Hays County names new rent assistance program manager

By Brittany Anderson

Following a $2.4 million loss of rental assistance funds, the future of Hays County’s Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program is looking up after a new manager was named to run the program. 

During the Feb. 15 commissioners court meeting, the court awarded a contract to Ardurra Group Inc., a multidisciplinary services solutions firm with nine offices in Texas, including Austin. Ardurra was one of four firms that submitted bids to the county. 

Former ERA program manager Wesley Matthews, who had been manager since the program’s official inception in July 2021, resigned in January. 

The county initially received $6.9 million in funds from the U.S. Treasury Department’s ERA1 program in January 2021 that were to be paid to landlords, utility service providers and hotels to aid qualified residents who have been impacted by COVID-19 relative to rental and utility payments. 

$772,291 was recaptured by the Treasury in September and $1.7 million was recaptured in February due to the county not meeting targeted milestones.

The program has been clouded with scrutiny, with Matthews saying the program’s setbacks were largely due to a lack of staffing despite his requests, while Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra criticized how Matthews’ “narrow approach” to the program isolated a single facet of individuals instead of reaching as many citizens in need as possible. 

Residents have also been vocal about increasing the program’s efficiency so additional funds are not recaptured, but Hays County Grants Administration Executive Director Tammy Crumley said during the Feb. 15 meeting that the program’s overall efficiency had increased dramatically since January, having implemented “needed changes” to ensure a better workflow process. 

Now, with Ardurra as the new manager, they are looking to “hit the ground running” soon to start providing even more assistance. 

“It’s wonderful that we’re at this point, ready to negotiate a contract,” Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe said. “We got these proposals very quickly and had to review them quickly to meet this deadline, but it’s important … that we’re on top of this. There’s a lot of eyes on this. I think this firm is going to do a wonderful job; they have a wealth of knowledge and experience.” 

The county is next expected to negotiate the contract’s terms.

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About Author

Brittany Anderson graduated from Texas State University in August 2020 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She previously worked at KTSW 89.9, Texas State University's radio station, for nearly two years in the web content department as a writer and assistant manager. She has reported for the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch since July 2021.

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