Lufkin, TX: For nearly a year, COVID-19 has unleashed massive devastation on Texans. On top of that, the recent extreme cold weather – the most frigid the state has seen in nearly a century – has more and more people finding themselves in great need of assistance.
The T.L.L. Temple Foundation has provided $200,000 in rent and utility relief to the East Texas region through its COVID-19 Recovery Grants Program. Today, even more assistance is available to Texans through the Texas Rent Relief Program, a new government program created to help people pay current and past due rent and utility bills.
“With current economic conditions, we know many East Texans are struggling with paying bills,” commented foundation president and CEO Wynn Rosser, Ph.D. “The state’s new Texas Rent Relief Program could provide relief for eligible households. We encourage landlords and renters to take a look at the program.”
The $1.3 billion dollar Texas Rent Relief Program can help renters with costs starting as far back as March 13, 2020. Allocated to Texas through the most recent federal COVID-19 stimulus bill and administered by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA), the program offers assistance to households with incomes at or below 80% of the Area Median Income to help cover past-due, current or future rent up to 15 months. Applications are now being accepted and may be filed online at TexasRentRelief or may also be filed over the phone at 833-989-7368 for those without internet access.
In July of 2020, the T.L.L. Temple Foundation invited grant proposals from multiple organizations that work with individual residents to assist with rent and/or utility payments. As part of the foundation’s Recovery Grants Program, this funding was intended to support the work of organizations serving communities and families in the foundation’s service area of rural East Texas who had been affected by the many challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the organizations that were funded for rent and utility assistance operate a variety of other grants that come from federal, state, and local sources. The federal utility and rental assistance grants come with strict income eligibility requirements leaving those living on the edge of poverty disqualified from assistance and at risk of falling even further into financial trouble. Funding from the foundation was more flexible than the government funding and allowed organizations to serve families that would, otherwise, have been excluded.
Karen Swenson, executive director of the Greater East Texas Community Action Program (GETCAP), received rental and utility assistance funding from the foundation last fall. “GETCAP is helping a lot of households with rent. This funding is very special and truly makes all the difference. We hate telling people they don’t meet the guidelines when they are desperate. Foundation funding means we don’t have to say that,” said Swenson.
The T. L. L. Temple Foundation was established in 1962 by Georgie Temple Munz with an initial gift of 1,000 shares of Southern Pine Lumber Company stock worth $56,000. The foundation is named in memory and honor of her father, Thomas Lewis Latané Temple, who formed Southern Pine Lumber Company (later Temple Inland Inc.) in 1893. Since its founding, the T.L.L. Temple Foundation has invested more than $440 million, primarily to strengthen families and communities in Deep East Texas and to alleviate poverty, creating access and opportunities for all.