With the economy in dire straits as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a serious concern facing numerous Texans is how to pay the rent.
The state has instituted a moratorium on evictions that lasts until May 18. However, the moratorium only halts eviction procedures, trials and hearings; it does not suspend payments altogether. And landlords can still file evictions during the moratorium, then those cases will proceed once the moratorium lifts.
This leaves serious questions about what happens after May 18. One and a half million Texans have filed for unemployment in the past six weeks alone, and many of them are renters. For the most hard-hit job sector in Texas, accomodation and food services, two-thirds of the workers laid off live in renter households. Even after the pandemic subsides, some analysts warn that the economic recovery could be slow and painful, especially for a state heavily dependent on the price of oil.
Local governments are stepping up to assist renters during the crisis. The City of Austin is providing $1.2 million in rent relief, with the window to apply on Wednesday, May 6, from 9:00 AM to 11:59 PM.
Dallas has also created a $13.7 million program to provide assistance for rent as well as mortgages. But the program received more than 16,000 applications when it launched on Monday, causing the system to crash for some users.
Dallas’ troubles show that the problem cannot be solved by cities and counties alone. More will have to be done at the state and federal levels to prevent mass evictions.
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