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Family struggles to pay rent as medical bills pile up

“I am not sitting with my hands crossed asking for help from people. I look for ways to bring in money to be able to provide and pay for my bills,” said Campos.
Credit: Roxana Campos

ARLINGTON, Texas — For more than a year, the family of Alejandro Velazquez has been struggling to make ends meet. 

In January 2020, just a few months before the coronavirus pandemic began in the United States, the father of four was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver.

“He worked two jobs when he was okay,” said Roxana Campos, his wife.

Velazquez worked as a chef for an American restaurant, but due to his medical condition, he has been unable to return to work.

“My biggest fear is to leave my family, the fear of death,” Velazquez explained in Spanish.

He now requires a liver transplant.

“I want to give him my liver,” said Alexis Velazquez, their 17-year-old son. But, Alexis will have to wait two months to know if he is a match due to his age. He will be 18 in October.

“Even if I am, I don’t even know how to get all the money to pay for a transplant,” Alexis explained.

The family has been focused on paying their rent, and Alexis is worried how they will afford to pay his father’s medical expenses.

Campos said in August she spoke to her landlord to get an extension. She was able to come up with rent money, but said every month is a struggle.

She has been unable to commit to a part-time job, due to emergency visits to the hospital for her husband. The mother of four has been selling food at the flea market, construction sites, and catering events to make ends meet.

Credit: Roxana Campos

“I am not sitting with my hands crossed, asking for help from people," Campos explained. "I look for ways to bring in money to be able to provide and pay for my bills."

Like many families, Campos was unsure she would qualify for federal renters’ assistance. She said she tried to fill out the form online, but without a computer at home, it was difficult and confusing.

Mindy Cochran with the Arlington Housing Authority said it is important for families to apply for renter’s assistance.

“If you think about a family that's struggling, and if you're putting just a little bit at a time towards your rent, just to stave off that eviction, if you can, something else isn't getting taken care of,” Cochran explained.

The city of Arlington was allotted $21 million through the CARES Act to provide funds for renters and landlords to avoid evictions. The city has dispersed a mere $1.5 million in assistance.

According to Cochran, the turnaround time for approval can range from one day to 160. She added that applications that take longer than 30 days are often due to missing documentation or because the applicant is not a resident of Arlington. Additional staff has been hired to help process applications. 

To reduce barriers that may deter individuals from applying, the Treasury Department updated their guidelines on required documentation in mid-August. One of those updates is that individuals can self-certify.

“So, we'll be still sure to be able to document the fact that the family meets the income limit, that they have a COVID-related financial impact, which is really an important thing,” said Cochran, adding that applications filed with her office are for Arlington residents only.

Individuals who do not meet the qualification for the CARES Act in Arlington can still qualify for other assistance programs.

Roxana said she began the application process this week and was able to get assistance at the Arlington Housing Authority. She is now waiting to hear if she will be approved.

If you want more information on money available for rental assistance, TEXT the word RENT to (214) 977-6028.