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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.

Sen. Sherrod Brown Calls For Rent Assistance In Next Round Of Coronavirus Relief

John Locher
Associated Press

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) wants Congress to approve $100 billion in emergency rental assistance as part of the next federal coronavirus relief measure.

Referencing a recent Harvard study, Brown notes about a quarter of the country’s renters spend half their income or more on housing—and that was before the pandemic.

Now, Brown says many households are one financial setback away from missing rent and potentially facing eviction.

“Now millions of Americans are having those emergencies,” Brown says. “They’ve lost their jobs, they’ve had their hours cut. It’s a reminder of how vulnerable millions and millions of workers—hundreds of thousands in Ohio—are to a single emergency outside their control: a missed paycheck, a broken down car, an illness of a child.”

Brown argues the federal government needs to step in, not just to delay eviction, but to help pay mounting rent.

“[The bill] would establish a fund to help people cover their rent and their utility bills allowing them to stay in their homes and keep their families safe,” Brown explains. “This bill would distribute funds to states and local governments through an existing temporary rental assistance program to get these funds to renters quickly.”

Meanwhile, his colleague Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) filed his own bipartisan measure with Sen. Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) to address evictions last December. The Eviction Crisis Act would track evictions and provide funding for community courts and short-term rental assistance programs.

In an emailed statement, a Portman spokeswoman highlighted that measure’s emergency assistance fund.

“[Sen.] Portman has been consistently saying that the eviction moratorium in the CARES Act is just a stopgap measure and that he believes this emergency assistance should be deployed to make landlords whole and help keep tenants in their homes and off the streets," the statement read.

That eviction moratorium applies to a number of different kinds of properties that offer low-income housing as well as those that have a federally-backed mortgage. While the provision delays evictions for 120 days, it does not forgive the rent tenants owe. Any missed payments will come due July 24 when the moratorium ends.

Copyright 2020 WOSU 89.7 NPR News

Nick Evans