County to offer rent and utility bill assistance

The Franklin County commissioners voted to approve contracts worth $2.5 million with Impact Community Action and the Community Shelter Board to provide immediate rental and utility assistance for Franklin County families that are struggling in the pandemic economy. The funding is part of $13 million approved for Franklin County by Congress at the end of 2020, and should support nearly 800 individuals or families who have been hurt by the pandemic and are having trouble paying their rent or utility bills.

“People all over the country have been struggling for almost a year, not only with COVID-19, but with the economic effects of the pandemic,” said board of commissioners president, Kevin Boyce. “It feels like we’ve been dealing with this for a long time, but the long-term economic effects of this crisis are just getting started, and it’s vital that we get assistance into the hands of the people who need it while their troubles are still manageable.”

The two partner agencies will administer the programs separately, but are both expected to begin taking applications almost immediately. Eligibility will be based on income and applicants must be able to demonstrate that their income level has been harmed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The assistance is expected to also aid landlords.

“Residents throughout Franklin County really need this assistance and we’re working with trusted community partners to help our neighbors in need,” said commissioner Marilyn Brown. “We remain committed to helping residents stay safe through this pandemic, and that starts with everyone having a safe place to call home.”

In addition to the direct support for renters, Impact Community Action will be heading a coalition of 16 partner organizations to take on the eviction crisis in general. Both Impact Community Action and the Community Shelter Board are long-time partners of the board of commissioners. Their work and previous federal assistance for rent and utilities helped to keep the number of evictions in central Ohio at relatively low levels throughout 2020.

Unemployment remains high, however, and SNAP food assistance applications and Medicaid caseloads are up. Without additional support, many Franklin County families will be without a roof over their heads, which has secondary effects such as making it tougher to keep a job or attend school regularly.

“Franklin County families are struggling, through no fault of their own, to meet the basic household needs of rent, food, and utilities. This immediate dispersal of funds is meant to help stabilize families in the short-term so that they will be able to get themselves back on track for the long-run,” said commissioner John O’Grady.

The commissioners and their staff will be working over the next two months to finalize plans for the rest of this $10.5 million in federal funding.

To apply for rental or utility assistance or for more information, residents may visit beginning on March 8, or call 614-274-7000 to reach the Community Shelter Board.

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