Hays County Judge seeks federal clemency for housing assistance, seeks help from 3 Texas congressmen


But at least one member of Congress denied the judge’s request, saying he had seen no evidence the county was working to improve the program.

Becerra released a letter he said he sent to Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett and Republican Reps. Chip Roy and Roger Williams on Feb. 7 asking for their help in “requesting an extension of time to properly allocate funding to our citizens.” .

The letter was sent to the three representatives and their chiefs of staff on Monday, the day after the Express-News published an article describing Hays County’s mismanagement of the Rental Assistance Program and public services in the COVID era. Becerra did not respond to several questions sent to him by the Express-News before the article was published.

The Hays County Emergency Rental Assistance Program launched in July 2021, seven months after the county first received a $6.9 million federal grant. The money was supposed to be distributed to eligible low-income citizens who needed help paying rent and utilities during the pandemic.

After unsuccessfully trying to hire an outside company to manage the project, the county hired an internal program manager and assigned two full-time and two part-time employees. The county has over 240,000 residents.

The county failed to meet the fund’s deadlines and spending requirements by the end of 2021, and the Treasury sent a letter to the county on Jan. 31 requesting nearly $800,000 from the original $6.9 grant. millions of dollars. The county has 10 days to return the money.

Former program director Wesley Matthews said he had little support from county officials and was unable to allocate funding properly. Matthews said he repeatedly requested staff, technology assistance and administrative training to help better manage the thousands of support requests that were coming in, but were blocked by county officials.

In his letter to members of Congress, Becerra squarely blamed Matthews for mishandling the program.

“Spending ratio shortcomings were a direct result of the program manager’s narrow approach to the administration of the (emergency rental assistance) program,” Becerra wrote.

Becerra said that since Matthews’ departure on January 7, county “volunteers” from other offices have stepped up to review and approve or deny applications. He wrote that “approximately 100” tickets — requests from people who met certain conditions to have their utilities or rent paid — were approved, totaling $265,000.

The county issued a new request for proposals for third-party management companies to take over the program.

Becerra ended the letter by asking the three representatives to inform “Treasury of our unique situation” and that Treasury may not take back the $800,000 from the program.

But in a scathing response letter Wednesday, Doggett criticized the county’s handling of the program and said it could not “formally approve your request for relief.”

In the letter, Doggett said he was “very concerned that the county has not provided prompt assistance to many families in need when they need it most.”

Doggett also said he was unable to determine whether the county had ever formally requested relief from the Treasury and, if so, where that documentation was located. He accused Becerra of not being “upcoming” with this information. He also demanded an explanation of how the county executed a program improvement plan that was approved by the Treasury in mid-December.

Representatives Roy and Williams did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Annie Blanks writes for the Express-News through Report for America, a national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms. ReportforAmerica.org. [email protected]


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