City looks to stretch rent assistance program into March

$64.8 million already approved, state and possibly federal money to be added

City officials are looking for ways to come up with more funds for the Emergency Housing Assistance Program.

SAN ANTONIO – The City of San Antonio is on track to spend all of its $270 million in coronavirus relief funds by a Dec. 30 deadline.

One of the most high-profile uses of that money, and other funding sources, is the city’s Emergency Housing Assistance Program (EHAP), which helps struggling residents pay their rent, mortgage and other bills. As of Wednesday, $64.8 million had been approved through the program, and city staff members have plans to keep it funded into March.

In a briefing to city council members on Thursday, staff members said the city will receive $3.6 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds from the state as part of the Texas Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The city has also been notified it will get an additional $10.2 million in CDBG dollars through the CARES Act.

City staff members recommend using $4.6 million for EHAP, which Assistant City Manager Lori Houston said could take the program into “most likely early March.”

A full recommendation is expected in January to the Culture and Neighborhood Services Committee.

EHAP has been a popular program, and Houston said the early March estimate was based on applications continuing at roughly the same rate.

“We are seeing an uptick, but we’re also seeing a lot of individuals who’ve either already applied for three months, and they’re not eligible, or they’re getting that third month and a $500 cash stipend, and then we’re offering them to other services,” Houston said.

District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval warned that the city should be cautious in its estimates to account for a possible increase.

While various protections have helped keep San Antonio families from being evicted, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium on many evictions is set to expire at the end of the month.

The city’s government and public affairs director, Jeff Coyle, told the council that Congress may end up extending the moratorium by one month. It may also include $25 billion in rental assistance as part of a new stimulus bill.

“We think that it will be doled out in a similar formula as CDBG funding and that communities will have an opportunity to use it as needed,” Coyle said.

However, District 1 Councilman Roberto Trevino noted that federal dollars come with strings and urged for the city to put more of its own money into the program.

“We need more general fund dollars so that we can dictate the way it is distributed so that we can help people in the way they need the help,” Trevino said.

About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.