Congress has given about $ 560 million to Ohio to give to tenants behind rent because of COVID-19. But thanks to understaffing, bureaucracy and other factors, the state is struggling to get that money out and risks losing $ 104 million of it.
If you are behind with the rent due to COVID-19 and you want to take advantage before it happens, you can see here how to apply for the money.
First, make sure you are eligible for the help. Households must fall below 80% of an area’s median income level. For a family of four, this amount is less than $ 67,050 in the Columbus area, less than $ 64,100 in Akron and less than $ 68,300 in the Cincinnati metro area.
An applicant must qualify for unemployment or have experienced financial difficulties due to COVID-19. One must be able to demonstrate that they are at risk of becoming homeless. The subsidies can cover up to 15 months’ rent and utilities accrued between March 2020 and September 2022.
Then you should search for your local action agency. These agencies are the ones responsible for distributing this money and there is usually one per. amt. You can find them here or a folder here with contact information.
Each agency has their own specific way of getting help. Some offer online options; others do not. Make sure you understand what your agency requires and that you have all your necessary paperwork ready.
It can be difficult, especially if you are in less than ideal circumstances, to navigate all the administrative work. Reach out to organizations that provide free legal assistance to tenants such as the Legal Aid Society, which has organizations across the state, including Columbus and Cincinnati.
Tell your landlord that you have applied for rental assistance. In many cases, agencies may need to contact the landlord to verify or obtain approval and information, such as how much money to allocate. A heads up can greatly smooth the process.
Then just wait. Keep in mind that local action bodies in many areas face staffing issues, requests are numerous, and a lot of paperwork is involved. Processed applications can sometimes take anywhere from one to two months.
The Ohio Department of Development has also said it is working on an online, centralized platform where anyone in the state can apply for rental assistance money. Watch out for its website.
Titus Wu is a Reporter for the United States TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal, and 18 other affiliated news organizations throughout Ohio.