Smith County partners with PATH to distribute $7M federal rental, utility assistance grant

Smith County partners with PATH to distribute $7M federal rental, utility assistance grant
Smith County partners with PATH to distribute $7M federal rental, utility assistance grant (Source: Pexels.com)

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Smith County was granted more than $7 million in rental and utility assistance funding from the U.S. Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program aimed to help Smith County families who have been financially affected by COVID-19.

On Tuesday, March 2, the Smith County Commissioners Court approved an agreement with PATH (People Attempting to Help), to administer the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program for Smith County.

PATH will be responsible for tenant application processing while Smith County will be responsible for the funding. Smith County was granted $7,032,829, and will pay PATH 5 percent of those funds to help administer the program.

Smith County and PATH anticipate that the first payments could be made as soon as 45 days.

Qualifying applications must meet annual income limits, must have been impacted by COVID-19 and have housing instability. Applicants will be required to provide necessary documentation to PATH for eligibility.

According to guidelines, found at https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/cares/emergency-rental-assistance-program, an “eligible household” is defined as a renter household in which at least one or more individuals meets the following criteria:

  • Qualifies for unemployment or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19;
  • Demonstrates a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and
  • Has a household income at or below 80 percent of the area median.

“Smith County is excited to provide rental assistance to anyone financially affected by COVID-19, especially those facing eviction,” Smith County Commissioner JoAnn Hampton said. “We are also excited to partner with PATH to help us administer this program.”

Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said the county is not set up internally to administer grants of this nature, but PATH is. “That’s why we have strong partnerships with organizations like PATH,” he said, adding that Smith County will audit the transactions to keep track of how the money is being spent.

In the coming months, the ERA funds provided to PATH through Smith County will help prevent homelessness for hundreds of our Tyler and Smith County neighbors as they continue to experience job loss and financial setbacks due to COVID-19, Andrea Wilson, Executive Director of PATH, said.

“We are grateful that Judge Moran and the Commissioners Court trust PATH and our successful track record with emergency assistance to provide the support our community needs during this ongoing pandemic,” Ms. Wilson said. “In the past 12 months, we have seen a desperate need for financial resources among Tyler and Smith County residents. This critical funding will be a blessing to so many.”

Ms. Wilson said that PATH has a more than 20-year history of working to prevent evictions and helping families with their rent. She said PATH would get the word out to the community when they are ready to take applications for the funding.

“I am excited that we are partnering with someone like PATH and that we can get the funding out quickly,” Commissioner Neal Franklin said.

Ms. Wilson said the funds will be available to tenants for rental and utility assistance, as well as to landlords.

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