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Local housing authorities receive combined $124K in federal funds

Two housing authorities in Hidalgo County will now have monetary aid to continue to service tenants amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a Wednesday press conference, Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-28) announced $124,811 in federal funding to the Hidalgo County Housing Authority and the La Joya Housing Authority. The former received $108,144 and La Joya Housing Authority received $16,667. 

“It is critical that we ensure the safety of Americans living in public housing, as our nation continues to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” Congressman Cuellar said. “The health and safety of the American public is top of mind; these funds will provide both public housing authorities with the necessary resources to assist low-income families during these difficult times.”

These funds were awarded through the CARES Act and distributed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to be used to ensure that low income families have a decent, safe, and affordable place to live during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a news release, the monies can be used to purchase PPE and other COVID-19 related costs.

“This is part of the CARES Act relief package and we hope that when Congress reconvenes later this month, we see more relief,” Cuellar said.

Mike Lopez, executive director of the Hidalgo County Housing Authority, said his housing authority previously released similar aid monies that were used to purchase cleaning equipment.

“That was helpful but it’s limited money that doesn’t address some of the other issues we have,” Lopez said. “We have tenants who have lost their jobs and are struggling to keep up with rent. We’ve been working with them, evictions have been put on hold and we are encouraging our tenants to get tested for COVID if they have the symptoms.”

Last May, the La Joya Housing Authority received more than $42,000 from the CARES Act. Housing authority Director Ruben Villarreal said they used the money for many items such as upgrading the authority’s outdoor sign, purchasing cleaning supplies and investing in technology to fix the Wi-Fi services for tenants and schoolchildren working from home.

“I have a lot of single moms and families as tenants and we’re looking into working technology into the homes because we have a huge school district and kids studying from home. We’re trying to address that digital gap,” Villarreal said. “We can do it because we have CARES money but we hope more comes.”

Adding more complications for the housing authority was Hurricane Hanna which substantially damaged 90 percent of homes in the housing authority, Villarreal said. 

“We were facing this uphill battle with COVID and we got hit with Hurricane Hanna,” Villarreal said. “We were social distancing and only had our office open Monday through Wednesday but now we’re open every day of the week because we’re facing a surge of requests for repairs and are dealing with that. Hurricane Hanna rocked us bad. It will be a silver lining to use this money as we recover.” 

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