Almost as soon as Dallas began taking applications for its COVID-19 rental assistance program, the $13.7 million allocated was already spent. About 10,000 residents made it through an initial screening in early May when the program went live, according to the city. About 1,500 received some help, and more than 6,000 proved eligible but are still waiting for funding that might not come.
That the cash went quickly didn't come as a shock. Where it ended up going, at least for a few council members, was more of a surprise.
Of the money that's been distributed by the program so far, 44%, according to the city, has gone to residents in Council Districts 9, 11 and 14. Those districts are made up in large part by some of the city's wealthiest neighborhoods, including downtown, Uptown, Lakewood, East Dallas and North Dallas. Council District 2, which contains portions of downtown and Oak Lawn, has received 18% of the money distributed so far.
Districts 3, 4, 7 and 8 — all in southern Dallas — saw their residents receive just 20% of the money, combined. District 5, the biggest part of which is Pleasant Grove, received none of the funding.
District 5 council member Jaime Resendez pushed staff on how the city had promoted the program. His residents, he suggested, simply hadn't known to apply for it.
"I know there's need out here," Resendez said.
David Noguera, the city's director of Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization, said that the process by which the city took applications could have contributed to Pleasant Grove not getting cut in. The money was distributed first come, first served.
"It gives everyone an equal opportunity to apply. At the same time, it doesn’t necessarily ensure that the funds are provided in the most equitable manner," Noguera said.
Lee Kleinman, who represents District 11, said he was pleased that his district got help, but couldn't figure out how Resendez's didn't.
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"I'm just shocked about District 5," Kleinman said, "because I've gotta believe there's a lot of potential to deploy funds there."
Catherine Cuellar, a city spokeswoman, told KXAS after the meeting that some hoping to get relief from the program didn't get it because of restrictions on how federal money used to fund some of the program could be used.
“The first program launched in May required that every person in the household had to be a U.S. citizen,” Cuellar said.
The city gave three nonprofit groups — the United Way, Jubilee Park and Community Center and the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas — a cut of the money allocated to the program. Those who've missed out so far may be able to get some of that assistance, Cuellar said.