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Collin County residents can now receive up to six months of housing and utility assistance from the county’s Emergency Housing and Living Assistance (EHLA) Program.

The Collin County Commissioners Court voted Monday to expand the maximum time period residents can receive housing and utility assistance through the program from four months to six months.

The program, using funds from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, offers to cover rental, mortgage and utility assistance for expenses from after March 1. The program also offers food assistance.

County documentation has been updated to state that for housing and utility assistance, the program awards a maximum of $2,500 per month not to exceed six months of assistance, or $10,000 total, whichever is less.

In addition, the commissioners court voted to lower the minimum household income loss requirement for receiving aid through the program from 25% to 15%. Income losses must still be as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are seeing people come through that might miss the cutoff,” Erin Jones, city of Allen senior planner, told commissioners. “They might come in at 21%, and we have to deny them. They might even be considered low-income for (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) standards, but because they haven’t had the 25% loss, we can’t help them.”

A staff report to commissioners stated that there are limited Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funded programs that can give aid to some of those residents. But options are limited for those who live outside of Allen, Plano, McKinney or Frisco, the report stated.

“If they fall outside of that, there’s really nothing else we can do to help them,” Jones said. “So that has been a recurring theme that we think this change will help eliminate.”

The commissioners court voted unanimously to approve the changes. Other eligibility requirements, including that residents have a documented income that doesn’t go over 200% of the area medium income, still apply.

“Reducing the percentage of income loss and extending payments for six months will allow Collin CARES to serve more Collin County residents for longer and expend funds in a more expedited manner to meet the Dec. 31, 2020 funding deadline,” the report stated.

In addition, the commissioners court elected to amend eligibility requirements to its small business grant program, which uses CARES Act funds to assist small businesses in covering expenses in the wake of the pandemic.

The court voted unanimously to approve making healthcare providers, attorneys and hotels eligible entities for the program with the disqualification of hotels that have received residential aid on behalf of residents.

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