By\u00a0Allyson Waller\r\nA state eviction diversion program launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended, according to a new emergency order from the Texas Supreme Court released on Monday.\r\nThe diversion program was set to expire on July 27. The\u00a0new order\u00a0extends it until Oct. 1.\r\nIn September, Gov.\u00a0Greg Abbott\u00a0announced the creation of the Texas Eviction Diversion Program and said the state would use $171 million in federal CARES Act funding for rental assistance and legal services for Texans facing eviction. The program originally included 19 counties before expanding statewide in February.\r\nThe voluntary program created an alternative to evictions when both tenants and landlords agree to participate, offering up to 15 months of rental and utility assistance for tenants. Once tenants and their landlords agree in court to pursue state assistance, eviction proceedings can be delayed for up to 60 days.\r\nIf the application is approved, the tenant can remain in their home and the landlord will receive lump-sum payments for past-due rent and late fees; at that point, the eviction case is dismissed and doesn\u2019t become a public record. But landlords can decide at any time during the 60-day period to restart the eviction process.\r\nMonday\u2019s order also allows a judge to postpone the eviction for 60 days if a landlord has a pending application for the program on behalf of a tenant or if both parties say they\u2019re interested in participating.\r\nTo be eligible for the diversion program, tenants must have an active eviction case and a household income either at or below 80% of the median income in their area. In February, the state introduced a $1.3 billion statewide rent relief program that also aids tenants with rental assistance to prevent housing instability or potential eviction. A portion of that money also helps to fund the eviction diversion program.\r\nSo far, the state\u2019s rent relief program has assisted more than 80,000 households, including more than 10,000 households that have received more than $90 million in assistance through the eviction diversion program, according to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.\r\nFred Fuchs, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, said that although he has seen the statewide rent relief program make a difference in clients\u2019 lives, evictions are still a worry because a federal eviction moratorium is set to expire on July 31. State orders that helped to enforce the federal moratorium expired at the end of March.\r\n\u201cI think it\u2019s inevitable [evictions are] going to rise,\u201d Fuchs said. \u201cI hope I\u2019m wrong, but I see an increase in evictions.\u201d\r\nThis story originally published by the Texas Tribune.