The Franklin County Commissioners has approved two contracts of over $1 million to better support families facing eviction due to the ongoing pandemic. The new supports include $624,000 in additional funding to the Legal Aid Society of Columbus and $550,000 for Community Mediation Services of Central Ohio.
As many as 1,500 low-income families are expected to be helped with this new funding over the coming 16 months.
The Franklin County Municipal Court recently said that it would not enforce a new CDC eviction moratorium, and many families are in danger of losing their homes due to the pandemic and pandemic economy.
“The effects of this pandemic will be felt for many years to come,” said Board of Commissioners President Kevin L. Boyce.
“It would be a grave mistake to allow families who lost their livelihoods due to the pandemic also lose their homes and would only prolong our community’s recovery.”
The commissioners have long supported the Legal Aid Society of Columbus, and today’s contract adds to the county’s annual funding amount.
The additional money will allow Legal Aid to hire three new full-time attorneys to work with families that are struggling to pay the rent.
These new lawyers can assure that the residents’ legal rights are protected, represent them in the court system, and negotiate with lawyers and landlords.
“Many of our neighbors are living on the edge, hurt by the pandemic through no fault of their own. We want to help every struggling tenant to work out a way to pay their rent so that they can stay in their homes and so that their landlords are also made whole,” said Commissioner John O’Grady
Community Mediation Services of Central Ohio (CMS) is also a long-time partner which the commissioners annually fund in order to provide tenant/landlord mediation and other eviction prevention services.
The increased funding will allow CMS to serve an additional 600 families. Since beginning to work with Franklin County eviction clients, CMS has seen that 90% are able to avoid eviction or successfully relocate to alternate stable housing.
“There are many families who are barely surviving this pandemic, some being only one flat tire away from being unhoused,” said Commissioner Erica C. Crawley.
“With that, we know that families and especially children are unable to thrive and do well in school without a safe and stable place to live. Today, we are pleased to be able to answer the call to help our neighbors find ways to stay in their homes with legal representation and mediation services.”
Each year, the commissioners allocate about $23.5 million to affordable housing and other housing supports. During the pandemic, they’ve increased that investment by more than $8 million to help vulnerable families stay in their homes, and resources are still available via the commissioners’ Emergency Rental Assistance Program and the Impact Hope Fund.