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Renters battling eviction as Jefferson County leaders face deadline to spend rent assistance funds

It's money that's supposed to help Jefferson County renters who are facing eviction, but it's not being distributed fast enough.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Texas — A new deadline is looming for the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission before more money will be taken back by the federal government.

It's money that's supposed to help Jefferson County renters who are facing eviction, but as we first told you last week, it's not being distributed fast enough.

RELATED: Community activists calling for change after county forced to return federal funds not given to renters in need

Janice Semien reached out to a community activist about her rent issue after she saw our story last week.

She said she's grateful to have had these resources to help her through this.

 "I’m going home and rest. That's what I'm going to do,” said Semien.

Most people wouldn't be so excited about going home, but Semien almost didn't have that luxury.

"Nerved up, worried, don't know where to know, don't know if I'm going to be on the streets,” Semien said.

Semien is one of almost 2,000 Southeast Texas families who applied for rental assistance with regional planning since they received federal funds in 2021.

Jefferson County received $7.6 million from the federal government to help low-income residents.

Community leaders have criticized the slow rollout, which led to $1.6 million being reallocated by the federal government.

Now, there's a new deadline.

Jefferson County has until next Thursday, March 31 to use the remainder of the money or the government will reallocate that as well.

That could mean another $1.5 million taken back, bringing the total to $3.1 million or 40 percent of the original $7.6 million.

Housing advocates like Texas Housers are urging counties in danger of reallocation, like Jefferson County, to voluntarily reallocate their money to Texas Rent Relief, so the money stays in Texas.

Sara Torres-Garcia, operations manager with the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission, said that's not something they're considering.

"We're just pushing forward to get all that money spent here in Southeast Texas," Torres-Garcia said.

Back in court, Semien is just happy to be able to go home.

"Something can be done for more renters. I just, I’m just so happy. I'm so blessed," Seimen said.

A landlord who wanted to remain anonymous told 12News she's helped several residents apply for these funds and the process is frustrating. It can take up to four months for applicants to be approved.

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