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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Extension Of Eviction Moratorium Should Ease Backlog Of Requests For Help, CAA Says

for rent sign
Reed Saxon
/
AP
The Community Action Agency in Cincinnati says they're backlogged with about 1,500 applications from people requesting help with rent, mortgage payments, and utility bills.

President Doanld Trump signed Congress' new stimulus package Sunday night, which extends the CDC eviction moratorium for another month. This gives people roughly four more weeks to catch up on their rent and fees before they face being booted out of their homes during a deadly pandemic.

The Community Action Agency in Cincinnati says they're backlogged with about 1,500 applications from people requesting help with rent, mortgage payments, and utility bills. Those extra few weeks being given by the government means more people will end up with a check in-hand.

"We've seen so many folks coming to us for help that have never gone to a social service agency in the past," Mark Lawson, CEO and president of the agency said. "We've helped about 1,500 families with rental assistance, amidst all our grants, and we've spent almost $3 million helping people." 

For renters, he said once an application is processing, a voucher is given to them from the agency to let landlords know money for rent and fees is coming. And there's also money available for mortgage assistance and help paying water and sewer bills.

Since the start of the pandemic, Lawson said the number of people on staff processing applications has nearly tripled and more people are being hired to get through more applications.

"It's great that there's been an extension to the moratorium because there's no reason that somebody should be evicted from their home while they're waiting in line for assistance that we have to offer. So the money is there to help folks," he said.

There's still millions of dollars available in separate pots, each with different qualification requirements. So Lawson says people shouldn't hesitate to apply for help because they're not sure if they qualify. He said the important thing to do is to fill out an application and "get in line."

Despite the delay, he said staff is trying to get to every application and will help people determine eligibility status. Workers even volunteered to work the weekend after Christmas to help more people. 

"The response we've had when we called people on Sunday, they couldn't believe we were calling them," Lawson said. "And they were in tears and we were cutting checks to wipe out their mortgage arrears for the year. It's just been life changing for a lot of those folks."

For more information about the Community Action Agency, visit their website.

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.