A new $40 million COVID-19 relief fund, issued by Harris County, opens Monday, November 2, and will accept applications through Friday, November 6. This Harris County COVID-19 Emergency Direct Assistance Fund will be administered by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and will provide one-time payment of $1200 to up to 33,333 families struggling with financial hardship related to COVID-19. These funds can be used for any type of emergency expense (housing, food, utilities, healthcare, childcare, transportation, etc.), and families can apply on their own without cooperation from a landlord or anyone else.
"Thousands of families across Harris County have struggled to overcome the financial damage from COVID-19," said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. "While this relief will not reach everyone who needs it, we must do everything in our own power to help those who are vulnerable pull through."
The fund is entirely need-based, and the money will be distributed equally across Harris County's four precincts. Harris County residents living inside the City of Houston will not be excluded. To ensure fairness, households are being selected from the larger pool of applicants using a random statistical model that ensures no discrimination.
The payments will be distributed in two rounds. The first round is already underway and is assisting families who applied to, but did not receive help from the Harris County COVID-19 Relief Fund program conducted earlier this summer. These households are asked to update their previous application in order to be considered for the new funding program. The second ("public") round begins on November 2, when anyone who has not applied before can submit a request for financial assistance. The second round will randomly select households from the combined pool of new applicants and first-round applicants who chose to update their applications.
The application period for the public round will last five days (November 2-6). Harris County residents who have not received other COVID-1 related assistance from the County are welcome to apply during the public round.
Catholic Charities will administer both rounds and will work with selected applicants to assemble the required paperwork. Applicants must be able to prove pandemic-related hardship (e.g., unpaid bills); and must meet the required financial threshold (e.g. one member of their household must be enrolled in a public assistance program, or the total household income must be less than 60% of the HUD Area Median Family Income). A detailed list of criteria and acceptable documentation are available at CatholicCharitiesHelp.org
"Harris County continues to help those hardest hit by this pandemic. Although we cannot help everyone, I am proud that we are increasing our reach to more households with this Direct Assistance Fund," said Precinct One Commissioner Rodney Ellis. "We know that direct assistance to low-income families can help reduce poverty rates, inject money into the local economy, and most importantly, help families afford their basic needs like housing, food, and health care."
"My colleagues and I on Harris County Commissioners Court know people are hurting. That's why we continue to utilize our CARES money to get help directly to those who need it most," said Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia. "This assistance will keep thousands of families from having to choose from paying their water bill or putting food on the table. We are excited to have Catholic Charities manage this program, and I am completely confident that they will do an outstanding job for our communities."
"Although relatively few of us have had to face the medical heartbreak of COVID-19, many of our friends and neighbors have had to face its insidious economic impact," said Precinct 4 Commissioner R. Jack Cagle. "Harris County is using money from the federal CARES Act to try to minimize that impact as much as possible. I strongly urge eligible residents to apply for this assistance."
Applicants may apply online at CatholicCharitiesHelp.org during the public application period (November 2-6). Since the application process requires applicants to upload documents, all applications must be submitted online, but applicants who want help or who have questions may call the hotline at 832-990-1318, Monday-Saturday, 9am-8pm. Applicants are encouraged to check their spam folder and to promptly respond to calls/texts about assistance from Harris County, to ensure they do not miss out on the opportunity for aid.