People who have been affected by the coronavirus and in dire need of assistance with rent, utilities, groceries, medicine and fuel have help on the way with the creation of a $25 million assistance program approved April 23 by City Council.
The COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program was created in response to an enormous influx of requests for housing assistance because of the pandemic.
San Antonio residents can find more information on the program or apply for the COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance at https://www.sanantonio.gov/NHSD/Programs/FairHousing. Residents can also call 311.
“I am proud of this vote to ensure that San Antonio workers who have been laid off or furloughed because of the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to pay their rent and stay in their homes,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in a news release. “It is our duty to help our neighbors in times of need, and this crisis has created a true emergency.”
To apply and be eligible for assistance, San Antonio residents must be the primary lease or mortgage holder in a multifamily unit, mobile home, or single-family home within the city limits of San Antonio; provide proof of financial hardship that renders the household unable to pay rent, mortgage or utilities; and have an income at or below 100% of the Area Median Income. Under these Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines, a San Antonio family earning $72,000 a year or below would qualify for the program.
The new program provides individuals and families with assistance for rent, mortgage, utilities and internet access while facing financial hardship. Funds are paid directly to the landlord, financial institution, internet provider and utility provider. In addition, funds for groceries, medicine and fuel, in the form of cash assistance, will be distributed directly to individuals or families for no more than $300.
City Manager Erik Walsh said the COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program is the most comprehensive housing and utility assistance program in the state because it builds upon the affordable housing priorities the City Council prior to the COVID-19 crisis.
“We have long-standing programs and partnerships with local non-profits, community groups and housing providers so that together we can help more residents,” Walsh said. “These programs are needed now more than ever. The COVID-19 crisis has shaken the financial stability of tens of thousands of our residents. This program will help residents make ends meet as they try to stay healthy, keep a roof over their heads and get food on the table for their families.”
Direct assistance in amounts ranging from $150 to $300 based on household size is available is made possible through a partnership between the City and the Family Independence Initiative. The COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program is set to run through July 31, 2020.
“The reason San Antonio can adapt quickly to develop the largest emergency housing assistance program in the state, and maybe the country, is because we have been focused on making housing affordable for several years,” District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales said in a statement. “During this difficult time, families should not have to worry that they won’t have a place to live, especially as we tell residents to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Funding for the program comes from a variety of sources including the FY 2020 Affordable Housing Budget which includes the balance currently available in the Risk Mitigation Fund, $536,233 from the Affordable Housing Fund, $5.2 million from HUD Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and another $7.7 million from the Corona Virus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act CDBG funds. The remaining $2 million has been requested from the San Antonio Housing Trust Foundation and the San Antonio Housing Trust Public Facilities Corporation.
“This virus does not discriminate, and its harms go beyond public health. It has threatened the ability of people to take care of basic needs,” said District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran. “I am proud to see the City adopt this program that helps our most vulnerable residents pay their critical bills so they can stay in their homes and feed their families.”
In addition to staff funding recommendations, Council also approved an additional $9.2 million from various sources. This additional funding from the FY2020 Council Adopted Budget includes $2.5 million in the City’s Parking Enterprise Fund, $3.7 million from various Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones, $1.5 million in San Antonio Housing Trust Public Facility Corporation funds, $500,000 from the San Antonio Housing Trust Finance Corporation, and a reallocation of $1 million of the San Antonio Housing Trust Under 1 Roof program funds for the COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program. These funding sources will provide a total $25 million for the COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program.
“Many in our community are falling between the cracks of federal and state support,“ said District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño. “We, the local government, are their last line of defense for our community and so our policy recommendations should empower City Council’s decision. We know our community and should be able to provide an outlet of relief that is accessible to all.”
A partnership between the City, the San Antonio Area Foundation, and the San Antonio Housing Trust created an online portal for financial contributions to the Emergency Housing Assistance Program. The San Antonio Housing Trust Foundation Board approved $500,000 of the $1 million request this month. The San Antonio Area Foundation and United Way of San Antonio created the COVID-19 Response Fund and awarded $100,000 to the Emergency Housing Assistance Program.
Celina Pena, president of the Housing Trust Foundation Board, said the work done by the City staff and officials, along with partners both private and public are a start and a testament of our community’s compassion at work. “Pulling resources together isn’t easy. It takes a village and as demonstrated today, we are on a collective journey of stabilizing those most vulnerable during this uncertain time with shelter,” she said.
Individual smaller donations can be made online at https://app.mobilecause.com/e/AMJd-w?vid=6vo9b<https://app.mobilecause.com/e/AMJd-w?vid=6vo9b%20 or by texting “HousingHelpSA” to 41444. More substantial donations through businesses, corporations and philanthropic partners will be collected via email at email@example.com by the San Antonio Area Foundation.
Donations received via the portal totaled $2,300 in its inaugural weekend. These donations will be designated for individuals and families who need financial assistance for costs related to housing.
Before March 2020, the Neighborhood and Housing Services Department (NHSD) received on average 57 inquiries a week for housing assistance. Last week, that number skyrocketed to 5,370. All applicants who have requested assistance have been contacted via phone call or e-mail to fill out a full application.
San Antonio residents can find more information on the program or apply for the COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance at https://www.sanantonio.gov/NHSD/Programs/FairHousing