Houston’s city council approved a $30 million relief fund for city residents to ease ongoing economic hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Council members voted unanimously to use money from federal CARES Act funding to give residents $1,200 in financial relief.

The relief payment is a one-time deal similar to the stimulus payment approved by congress earlier this year. Houston Public Media reported this round of payments extends further than previous initiatives from the city. The new fund will provide direct assistance to eligible residents, a departure from the more targeted relief programs implemented by the city since the start of the pandemic. 

Last month, the city approved a $3 million relief fund to support local child care centers.  Houston received more than $400 million in CARES Act funding. Houston ABC-13 reported the city must spend all the money before the end of the year or give up the rest. 

The council’s latest plan follows a similar fund launched by Harris County announced in late October. Relief eligibility includes having an income of 80 percent or less than the area median income, experiencing economic hardship as a result of the pandemic, and not receiving relief under the county program.

BakerRipley, a local nonprofit, will manage the fund. It currently administers a rental assistance program provided by the City of Houston and Harris County. The rental assistance program makes payments to participating landlords on behalf of eligible residents.

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Even with the rental assistance fund, Houston residents continue to deal with evictions and homelessness. The Eviction Lab, a project tracking eviction cases filed in 27 U.S. cities, reported 332 eviction filings had been recorded in Houston in the past week. Houston ranks third in eviction filings since March 15. 

People across the country continue to struggle without any indication of another round of COVID-19 relief passing any time soon. A small bipartisan coalition of senators led by Sens. Joe Manchin and Susan Collins announced a $908 billion COVID-19 relief package that would provide some assistance to individuals, small businesses, and state and local governments. 

Now in its tenth month, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread economic disruption worsening already tight financial conditions in many parts of the country. The Associated Press reported that McConnell announced a revised relief plan, primarily consisting of a plan rejected twice this fall.

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While it falls short of the HEROES Act passed by House Democrats in May, the bipartisan proposal offers more support than a plan proposal by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. As McConnell plays politics residents like those in Houston continue to scramble to make ends meet one month at a time. 

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