Owensboro city funds earmarked to assist people behind on their rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic have been depleted.
Gov. Andy Beshear announced Wednesday that the state’s “Healthy at Home Eviction Relief Fund” will stop taking applications immediately.
Although those funds are gone, area public service agencies still have resources to help people facing possible eviction, or who are behind on their utility payments.
People behind on their rent, and landlords not being paid, is expected to be a major issue in Kentucky. Last week, the executive director for the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky said 40 to 42% of renters in Kentucky will be a risk of eviction in the coming months.
The Healthy At Home Eviction Relief Fund had $15 million dollars in its coffers, and began taking applications on Sept. 8.
According to Beshear, the state received more than 5,300 applications for help, and that 3,709 had all the necessary documents to qualify.
Helping those 3,709 applicants will eat up with $15 million available, Beshear said.
“We will be closing the application portal,” Beshear said at his Wednesday news conference. The state could resume taking applications “if more funds become available,” he said.
The City of Owensboro had rental assistance funds through the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, but those funds have all been allocated, community development director Abby Shelton said Wednesday.
The city has been awarded $237,732 in additional funds for COVID-19 relief, but the city has not yet received award documentation, Shelton said.
City commissioners will determine how to allocate the funds, Shelton said.
Angela Settle, executive director for the Help Office of Owensboro, said calls to the agency for rental assistance have declined, but doesn’t expect that to last.
“This is not going to end at the end of the year,” Settle said. “There is going to be assistance needed in 2021.”
The help office received $100,000 for rent and utility assistance from the Green River COVID-19 Response Fund in the summer. The agency allocated $65,000 of those funds to people through July, Settle said.
“Before we got the (Response Fund), we got so many calls I couldn’t do my normal duties,” Settle said.
If people didn’t qualify for the Healthy at Home rental program, the Green River COVID-19 Response Fund could be used, along with other resources, Settle said.
“It is making a big impact, and the Health at Home (rent fund) is a blessing, too,” Settle said Wednesday, before Beshear announced the fund had been allocated.
The Help Office still has resources available for people in need of assistance paying rent, Settle said.
Going into the fall, Settle said she fears the housing situation will get worse, as restaurants that switched to outdoor dining will lose that option to cold weather, affecting restaurant workers “who are starting to get on their feet,” she said.
The Help Office can be reached at 270-685-4971.
Brandon Harley, deputy CEO for Audubon Area Community Services, said the agency has a number of programs available for people needing rent and utility assistance. On Monday, Beshear announced $15 million is available through a new fund, the Healthy at Home Utility Fund.
Harley said calls to Audubon Area for assistance are increasing.
“What we are hearing from our client base … is there a growing number of past due water and wastewater bills,” Harley said.
Audubon Area has funds to assist people behind on water and sewer bills, through the CARES Act.
Harley said the agency continued its winter utility program through the summer, and has enough funds until the winter program resumes in November.
For people who live in rentals where utilities are paid by the landlord, the utility assistance program can be used to pay rent, Harley said.
The agency has received additional funds through the federal CARES Act, state funds and through Community Development Block Grants to continue providing rent and utility assistance food programs and other services, Harley said.
“We had about $1 million in extra funds this year” for programs, Harley said. Not all of the money came from grants. Some winter utility assistance funds that weren’t spent last year were carried over for use in the summer.
“We have funds in most of those programs available,” Harley said.
Because of the pandemic, Audubon Area workers aren’t meeting clients in person. People can request assistance through the agency’s website, www.audubon-area.com/assistance-request.html. The online system allows people to select a day and time frame when an Audubon Area worker will call.
“We still have assistance available,” Harley said.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @JamesMayse