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Franklin County to spend $34 million in federal funds on rental and utility assistance

For Rent yard sign
Shane Adams
Flickr Creative Commons

The county will vote Tuesday to send the federal rental assistance dollars to three agencies and one of its own departments.

Franklin County will vote Tuesday to spend $34 million on rental and utility assistance for struggling families.

The county will vote to send $22 million to the nonprofit IMPACT Community Action and $9 million to the Department of Job and Family Services to dole out utility and rental assistance. Another $2 million will go to the Homeless Families Foundation's Resiliency Bridge Pilot Program which gives rental assistance and helps people get into higher-paying careers.

Lastly, about $500,000 will be allocated to the Legal Aid Society of Columbus to help with the organization's eviction prevention efforts. The county received the money following a redistribution of federal COVID rental assistance funds in late January.

Franklin County Commissioner John O'Grady said the county wants to make a generational impact on the community with these funds. He said the resiliency bridge program is the most interesting part of this proposal.

The program's first cohort helped get people making just $418 a month get into jobs paying $20 an hour.

"They're going to provide rent assistance, they're going to provide utility assistance. And those are two things that during this pandemic have just been critical needs for residents all over Central Ohio," O'Grady said.

Franklin County has spent almost all of the money reallocated to it by the federal government. The county only got $33.4 million in rental assistance but a windfall from unspent COVID money gave Franklin County an additional $55.6 million on top of the city of Columbus's $68 million total allocation.

After Tuesday's meeting, the county will have about $16 million leftover. O'Grady said the county could push to invest those funds in long-term solutions to affordable housing.

He said affordable housing is the county's number one issue and housing supply in general is a problem as the county continues to exceed the growth of all others in the state.

O'Grady said he is also open to considering other housing policy changes that some of its communities, like Columbus, are considering to combat rising eviction rates and homelessness.

Columbus City Council is currently exploringa "Pay to Stay" requirement allowing residents time to secure rental assistance up until an eviction judgment and another proposal requiring landlords to accept a third-party payment on behalf of a tenant.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.