Ohio lawmakers approved $161M for rent assistance, but it may not help without a key change
Ohio lawmakers recently approved $161 million for rental assistance throughout the state. But the organizations that distribute such funding say it won’t help anyone unless Gov. Mike DeWine vetoes part of the state law its included in.
House Bill 45 started as a tax amnesty bill, but on the final night of the lame-duck session lawmakers added hundreds of amendments. That includes spending nearly $6 billion, much of it from federal stimulus, including the new funds for rent and utility assistance.
The late amendment stipulates the $161 million for rent and utility assistance can only be for late payments incurred through the end of 2021.
Cincinnati Community Action Agency CEO Mark Lawson says he's thrilled for the new allocation, but: "We have exactly zero families that this would help if the 2021 deadline stays in there."
Lawson says the need is desperate for people with late rent from sometime in 2022.
"We have about 2,000 families in our pipeline right now that we're still trying to get to as fast as we can. We're not even taking new applications right now because we're waiting to have additional funding," he said.
Dozens of organizations across the state are asking Gov. Mike DeWine to line-item veto that section of the bill so the funds can actually be used.
The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio is urging DeWine to make the change. Executive Director Amy Riegel said the amendment could prevent the state from meeting federal spending deadlines, meaning the U.S. Treasury Department could redistribute the money to other states.
"Federal Emergency Rental Assistance has already helped over 220,000 vulnerable Ohioans pay off arrears to their landlords and utilities to remain safely in their homes," Riegel said in a statement. "If this amendment takes effect, Ohio families will get unnecessarily evicted while these dollars go to people living in big states, like New York and California."
Lawson says lawmakers likely meant well, thinking 2021 was the height of the pandemic and therefore where most of the need would be.
"I wish they would have called me, or any of the CAA's; we could have walked them through it," he said.
DeWine has to sign or veto bills within 10 days of receiving them, not including Sundays or holidays.