Austin's eviction prevention program bailed out by County

Furniture piled up on a curb is a sign of a possible eviction. All too often, the people who once owned that property, also end up on the streets. That was about to happen to 23 families in Austin. 

But Tuesday morning, Travis County Commissioners bought those families some time with an $80,000 emergency expenditure. Commissioner Brigid Shea spoke to FOX 7 about the decision to help.

"So what we're doing is stepping up and helping the city, in particular helping 23 families who qualify. They're eligible, they meet the requirements, but the cities run out of money. So the county is stepping in, and we're helping to keep these families from becoming homeless," said Shea.

Commissioners were told the process to get new city funding was expected to take several months. So federal rescue plan money, from the county, was used as a stop gap. 

Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid and the Austin Tenants Council are distributing the $80,000. The 23 families were already enrolled in the program, but had been left in limbo.

Rental assistance programs across the Austin metro were ramped up during the pandemic. About $21 million in rent has been provided since the COVID outbreak, according to commissioner Shea. She believes the expenditures save money.

"Once a family becomes homeless, it's a much larger problem and the taxpayers end up paying much more money for families once they become homeless. So it's a much smarter, better use of public dollars to help keep people in their homes and keep them stable. I don't think anybody thinks it's good for society to have homeless families all over our city. We've seen how well that worked," said Shea.

A new budget request to the county is expected to help fully replenish the program. But that process is also expected to take several months to complete.