Butler County may tap into additional $9M in federal rental assistance

Supports to Encourage Low-income Families (SELF) is providing these fliers to the Butler County municipals courts to include in eviction notices. SELF is tasked with disbursing $11.4 million in COVID rental assistance.

Credit: Submitted

Combined ShapeCaption
Supports to Encourage Low-income Families (SELF) is providing these fliers to the Butler County municipals courts to include in eviction notices. SELF is tasked with disbursing $11.4 million in COVID rental assistance.

Credit: Submitted

Butler County has disbursed $8.2 million in federal COVID-19 relief, helping both renters and homeowners meet their housing and utility obligations during the pandemic, and officials are considering tapping into $9 million more.

As part of the $900 billion federal omnibus bill passed in late December, lawmakers set aside $25 billion to help renters who struggled to meet their housing and utility bill obligations. Butler County qualified for $11.4 million of the money. The federal government then announced a second wave of funding and the county has access to an additional $9 million.

The commissioners did not accept the second round of funding yet — they wanted to gauge the need first — but County Administrator Judi Boyko told the Journal-News they will discuss accepting the $9 million early next year. With about 200 pending applications, the program that was a little slow to start “has some momentum.”

“As long the qualified need continues to present itself then I believe the commissioners want to be able to provide this service to those who have a qualified need,” Boyko said. “That coupled with the fact the board concurs, we don’t know the long-term impact of this pandemic on Butler County’s economy, on its residents and their ability to be financially self sufficient. So the availability of this funding for qualified and responsible applications is a resource that is nice to know is available if needed.”

The commissioners enlisted the aid of Supports to Encourage Low-income Families (SELF) in March to manage the program. Executive Director Jeffrey Diver said they have used about $5.5 million of the money, helping 1,290 households meet their obligations and they have 193 pending applications “with more coming in every day.”

His agency has also doled out nearly $2.7 million from several other funding sources to 1,135 households, including homeowners — for help with mortgages and property taxes — and renters.

ExploreButler County still has $7.7M to help struggling renters

There are restrictions on the $11.4 million, recipients 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.

Diver said the first round of funding must be spent by next September, but the county would have until 2025 to use the second allocation.

“I would encourage the county to access those resources to help additional renters and their landlords,” Diver said. “There are a number of landlords that own a small number of properties that are also struggling because their tenants are struggling. So it’s helping both the tenant and the landlord to maintain their properties.”

The pandemic is not over, with new cases of the virus and its variants continuing to surface, there is still a need. SELF contracts with the county to manage the program but it is under the auspice of the county’s development department.

Development Director David Fehr said the county would not have to take the entire $9 million and the U.S. Treasury has started to “claw back” funds from communities that aren’t spending them.

His department is managing some other COVID-related programs and has had to do it without Desmond Maaytah, who left in the summer. The commissioners approved hiring Community Development Administrator Susan Ellerhorst — at an annual salary of $67,496 — to replace Maaytah on Monday. She starts Dec. 6.

The county received $1.78 million in Community Development Block Grant funds — separate from the usual CDBG federal allocations — that must be used to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. Fehr received 25 applications totaling $6.8 million and will be making recommendations to the commissioners soon. They also expect to receive $3 million in coronavirus HOME Investment Partnerships Program funding but haven’t started the application process, according to Fehr.

About the Author