Nearly $1 million in funding to help Fayette County residents — affected by coronavirus-related job losses — stay fed and in their homes got initial approval Tuesday by the Lexington Fayette Urban County Council.
The council is expected to take its final vote on Sept. 3.
The bulk of the money, which comes from federal reimbursements for coronavirus-related expenses, will go to a series of programs designed to keep people from being evicted from their homes during the pandemic.
Approximately $730,000 will go to eight agencies for rental assistance. To qualify, people must show their inability to pay rent was caused by COVID-19. They must be a Fayette County resident as of March 1 and must have income below 80 percent of median household income or below $63,500 for a family of four. The landlord must also certify the rent was not paid due to a coronavirus-related hardship. The money will go to the landlord.
If a landlord doesn’t want to participate and still wants to evict a tenant, that tenant could be eligible for relocation money.
The eight agencies that will help administer that program include The Urban League, Step by Step, Catholic Charities, AVOL, Greenhouse17, The Nest, New Life Day Center and the Community Action Council.
People can receive up to $4,000 for past due rent.
Polly Ruddick, director of the city’s office of homelessness prevention and intervention, said monitoring would prevent people from receiving multiple payments.
A consortium of nonprofits started covid19renterhelp.org in May. Ruddick told the council on Tuesday more than 2,000 households have inquired about assistance through that online portal. People can apply for the $730,000 in rental assistance through covid19renterhelp.org.
People can also go directly to the eight participating agencies to apply in person, Ruddick said.
Chief Administrative Officer Sally Hamilton said the city wanted to get the money to the agencies quickly as evictions have already started to resume in Fayette County.
“We expect they will go through this money in two weeks,” Hamilton said of the $730,000.
In addition to the $730,000 for that rental help program, the city also set aside $100,000 for those with Housing Choice vouchers, commonly referred to as Section 8 vouchers, to pay back rent. Those vouchers are used to pay rent to private landlords.
Social Services Commissioner Chris Ford said if someone is evicted from a Housing Choice program, it’s often difficult for that renter to find other housing. Too few landlords take Housing Choice vouchers.
Another $50,000 will be set aside for tenants who have to move from rental properties due to code violations during the coronavirus outbreak. People who qualify could receive up to $1,000 for relocation expenses or short-term housing.
Another $100,000 will go to the United Way of the Bluegrass and the Blue Grass Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Relief Fund. That money will likely go to food programs. To date, money from the coronavirus relief fund has fed more than 56,000 people since March.
The $980,000 is part of the $1.9 million in federal COVID-19 relief reimbursement money the council agreed to set aside for household assistance.
Some council members had concerns about using the $1.9 million to help renters and feeding programs. Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday a $15 million program to help renters avoid eviction. Details about that program won’t be released until Sept. 8.
It’s not known how much of that money could be coming to Fayette County, Ford said.
Beshear’s Monday order lifted the moratorium on serving eviction notices that was put in place in late March.
The state courts allowed landlords to file evictions starting Aug. 1. It typically takes 30 days for the proceedings to make their way through the courts. There were more than 150 eviction proceedings scheduled this week in Fayette District Court. More than 140 eviction proceedings were scheduled for next week.
It’s not clear if some of those eviction proceedings have been halted given Beshear’s Monday order. Many of those eviction proceedings were for nonpayment of rent prior to March when stay at home orders were first issued.
Beth Musgrave has covered government and politics for the Herald-Leader for more than a decade. A graduate of Northwestern University, she has worked as a reporter in Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois and Washington D.C.