I am angry.
In July of 2021 Hays County received over $6.9 million in Emergency Rental Assistance Grant from the Federal Government to help county residents who are in danger of being evicted from their homes during the COVID pandemic. The date by which all the funds had to be disbursed is March 31 of this year. County officials did not even begin to distribute funds until September when they had to return $772,791 of the funds. Another $1.7 million was returned on February 15 of this year. A good percentage of the remaining funds is scheduled to be returned. Many county residents who needed the funds will not be helped.
Why did this happen? Our commissioners thought they could save money by administering the funds through existing county staff and adding a few more people to the county payroll instead of hiring an experienced firm. What resulted was a formation of red tape filled structure that severely restricted the ability to get the funds to the people who needed them. County eligibility requirements went far beyond the federal guidelines. For example, applicants were required to write a half page paragraph describing how COVID had adversely affected their lives where a box to check would have been sufficient.
There has been a letter sent to the U.S Treasury officials asking for an extension and the Adurra Group, Inc. has been hired to oversee the distribution of funds. This is, however, too little, too late. Many residents will continue to struggle to stay in their homes.
The budget process for Hays County for next year will soon begin. Our commissioners can help to redeem the situation by designating American Rescue Plan funds that would be equal to the amount lost to the mismanagement of ERA funds. This would greatly help residents who are still suffering the effects of the pandemic.
If you are as angry as I am, please call your county commissioner and lend your voice in support of providing funds for the many vulnerable people who are still in danger of losing a safe place to live.