Federal rental assistance, expiring next month, expected to tally $108M in Cuyahoga County since start of pandemic

CLEVELAND, Ohio – After two and a half years and distributions totaling tens of millions of dollars, emergency rental assistance tied to the COVID-19 pandemic is ending in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County.

Those still in need have until Dec. 2 to submit new applications for rental assistance to CHN Housing Partners, the non-profit chosen by the city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County to distribute the federal pandemic aid.

Completed applications submitted by the deadline will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis, and eligibility determinations will wrap up by the end of December.

Anyone who owes CHN additional documentation must submit it by Dec. 12. The program’s phone number — 833-377-RENT (7368) – will be in operation until Dec. 12 as well.

To date, CHN has paid landlords roughly $84 million in rental and utility assistance on behalf of tenants in need, since the start of the program in mid-2020. Additional money is still to be paid out, but the program expires at the end of the year due to federal rules.

As of Friday, those funds have helped over 18,500 households, with payments averaging about $3,826 per household, said Laura Boustani, CHN’s director of fundraising and strategic communications.

More than 4,800 of the payments helped households avoid court-ordered evictions, and nearly 10,000 of the payments assisted households with children. Nearly 7,600 payments were made on behalf of households earning 50% or less of area median income, Boustani said.

“We came together in the Spring of 2020 and quickly designed and launched an emergency rental assistance program to help keep residents safely housed,” Kevin J. Nowak, executive director of CHN, said in a news release. “This was during a time when ‘home’ was where we were all instructed to take refuge from the most serious public health threat in over a century.”

Final payments from the program are expected to reach landlords by early January, at which point CHN expects to have distributed roughly $108 million out of $113.5 million allocated by the city, county and state.

Some $25 million of the rental assistance allocated to CHN was not originally intended for tenants in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. That money came from other municipalities around Ohio that weren’t using it, or using it quickly enough. The state clawed back money from those locations and redirected it to Cuyahoga County earlier this year, in hopes of spending as much of it as possible ahead of an end-of-year federal deadline. It chose Cuyahoga County, Boustani said, because CHN’s program had proven to be “the highest performer in the state” in distributing the first round of federal rental assistance.

When all is said and done, CHN expects to have distributed all of the money originally intended for Cuyahoga County and Cleveland, and more than $20 million of the clawed-back funds.

The leftovers, roughly $4.5 million, are not expected to be spent in time to meet the federal government’s end-of-year deadline, at which point it will need to be returned, Boustani said. She called it a “very tall order” to process and distribute all of the clawed-back money over the past few months, adding that CHN is “happy with what we were able to accomplish and grateful to the city and county for their partnership every step of the way.”

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