Butler County gearing up to distribute $11.4 million in rental aid: Who will it help?

Butler County is gearing up to launch a program to help residents who have fallen behind on their rent due to the coronavirus pandemic.

County Administrator Judi Boyko informed the commissioners this week the county will receive $11.4 million allocation of federal funds.

She told the Journal-News they will be reaching out to Supports to Encourage Low-income Families as a logical third-party administrator of the program, but others may also be involved.

“SELF is a likely provider that could administer this program because they have received previously similar funding and have a program currently in place,” Boyko said. “It’s a matter of is their current program scalable and are they equipped to handle much larger program similarly situated?”

SELF Executive Director Jeffrey Diver said the organization received $1.325 million in Home Relief grants from the state in November. It has helped 336 families, spending around $855,000.

Boyko said there are approximately 45,000 rental units countywide and recipients of the relief must be able to demonstrate their inability to pay their rent is due to COVID-19. Eligible renters must make below 80% of the area median income, which equates to earnings of around $45,000 for a family of two.

The new pot of money is part of the $900 billion federal omnibus bill passed in late December. Lawmakers set aside $25 billion to help renters who have struggled to meet their housing obligations during the coronavirus pandemic. The new funding doesn’t cover mortgages, but officials believe there will be money coming to help homeowners.

ExploreButler County commissioners apply for $11.4 million in rental assistance for residents

The county government is the only entity that can apply for the funding in Butler County because there is a 200,000 population threshold.

Commissioner T.C. Rogers told the Journal-News “we want to get this off the ground,” but with the amount of money involved, they need to be careful.

“Even though it’s federal it’s still public money and because of that it’s a huge responsibility,” Rogers said. “I think the intention was to have this out in a relatively short period of time, and we weren’t prepared for it so we need to move quick. This falls under the same guidelines this commission has always used and whatever dollars that come through the county coffers we’re not going to waste it.”

“SELF has the capacity to take this on, however we will be working with other community partners to make sure that the reach is to every corner of Butler County,” Diver said. “So we’re planning on reaching out to some other non-profits to make sure we get the word into the community and also have assistance in meeting the need we anticipate will be coming.”

The commissioners have also put some conditions on the program. They want assurance landlords won’t evict the people after they get their money or raise rent; they want to utilize wrap-around programs the county has to help people get back on their feet, and they want to make sure people understand this is short-term assistance.

“This is not going to be a program where you get your rent paid for a year,” Commissioner Don Dixon said. “This will get you current and give you a short window to get into workforce training and get a job.”

Diver said he doesn’t expect the need to abate anytime soon because there are still many people out of work, and since there was an eviction moratorium in place, unpaid housing bills have mounted. President Joe Biden just extended the eviction ban through March.

“We helped a couple individuals with emergency rent or mortgage assistance in the amount of over $10,000,” Diver said. “So this is life-changing assistance, if you imagine somebody who may have not paid their rent or their mortgage for this number of months and then end up owing $10,000 or more and then we’re able to help them.”

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