News Release

Texas Access to Justice Foundation 
Aug. 25, 2021
 

Texas Access to Justice Foundation receives $20 million from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs to provide COVID-related housing legal services

AUSTIN, Texas––  The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF), the state’s largest funding source for civil legal aid, in partnership with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) today announced a $20 million Housing Stability Services (HSS) Program grant package for COVID-19-related housing legal services. The grant period for this assistance will run through August 30, 2022.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact hundreds of thousands of Texans unable to pay their rent or stay in their homes, these funds will allow TAJF grantees – legal aid organizations throughout the state - to provide free civil legal services to eligible households experiencing housing insecurity. The services include:

  • Offering housing stability clinics to assist COVID-impacted low-income households in applying for the Texas Rent Relief Program or Texas Eviction Diversion Program

  • Providing legal information and representation for low-income households in  COVID-related eviction proceedings in Justice of the Peace Courts and eviction appeals in County Courts

"We are so grateful to have received invaluable funding through the Housing Stability Services Program to help Texans still suffering in the fallout of the pandemic, especially for those dealing with the loss of their homes,” said Betty Balli Torres, executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation. “The need for legal services remains high, and this grant will allow our legal aid organizations to continue doing critical legal services to keep families in their homes.”

The funds are provided through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program from the U.S. Treasury Department, which was authorized under the Consolidated Appropriations Act in 2021. Under this grant, up to 10% of the funds will be used for Housing Stability Services, which includes legal services. These services may include: eviction defense, help accessing local and state rental assistance, and other legal services that keep Texans and their families in stable housing.

“The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs is proud to be partnering with the Texas Access to Justice Foundation to fund legal aid organizations providing on-the-ground legal support to tenants impacted by the pandemic,” said Bobby Wilkinson, Executive Director of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. “Making sure Texas tenants and landlords know their rights and how to access emergency rental assistance is critical to stopping evictions and keeping tenants housed as our communities recover from the pandemic.”

Requests for legal help by eligible Texans has increased by as much as 35%, most notably in cases involving evictions and employment issues as a result of quarantines causing record unemployment. The statewide legal aid website, TexasLawHelp.org, has seen a historic increase in searches for legal information, including an almost 1,500% increase in web traffic for unemployment help.

These funds are crucial as civil legal aid is a vital component of the public response to and recovery from the public health crisis. Legal aid is a safety net that keeps our fellow Texans from going over the edge; without it, they might never recover even when the economy improves.

To access legal help with COVID-related housing issues, visit: https://TexasLawHelp.org/eviction-information.

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation was created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984 to provide funding for the civil legal needs of poor and low-income Texans. The Foundation grants millions of dollars each year to approximately 40 organizations offering free civil legal assistance to qualified Texans. With TAJF grants, legal aid organizations advise more than 150,000 low-income Texans annually on such civil matters as protection from domestic violence, assistance with housing, and other critical legal issues. 

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The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (www.tajf.org), created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984, is the primary state-based funding source for the provision of civil legal aid in Texas. The organization is committed to the vision that all Texans will have equal access to justice, regardless of their income. The Foundation administers a variety of funding sources, which are earmarked to assist nonprofit organizations in providing legal aid to approximately 150,000 Texas families each year.

The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs is committed to expanding fair housing choice and opportunities for Texans through the administration and funding of affordable housing and homeownership opportunities, weatherization, and community-based services with the help of for-profits, nonprofits, and local governments. For more information about fair housing, funding opportunities, or services in your area, please visit www.tdhca.state.tx.us or the Learn about Fair Housing in Texas page. 

 


Kimberly Schmitt
512-320-0099, ext. 104
kschmitt@teajf.org

Kristina Tirloni, TDHCA

 kristina.tirloni@tdhca.state.tx.us

 

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