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Columbus Leaders Increase Housing Assistance With CARES Act Funding

Columbus City Hall in downtown Columbus on April 15, 2020.
David Holm
Columbus City Hall in downtown Columbus on April 15, 2020.

Columbus city leaders have a plan for the nearly $157 million they received under the federal CARES Act. 

More than half the funding will go toward medical expenses, including EMS response, testing and protective equipment.

Much of the rest is earmarked for helping residents and businesses cope with the fallout from COVID-19. The city plans to use $51 for human services like shelter and food assistance, and $26 million to support small businesses.

During a press conference announcing the plans, city leaders spent much of their time focused on a small—but increasingly important—part of the human services plan: $3 million for housing assistance.

Council member Shayla Favor says $2.65 million of that will be set aside for direct rental assistance.

“There have been over 1,200 evictions filed since the court stopped hearings in March, and that number is expected to grow as the court prepares to reopen on June 1," Favor said. "That’s why we have been working closely with our housing partners across the city to fully understand to emergency needs of our community.”

The dollars will go to IMPACT Community Action, a non-profit housing assistance organization. IMPACT CEO Bo Chilton says a storm is brewing when it comes to housing needs, and he compares the coming surge of evictions to a wave.

“The question is, will it be a wave that can be managed through our relief efforts and coordinated response along with the cleanup that will be needed in the aftermath? Or will it be a tsunami that makes the recovery all the more challenging?" Chilton said.

Chilton says the new funding will help them provide assistance to nearly 2,500 families. Last October, Columbus Council sent $100,000 to IMPACT for a similar purpose.

In addition to the money for IMPACT, Favor says the city will be sending $100,000 to community mediation services and $250,000 to the Legal Aid Society to fund five additional attorneys at Franklin County’s eviction court.

The funding comes from Congress' first coronavirus relief measure—the $2.2 trillion CARES Act. A provision in that bill gave direct funding to cities and counties with populations greater than 500,000.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.