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Commissioners make progress with ERA program

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The Hays County Commissioners Court approved the specifications for an Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program - Program Manager during Tuesday's meeting. 

The ERA program was implemented to help Hays County residents with rental, utility and late fee assistance. The program assists applicants who have had difficulty paying rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic and who meet the program criteria.

Prior to the court’s conversation, those enrolled and involved with the program expressed the significance of it and the need for a manager. 

“Hire a manager with data collection experience to lead the ERA office within the next two weeks, before the end of January, the first of February,” said Meagan Barber, Peer Support Specialist for the H.O.M.E. Center. “Hire more qualified people to process applications correctly and quickly. Open the door to the ERA office and have a staff person to assist walk-ins because there are folks in our program as well as the wider community who do not have access to technology that we take for granted.” 

The commissioners ultimately voted in favor of the item, moving it forward in hopes of bettering the program. 

“On the rental assistance program, I know we heard from a lot of people today who are directly impacted by it. I’m excited we’re moving forward with an additional RFP on getting a program manager,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Walt Smith said. “The fact is that we are at a point where I don’t want to see any of those additional dollars go back to the federal government and we have to have a workable program, it’s obvious that it’s not working.” 

Smith further mentioned that he looked forward to working with Precinct 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales-Ingalsbe to find the right person for the job and to assist those not only in San Marcos but throughout the county. 

During the meeting, the court adopted a proclamation to declare January as National Crime Stoppers Month. 

Hays County has one of the original seven Texas Crime Stoppers organizations that was first established throughout the state in 1981. 

“For 41 years Hays County Crime Stoppers has served the community of Hays County. Its goal is to empower the citizens, they empower them to step up, speak out and fight crime anonymously,” said Sgt. Jeff Jordan, Hays County Sheriff's Office.

The court also recognized the County Clerk's Office for receiving the Five Star Exemplary Award from the Texas Department of State Health Services - Vital Statistics Section.

The award was given based on various criteria including the knowledge of the team, how fast they can record documents within 24 hours, completion rates and an assessment of the procedures and training. 

“I’m very, very, very proud of them for winning this and the thing is the exemplary award means that we have 100% on the criteria so, I’m super proud of them,” Hays County Clerk Elaine Cárdenas said. 

The court also went on to approve the Joint Election Resolution for the conduct of the Joint Primary Election being held by the Republican Party and Democratic Party on March 1, 2022.

Hays County Election Administrator Jennifer Anderson spoke to the court following the reading of the proclamation. Commissioner Smith brought up concerns regarding staffing. 

“I don’t want to discourage anyone whether, no matter who you are. I'm sure that somewhere in our county we can find a place for you if you want to volunteer to work an election, we can train you and we can find a spot to put you,” Smith said. 

The commissioners also approved the authorization of the County Judge to use his Community Program Expense for the Dunbar Heritage Association in the amount of $500.

The court also approved the execution of a resolution and submission of a grant application to the Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division, Justice Assistance Grant Program. This will contribute to the continuation of the Hays County Mental Health Crisis Intervention program in the amount of $58,405.90.

A discussion was held by the court to create an RFQ to bring broadband to rural parts of Hays County using the American Rescue Plan Act, State, and/or Build Back Better Funds.

Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra wanted to know what steps would need to be taken to move along with this project. Commissioner Smith explained that he and Precinct 3 Commissioner Lon Shell have taken the first step by bringing forth a grant request to identify “black areas” or “black holes” where there is a lack of broadband service. Following the study, the court would be updated on what areas would need services. 

“I don’t want a whole year to go by and we’ve not done anything and we’ve all got the concern we all have the interest and my goal is to push it forward some more so that’s why I wanted to bring it to the court and offer some conversation around it right here where it belongs, where it’s supposed to be,” Becerra said. 

No action was taken but the court did agree to continue with the project and Becerra mentioned that he would get with IT to create the RFQ and move along the process. 

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666