Tenants in Hamilton County facing hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic can get help with rent payments via three organizations receiving $3.5 million in federal CARES Act funds, county commissioners announced today.
The aid comes as Ohio sees historic swells in unemployment and underemployment related to business closures necessitated by the pandemic.
The Hamilton County CARES Rent and Utility Relief Program will be provided to families making up to 80% of the region's area median income and needing short-term rent assistance if they can document lost income due to the pandemic.
The county's Community Action Agency, The Freestore Foodbank and Talbert House were awarded contracts to administer the program via a competitive bid process.
The goal is to help at least 1,200 households through the program, commissioners say. Families can receive up to three months' rent totaling up to $2,500.
“So many in Hamilton County are struggling right now to pay their rent and utilities due to lost income from COVID-19,” Commission President Denise Driehaus said in a statement. “This assistance will allow families to stay in their homes and avoid eviction.”
Ohio's unemployment rate was roughly 11% in June. That's lower than the state's pandemic peak of 14% in May, but still vastly higher than the 4% reported in June 2019. With those job losses comes an inability to pay rent for many in the state — a situation that could be exacerbated soon by the expiration of federal unemployment aid of $600 a week.
A survey by the U.S. Census Bureau released last week suggested that roughly 537,000 Ohioans were concerned about making next month's rent payment.
Commissioners hope to stem a potential flood of evictions with the rental assistance, which they're drawing from the $142 million in funds county officials have set aside to address fallout from the pandemic. County commissioners have set aside $5 million of that money for eviction prevention; $1.5 million of that money will go toward other eviction prevention programs.
“The funding provided by Hamilton County will expand CAA’s ability to help those affected by COVID-19," Community Action Agency President and CEO Mark Lawson said in a statement. "At our Agency, we have seen a large increase in the number of requests for assistance due to the pandemic. These funds will ensure that we can continue to meet people where they are and provide them with the support needed during this time."
To be eligible, a single person must make less than $48,350 a year — 80% of the area median income as measured by the federal government. A family of four would need to make less than $69,050.
To apply, Hamilton County renters can contact: