City Council accepts $46.8 million from feds for rental, utility assistance

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City Council voted Thursday to accept $46.8 million in federal funds to help with emergency rental and utility payment assistance related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Emergency Housing Assistance Program (EHAP) was created last April in response to the pandemic and is open to San Antonio and Bexar County residents making 80% or less of the area median income (AMI). EHAP funds can be used for rent and mortgage payments, utility bills, and cash assistance for necessities such as groceries. The federal funding would only apply to rent and utility payments, Assistant City Manager Lori Houston explained. 

“Currently, we’ve … spent about $72.2 million,” she said of previous EHAP funding. “This is as of Feb. 9, 2021. It [helped] approximately 30,000 families.”

To help residents apply for federal, state, and local emergency funding, the City will add five more “benefits navigators” to the City’s Department of Health Services in addition to 10 staffers already serving in those roles, Houston said.

Significantly, the City Council vote to approve the acceptance of $46.8 million for emergency rental assistance also reset the maximum number of months people are able to draw from the EHAP. Before Thursday, eligible residents could receive only six months of assistance. Now, if residents have received assistance for a few months, that number starts over, allowing them to draw another six months of assistance from the program.