Early Monday afternoon, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced that low-income county residents affected by the coronavirus pandemic have until Wednesday to apply for financial assistance from the Harris County COVID-19 Relief Fund.
Money from the county fund, which totaled $30 million before around half was distributed to local nonprofits and community organizations earlier this month, is now being offered directly to the public. In a press conference where she was joined by County Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia, Hidalgo said that approximately 20,000 Harris County families will be awarded between $1,200 and $1,500 from the remaining money in the fund. Applicants will be selected at random, but the greater the financial need an applicant is in, the better their chances are of being selected, Hidalgo said.
“The best we can do is to make sure that the funds are awarded fairly, and that they are given to those who are in the most need. That’s the most we can do given that it’s impossible to help everybody,” she said Hidalgo.
“To be clear, this is not a first come, first served process. We want to make sure everybody has a shot at applying,” Hidalgo continued.
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Online applications will be accepted through the official relief fund website from 6 a.m. Tuesday, June 23 through 10 p.m. Wednesday, June 24. Harris County residents can also apply over the phone by calling 832-848-0214 between the hours of 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. on June 23 or from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on June 24. Translators will be available for call-in applicants who do not speak English, said Ellis.
To meet the eligibility requirements for this latest round of relief money, a person must live in Harris County, have a household income below 60 percent Area Median Income or be accessing public benefits, have proof that he or she has experienced financial hardship as a result of the pandemic, and haven’t already received assistance from either the City of Houston’s BakerRipley Rental Assistance Program, the Harris County Utility Assistance Program, of the Harris County COVID-19 Forgivable Loan Program.
The public application period was announced several hours after Hidalgo's latest order requiring county businesses to enforce the wearing of protective face masks by their employees and customers went into effect early Monday morning and amid a week-plus of record hospitalizations from and positive cases of the coronavirus in Harris County.
For more information about the county's relief fund, including the online application, check out www.harriscountyrelief.org.