This week, the Harris County COVID-19 Relief Fund opened its application for aid to the public as part of its second phase of funding. The application, which was available online and over the phone, was inundated by tens of thousands of Harris County residents seeking assistance from the fund.
The total number of applications is currently being processed to de-duplicate submissions for those who might have submitted multiple applications. However, over the span of two days, the fund:
Hosted 1,898,555 sessions on its website (including visitors who visited the website multiple times)
- 178,562 of the sessions were conducted in Spanish
- 2,474 of the sessions were conducted in Vietnamese
- 1,973 of the sessions were conducted in Chinese
Assisted 24,136 people over the phone
- 8,103 call sessions in Spanish
- 16,033 call sessions in English
“The staggering number of applications we received only goes to show the immense magnitude of need across Harris County,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “It is clear that people are hurting, so we’re moving as quickly as possible to get these funds out the door.”
To ensure a fair process for all who applied, all applications will be put into a drawing and randomly selected. To reach those most vulnerable in the community, applicants from vulnerable census tracts, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index, will be prioritized to receive assistance, with those in the most vulnerable areas receiving up to a 50% increased chance of being selected. Those selected through the randomized process will be matched with a community-based organization that will then reach out within five business days to continue the application process.
Due to the high volume of applications received, the fund’s systems will need additional time to process, select, and match applicants with the appropriate community-based organization. Originally forecasted to be Friday, June 26, applicants will now be informed of their application status on Tuesday, June 30.
“We understand that urgency is critical as the need is great, and we’re committed to deploying this aid fairly and as quickly as possible so that it reaches those who need it most, “ said Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis. “As we’ve said from the very beginning, we won’t be able to help everyone but I’m proud that Harris County is trying to step up where others can’t or won’t.”
The 44 grantee community-based organizations, who received the fund’s first phase of funding on June 12, continue to serve individuals and families with whom they were already engaged with. As of today, a total of 2,381 households in Harris County have been served, or are in the process of being served.
“The massive number of applications received shows how many of our neighbors are struggling and need immediate help. This pandemic has devastated our national, state, and local economies, and we know the fund will not be sufficient to satisfy the full demand,” said Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia. “However, we are committed to working day and night to help as many people and businesses as possible. Additionally, I commend the Greater Houston Community Foundation for their remarkable job in administrating this program.”
To help these organizations focus on helping those they are already working to serve, the full list of community-based organizations will be shared with the public on Monday, June 29. The fund will continue to share updates about its first and second phases of funding on its website, www.harriscountyrelief.org.
Those who are still looking for assistance are encouraged to call 211 Texas/United Way helpline to find an organization in their geographic region. Individuals can also visit www.readyharris.org and www.harriscountyrelief.org/resources for more information and other options for available aid.