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Harris County Approves $30 Million Fund for Vulnerable Residents

Today, the Harris County Commissioners Court stepped into the leadership void left by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and President Trump, and voted to create a $30 million fund that will allow low-income residents reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic to get grants to help them pay for rent, utilities and other basic necessities. Harris County is now the first county in Texas to offer direct cash assistance in response to the pandemic.

“We know that there is a lot of need in Harris County,” said Celeste Arredondo-Peterson, director of TOP’s housing justice campaign. “In Houston, $15 million in rental assistance was exhausted in 90 minutes. And with the Texas Supreme Court allowing evictions to resume, this help is going to keep thousands of Harris County residents from homelessness.”

Instead of helping people stay safely at home, Gov. Abbott and President Trump have rushed to open the economy, which will expose countless more to a virus that has disproportionately impacted Black and Latino families.

Texas Organizing Project and other community groups lobbied for the funding because thousands of residents were left out of the federal stimulus package, including college students, poor people, undocumented people, citizens married to undocumented persons and others.

Jose Ayala, a TOP leader who is a nursing student at the University of Houston, advocated for the fund because the pandemic kept him and his family from working.

“My parents and I have not been able to work due to social distancing and the stay at home orders. We have lost our source of income and as a result, we might not be able to pay rent,” he said. “And I have heard many stories from some of my friends and people in my community about their concerns because they have spent all their savings on buying food and paying their rent in April.

“We thank County Judge Hidalgo and commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia for being so responsive to the pain of our families. This gives me hope that we can get through this.”

TOP successfully fought for a similar fund in San Antonio, and will continue agitating local governments to help residents who are at risk of homelessness, hunger and other devastating outcomes as a result of the pandemic shutdown.

“Abbott and Trump haven’t grasped that without healthy people, a healthy economy is not possible. We need sweeping measures from our federal and state governments to protect our most affected and vulnerable communities, including moratoriums on mortgages and rent, and cash assistance for people to stay home until the threat of this virus is gone,” said Michelle Tremillo, TOP’s executive director. “But until we can get Abbott and Trump to care about communities of color, we are grateful to have local governments that are responsive and ready to take action.”

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Texas Organizing Project organizes Black and Latino communities in Dallas, Harris and Bexar counties with the goal of transforming Texas into a state where working people of color have the power and representation they deserve. For more information, visit organizetexas.org.

This press release was sent out May 19, 2020.