SAN ANTONIO – The city council sent another $24.1 million on Thursday to a widely used assistance program that has helped thousands of San Antonio residents pay their rent and other bills during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program has already received $52.5 million through two previous phases of funding - $50.9 million of which will end up going to San Antonio residents. The other $1.6 million covers operating costs into December.
However, with the assistance being doled out at a rate of $400,000 to $500,000 per day, the city expects to run out of those funds by early October. The additional money should allow the program to last into mid-December.
As of Thursday night, nearly 16,000 applications had been processed and $45.7 million paid out.
The council allocated the third phase of money both through the approval of its FY 2021 budget and a separate item to adjust its “Recovery & Resiliency” plan.
The council also approved tighter eligibility and assistance limits for the program.
The emergency housing assistance program has been open to anyone earning less than 100% of the Area Median Income (AMI), and recipients can collect up to three months, or $5,000, worth of help.
The new restrictions raise the AMI cutoff to 80%, and limit the full range of assistance -- rent or mortgage, utilities, internet, and cash payments -- to people below 50% of the AMI. Those earning 51% to 80% of the AMI are only eligible for the rental or mortgage assistance.
Recipients in either category will be limited to just two months of the normal assistance. If they need help for a third month, they can get another $250 or $500 in cash, depending on their income.
District 1 Councilman Roberto Trevino has been critical of the proposals to limit what he sees as a much-needed program, especially the city staff’s original recommendation to limit the assistance to just one month with a second month of cash.
However, he agreed to the new changes, provided that the committee of which he is the chairman, Culture and Neighborhood Services, gets another chance to examine the restrictions.