020 Federal Tax Return including filing a 2020 IRS Form 1040, a 2020 IRS Form 1040-A or a 2020 IRS Form 1040-EZ.
• If you have not yet completed your federal income taxes for 2020 or you are not required to file a federal income tax return for 2020, you will need to provide all income documentation for the 30 days prior to your application date.
• If another local, state, or federal program verified household income, a determination from that entity can be used if the income verification was made on or after January 1, 2020.
• If no documentable income was received, applicants can submit a no income written attestation. If using this method, income must be re-assessed every three months.
As part of the Program application, the landlord must submit the following documentation to confirm eligibility:
• Rental Packet
• Completed IRS Form W-9
• Household Application (if not being provided by the tenant)
• Household Income Documentation, as listed above (if not being provided by the tenant)
• HCCA will work local Justice of the Peace courts, as well as other entities that work regularly with those who are most likely to qualify for the program, in order to inform them of the opportunity the program affords.