Paying the Rent: Stimulus checks are helping tenants

HARLINGEN — Like Debra Torres, many apartment managers have been counting on tenants to use their stimulus checks to pay their rent amid a crisis in which hundreds of workers here have lost their jobs.

In Harlingen, at least 382 employees lost their jobs after more than 47 businesses stopped operations and 75 others suffered “economic injury” as a result of the business shutdown stemming from federal guidelines and state and local orders aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, according to a survey conducted by the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

Last month, the federal government sent Americans $1,200 stimulus checks to help them offset income losses.

Across the country, the federal money is helping millions pay their rent.

Meanwhile, many property managers are waiving late fees, giving tenants time to make the rent.

“I think the stimulus check helped a lot of people,” Marcus Phipps, the president of the Harlingen Board of Realtors who owns Harlingen Homes, which manages about 50 properties, said Tuesday. “It’s definitely helped our tenants in the last month.”

May rent tougher to make?

But some property managers believe tenants might have more trouble paying May’s rent.

“A lot of people predict a trickle-down effect, with more tenants impacted in May,” said Keith Cox, operations director at Mason & Company, which manages about 600 properties.

“We understand there were great delays in getting unemployment checks and stimulus relief checks,” he said. “We’re working with the tenants.”

Meanwhile, the stimulus bill, or CARES Act, also imposes a temporary moratorium on evictions.

“We’re not allowed to evict anyone for 60 days — it doesn’t mean they don’t have to pay the money. It doesn’t mean they get a free ride,” Cox said.

“We’re very positive there won’t be very many,” he said, referring to tenants who can’t pay their rent.

Stimulus checks help tenants pay rent

At Park Place apartments, Torres said some of her tenants are waiting on their stimulus checks to pay May’s rent.

“ It’s kind of scary,” Torres, a manager, said. “I have at least 10 people who are not sure if they’re going back to work and waiting for stimulus checks.”

Torres said she’s asking some tenants to apply for unemployment benefits.

“ A lot of people were coming in saying this is what’s going on,” she said, referring to the economic crisis. “I’m totally understanding. I encourage them to apply for unemployment.”

At Northridge Apartments, Manager Jay Garcia said some tenants who lost income are using their stimulus checks to make the rent.

“ It’s trickling in pretty good,” he said of May’s rent. “We expected this month to slow down. It’s a little bit slower than usual. We waived late fees and gave them a little more time to make payments. Everyone else got reduced hours but were able to make payments. A bunch of them (used) stimulus checks.”

Some tenants used their stimulus checks to get loans and borrow money to pay the rent, Victoria Delagarza, manager of the Skyline, Los Amigos and Madrid apartments, said.

Meanwhile, she said, some of her tenants are apparently going back to work.

“ I thought I was going to get a rush of people moving out and not being able to pay but somehow they’ve been able to make rent,” she said. “The stimulus checks helped. I might have 10 struggling around. A lot of these people did not work. Once they got their stimulus checks they were able to get loans or borrow money. Some said by the end of the April they were able to go back (to work).”

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