Mona has had steady work for her entire life. The pandemic changed that. The protections put in place by the government should work for her by the letter. But what happened was a completely different story.
My name is Ramona and I am a 57-year-old woman in marketing who was laid off due to COVID-19. I understand the stigma of asking for help, especially in the state of Texas, but times are tough, so I had to live on unemployment for over a year while taking odd jobs with services like Instacart and UberEats. I submitted a CDC declaration to my landlord in Sept 2020 and again in March 2021, applied for rental relief, and notified her that I qualified for federal assistance, but she refused to participate in the Eviction Diversion Program. Unfortunately, my CDC declaration was ignored in court and I was evicted from my apartment on March 31, 2021. Let me tell you: those odd jobs are not easy, and it was frustrating to know how hard people work to put food in their mouths and still risk eviction.
However, on April 2, 2021, a Texas Rent Relief Program representative informed me that I was approved for 6 months rent, which was sent to my landlord. I notified the representative that I had been evicted. She said that since I no longer occupy the unit, the landlord has to return the funds or it would be fraud. I was devastated to learn that I would not receive any of the money because I still owe the landlord $3000+ due to my eviction judgement, not to mention the money needed for application fees and deposit on a new apartment.
All of my belongings are in storage and I am now staying with a friend, who is being put at risk of catching and spreading COVID-19. Feeling desperate and hopeless, I contacted the administrators of Texas Rent Relief to ask why they were not awarding rental relief to people that had been evicted, and they informed me that my landlord had filed an application for Texas Eviction Diversion Program for my unit six days after the court date which determined my eviction date. I received this information with complete shock, because at that time, I had already removed my belongings from the unit and the property manager had this information. Right now, I am in the process of trying to understand if this might be a case of fraud, since someone in the apartment building applied for rent relief for my unit and person after they already filed an eviction suit against me.
Isn’t the point of rental assistance to keep people from being homeless and stopping the spread of COVID? A landlord disregards the eviction moratorium and the tenant loses the funding? How can this be? I hope you understand the impact and failure of the system. I am sure there must be many others in my situation.