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The Smith County Commissioners Court approved the Emergency Rental Assistance Program on Tuesday and an amended agreement with PATH to administer the program for Smith County.

In the past months, Smith County received a budget of over $7 million through the United States Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance Program to provide rental assistance to county residents.

Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said PATH was chosen out of other possible entities to administer the grant because the county already had a trusted relationship with PATH and they are already one of the agencies they support yearly.

“They already administer similar type grants, though this is going to require a ramp up of the number of individuals … to make sure this happens appropriately,” Moran said.

Andrea Wilson, PATH executive director, said PATH has a history of over 20 years helping families prevent evictions.

In a packet presented to the court, documentation proved PATH has had no compliance issues as they’ve helped families.

Moran said to be sure that dollars do not get wasted in the funding, the court presented PATH with a lengthy amended agreement.

“Whatever grants funnel through the county, out to PATH, to individuals, landlords and tenants, to be able to pay for this rental assistance, that we keep very detailed county records, so that we can audit that and be sure that the money went where it went,” Moran said.

“That’s why you have a very long amendment to the interlocal agreement, to set forth what we expect from PATH, the documentation we expect from PATH and how we want to benefit our citizens through this program,” said Moran.

Wilson thanked the court for the opportunity to help get the much needed funds to families who are facing eviction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are astringent guidelines given to the county from the federal government on how to spend the funds. By September, Smith County must have spent 65% of the funds given, which was another reason the county chose PATH to help disburse the funds.

By December, the federal government will draw back the funds if not already spent.

Without PATH, it would take up to two months for the county to bid out the administration of the program.

As part of the administrative services PATH is providing, they will have a compensation based on 5% of the total amount of the $7 million, which is about $351,000. The organization will receive $70,000 up front and the rest is to be disbursed overtime based on the services PATH provides.

“Just as a reminder, just because we passed this today doesn’t mean the program starts tomorrow. It was mentioned, but I want to reaffirm it’s going to take about 45 days for PATH to stand up the personnel and the systems and the processes for this particular program on top of what they’re already doing, so look for information directly from PATH,” said Moran.

The city of Tyler will work with PATH to provide an announcement when the program has been implemented.

The court officials also approved a grant application to the Texas Department of Transportation for a federal grant fund to provide transportation serving the elderly and individuals with disabilities in Smith County.

“We’ve been running this grant program for some years now. It is a great benefit to the disabled and elderly and was a particular benefit, especially during the winter weather event, when a number of those individuals needed transportation through a safe means to get them somewhere warm and safe when electricity and water were out and when they needed the ability to use electricity for in particular, oxygen machines,” Moran said.

The commissioners court also participated in a workshop which included a presentation from outside consultants and professionals regarding upgrading the Smith County Courthouse and the planning project. The workshop discussion regarded ongoing potential county operational projects and goals for 2021 to 2022.