Butler County communities get $1.6M to help those in danger of losing homes

Butler County communities have received another infusion of federal cash to help residents who may be in danger of losing their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently released $1.9 billion in CARES Act funding, and Butler County, Hamilton and Middletown received $1.6 million to help residents with rent or mortgage payments. They have also received Community Development Block Grant funds, which can also help.

Butler County received the largest allocation with about $1 million, on top of $739,290 already received in CDBG funds for coronavirus relief. The county also received $3.3 million in CARES coronavirus relief money.

The federal CARES funding can only be used on direct expenses for battling the virus, like personal protective equipment. The communities must also spend the money by the end of the year.

Desmond Maaytah, community development manager for the county Development Department, said the CDBG funds are not similarly limited. He believes the only restrictions on the money are it must be used to help low and moderate income individuals through the pandemic.

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The deadline is also much more liberal. The county must use 80% of the money within three years of accepting the grant and the remainder within six years.

Wjen the Centers for Disease Control eviction ban lifts in January, housing help could be crucial, he said.

“We expect tremendous local needs to continue into next year as recovery from the COVID-19 virus,” Maaytah said. “With the CDC eviction moratorium expiring at year’s end, tenants will still be responsible for this rent. So we will be monitoring these issues closely so that we do not increase the homeless population in the County.”

The commissioners have already reallocated CDBG money from last year for housing help. They gave $75,000 to the Butler County Housing and Homeless Coalition to rehouse the homeless and keep them out of shelters.

Mindy Muller with the Coalition said it spent $44,000 and helped 74 households so far.

“We are currently primarily using the county’s allocation to pay for security deposits and first month’s rent as well as put people into temporary housing until they can move into a permanent place,” she said. “It’s worked beautifully.”

Hamilton will receive $342,322 in this latest fund allocation. Finance Director Dave Jones said it has allocated $405,817 for helping their residents with their rent and utilities, using local non-profits Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) and Supports to Encourage Low-Income Families (SELF) as conduits. He said the new money will be spent in the same way.

SELF Executive Director Jeffrey Diver said each of the non-profits received $125,000 and his agency is helping with utilities and NHS with rent and mortgage assistance.

The agencies just went live with the programs last week, SELF has had six requests for assistance and NHS a dozen.

He said this program is important because “the tsunami we were told to expect is here.” There was one week during this crisis in which they received 500 calls for assistance for many things, not just rent and utilities.

“This is a tremendous support for the families that are struggling due to the effects of the pandemic,” Diver said. “This is really going to mean, at least in the city of Hamilton, that you’ll have folks that will be able to stay in their homes with their utilities connected during this difficult period.”

He said they received a $103,000 Community Services Block Grant from CARES money earlier in the pandemic and helped 58 families, the rent cap was up to $800. There is no cap on the utility assistance.

Lorie DiStaola, executive director at Neighborhood Housing, said the rent and mortgage assistance is capped at up to $1,800, the resident must have proof they are in arrears and the inability to pay was caused by the pandemic. She estimated they can serve about 62 families with the money they already have and the payments go directly to the landlord or mortgage company.

The city of Middletown will receive $271,165 and Susan Cohen, director of Administrative Services, said they are still determining how best to apply the money.

“Our priorities remain in how to best help citizens with job loss and those facing homelessness during this time,” Cohen said. “I hope we will have a better answer on allocations this week or next, but right now we are determining how to best utilize the funds to address those concerns.”


HOW TO GET HELP

Hamilton residents who need help can call Neighborhood Housing Services at 513-737-9301 and SELF at 513-868-9300.

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