File-Ohio evictions pandemic

Amanda Wood, 23, waits to fight an impending eviction notice July 31, 2020, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

(The Center Square) – Advocacy groups want Ohio judges to continue to delay evictions despite a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to end a nationwide eviction moratorium.

The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio and the Ohio Poverty Law Center want state judges to ensure access to rent relief to stop what they called unnecessary evictions as COVID-19 delta variant cases continue to rise in the state.

“This rent relief program is a win-win for both tenants and landlords, but the process can take weeks because local agencies are overwhelmed with applications,” COHHIO Executive Director Bill Faith said. “Without a moratorium, we’re concerned that more families will get evicted while waiting for their Emergency Rental Assistance applications to get processed.”

Ohio was one of the few states that did not impose its own eviction moratorium during the pandemic.

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor recently sent a letter to local judges, reminding them that local community action agencies have rental assistance funds available.

The COHHIO and the OPLC said local judges can delay individual eviction cases to allow parties time to apply for assistance and have the application processed.

“Local courts can prevent a wave of evictions and homelessness this winter by using rent relief to broker agreements that make landlords whole and keep tenants safely housed,” PLC attorney Graham Bowman said. “We shouldn’t rush to evict, especially now that assistance is available and the delta variant is spreading so rapidly in Ohio.”

The Supreme Court rejected President Joe Biden’s current eviction moratorium late last week.

"If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it," the court ruled in a 6-3 decision last week, with the court's three liberal justices dissenting.

COHHIO’s recent analysis of court data showed Ohio eviction filings dropped at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 but currently are at 65% of pre-pandemic levels. The organization said the state’s rental assistance funding is available through September 2025, and the Emergency Rental Assistance fund can cover up to 21 months of rent and utilities for tenants affected by the pandemic.

Ohio has received $565 million in federal money for rental assistance, while another $210 million went to local governments. The state also added $111 million from CARES Act funding to provide rental assistance, according to the Ohio Department of Development.

Through June 30, $116 million has been used to help 12,680 households through the Emergency Rental Assistance program. Since November, $174 million has gone to 38,000 households through all funding sources.

There are 47 community action agencies throughout the state charged with handling rental assistance funds, along with local governments throughout the state.

Regional Editor

An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.