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Struggling families in Harris County could be eligible for up to $1,500 from new COVID relief fund

The money from the $30 million fund will help eligible families with things like rent, food and child care.

HOUSTON — More relief is coming to help Harris County residents struggling financially because of COVID-19.

County Commissioners approved a $30 million COVID-19 relief fund Tuesday afternoon in a vote of 3 to 2.

The fund will provide up to $1,500 to families for help with things like rent, food and child care.

At least 20,000 families who meet the eligibility requirements will get the money. We are waiting for details on how to apply for the funds.

“Embarrassing to say but I have $10.33 in my checking county and I have $40 in my pocket,” Houston renter Martha Grimm told KHOU. “I’m on food stamps, um, and I qualify for Social Security in August, but, until then, this is what I have.”

Grimm and others are glad the county’s relief system will not be first-come-first-serve, like the one recently administered by the City of Houston that ran out of money in a matter of minutes.

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“The coronavirus pandemic has created both a health and a financial crisis in our region,” Commissioner Rodney Ellis said. “Our communities are hurting. And it is our duty as public servants to make sure that our most vulnerable residents, who were already living paycheck to paycheck, do not lose everything in the midst of this crisis.”

This fund will target communities who are struggling the most: households below 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI), victims of domestic violence, youth aged out of foster care and those in homeless shelters.

“Not all job losses are equal,” Ellis said. “Our food service, health care and retail workers – the backbone of our workforce, who are already struggling to make ends meet – have been hit the hardest. Federal funding helps, but it is not enough.”

Last week, the Texas Supreme Court ended emergency protections on evictions and debt collections that were temporarily put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo released a statement saying she was "deeply disappointed" with the court's decision.

The court said eviction hearings can be held as soon as Tuesday, with orders authorizing evictions allowed starting May 26.

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"Restarting eviction and debt-collection proceedings right now will only deepen the well of desperation many families are experiencing across our county. These are hard-working families who, through no fault of their own, have lost irreplaceable income during this pandemic and may not qualify for federal assistance or eviction protections," Hidalgo said.

The Greater Houston Community Foundation will run the relief fund program.

Check back for more on this developing story.

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