(The Center Square) – Kentucky officials plan to relaunch a program to help tenants struggling to pay rent during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by opening the Eviction Relief Fund with an additional $264 million.
Tenants can apply for rent and utility assistance to cover past-due and future bills. The lump sum payments, however, would go directly to landlords and utility providers, rather than applying tenants.
“The Healthy at Home Eviction Relief Fund follows earlier, similar efforts to help our people stay in their homes, while also providing relief to landlords and utility companies,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said. “This is so important. With more Kentuckians rolling up their sleeves and receiving these safe and effective vaccines, we see the light at the end of the tunnel growing brighter by the day. But it will take months before everyone can receive their shot of hope, and until then, we need to ensure our people can stay healthy at home as much as possible.”
The state, Lexington-Fayette County and Louisville-Jefferson County recently received $297 million from the federal government to help renters. The plan sends $264 million to 118 counties. Jefferson and Fayette counties share the rest.
All the funds offer the same benefit to those approved: 100% of past-due rent going back to April and up to three months of future payments.
“Nearly a year into the pandemic, Kentuckians are still grappling with the economic effects of COVID-19,” said Winston Miller, Kentucky Housing Corporation executive director. “This assistance will keep renters housed, allow landlords to get substantial payments for back rent and reduce the number of evictions in Kentucky courts.”
From September to December, the state helped 4,135 households avoid eviction with almost $15 million in assistance.
Beshear asked landlords and utility companies to be patient with tenants who are behind on payments.
“If a tenant is evicted, this fund cannot cover past-due bills,” Beshear said. “If the utility gets shut off, we won’t be able to get a prompt direct payment to the utility.”