CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — During the pandemic, for many, relief of any sort is a blessing, especially for people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.
And that leads to a trickle down effect. How do I pay the rent? The bills?
A local woman, Teresa Alaniz, is earning her doctorate degree in educational leadership from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. She was laid off from her job at the school in December as part of a reduction in force.
Now Alaniz has lived at the same address more than 15 years and has never been late on her rent, so in February, she applied for rental assistance through a new rental assistance program from the federal government called Texas Rent Relief. They told her she qualified in July, and was expected to receive a check for a little more than $7,000 from them. They sent the check, but not to Alaniz. That's when she says her problems really began, and why she called the Troubleshooters for help.
"Those funds were sent to someone else by the name of Eric Williams in Edmond, Texas. He approved that I was his tenant, which I am not. And he cashed the check."
We asked her, "who is Eric Williams as far as you know?"
"I have no clue," she replied.
Alaniz pays her rent to the Rental Management Company on the Island. Jennifer Meyer works for that company.
Once she heard about this situation, she began her own investigation, which led to a conversation with Eric Williams.
"He did confirm that he received the direct deposit 'cause that was going into his personal account," said Meyer.
Meyer confirmed for the Troubleshooters that Eric Williams is actually a client of the management company.
They manage a property he owns in the Coastal Bend.
So we asked Meyer what Williams ended up doing with the check.
"He mailed the check back to Texas Rent Relief. According to them, they haven't received it yet."
Meyer says the rental management company is listed a contact for Eric Williams because they also manage another property for him, and that may be how and why this confusion began. She recalled a recent conversation with Texas Rent Relief.
"They told me, we removed her. He's off. She's off. This is not going to be a problem."
So how did this transaction go off the rails?
Meyer and the Troubleshooters shared stories about countless dead-ends when trying to get information from Texas Rent Relief. We reached out to the the agency repeatedly for comment on this story, and were told they couldn't share any information on this case with us due to privacy issues.
"I know it's a new program, but they just don't seem to have it together," Meyer added.
So what does this all mean for Teresa Alaniz?
Both she and Meyer tell the us that Texas Rent Relief told them Alaniz will get some relief after all, just not the original amount.
In the meantime, Alaniz has applied for the city's rental assistance program, and is waiting to find out if she qualifies.