Important updates to rental and utility assistance programs available during COVID-19 crisis
The Public Utility Commission of Texas has rolled out a plan to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on Texas utility customers who are experiencing genuine economic hardship as a result of the pandemic. These efforts are intended to help Texans in genuine financial distress as a result of COVID-19, when their utility bills will literally break their family budget.
Because the cost of these temporary measures will ultimately be borne by rate payers (including customers with suspended disconnects whose final balances are not totally offset by the COVID-19 surcharge on actively paying customers), they should be reserved for those in dire circumstances.
To ease the burden on renters during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Texas Supreme Court and Tarrant County have temporarily suspended eviction court hearings with few exceptions. The Texas Supreme Court’s suspension runs through April 30, and Tarrant County’s is in place indefinitely.
The moratorium on evictions should give renters time to file for and receive unemployment benefits or coronavirus-specific aid from the federal government, but tenants might still face problems if they fail to make payments.
Local assistance available
The City of Fort Worth Community Action Partners program is accepting mail-in PDF applications or online applications for electric, gas or propane utility bill assistance or rental assistance. Download an application or call 817-392-5720.
Approved participants will be eligible for four payments (consecutive months).
Note that the requirement to have a birth certificate as proof of citizenship has been temporarily waived for utility assistance through Aug. 7. Applicants applying after Aug. 7 will not have the option of a waiver and they must comply with the policy for citizenship (U.S. national or qualified alien). Should the crisis continue beyond Aug. 7, 2020, the proof of citizenship requirement will be revisited.
Some facts about the rental assistance program:
- Landlords must register with the city as a vendor.
- Payments are made directly to the landlord or property management company.
- Funding is limited and based on income eligibility. Applicants are encouraged to pay as much as they can on their rent or mortgage.
- Due to the high volume of applications, expect delayed processing times.
- Applicants must provide these documents:
- Proof of income for the past 30 days for everyone over the age of 18 in the household.
- Photo identification.
- Social Security numbers for everyone in the household.
- Copy of the utility bill (gas, electric or propane).
- Signed SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements) documents for everyone in the household.
- Signed Declaration of Income form (to be used if the applicant has no income).
- For rental assistance, present a signed, current lease document.
In addition, the Tarrant County Department of Human Services can provide assistance rent and utilities. Call 817-531-5620 during regular business hours.
Call 211 for referrals to other services.